Sunday, December 13, 2015

News From San Antonio Palopo - Clouds above Lago de Atitlán

December 13, 2015
From Kathy

Greetings and Saludos to Supporters, Friends and Family,

It is, once again, that time of year when I make my annual appeal for support for our initiatives here in San Antonio Palopó.  Yes, I am right here in the heart of it (enjoying the warmth and beauty of the lake and the people, I must admit).  However, the economy of Guatemala, especially in Maya communities, is frightening - and I won´t go into the politics (a new government takes over mid January).  Everyone here does the best she or he can but there isn´t much leeway.  It is difficult to know where to start and there is no `fix´.

With your help we have been working here since 2007.  You have donated 1,365 ONIL stoves, which use 70% less wood, are vented, and save so many from burns, lung, and eye problems ... and it is a huge environmental benefit.

 Happy family with stove
You have graduated 17 or more children from high school who would not otherwise have received an education beyond primary school, and have given school supplies to hundreds of elementary children.  
 Mostly undergraduates and graduates with our Coordinator, Brenda (in yellow sweater)

Purchases of thousands of local hand woven scarves to sell at craft fairs and organizations in Canada have helped many avoid complete deprivation. 

Our Centro (a house given to us in 2012) has literally been a centre of activity wonderful to behold.  At this time of year (summer break) we have a Vacation School with 3 groups of 25 children coming twice a week in different age groups, to take part in activities planned by our young Mayan Coordinator, Brenda, with the help of our scholarship students who have been working with her all year long.  The students keep the Centre clean and during the school year, they tutor children having difficulty in grades 3 and 4 - a very successful program we have discovered. We hope to expand this program with more scholarships.  As the population grows there are fewer and fewer options for the young people here and they need these tools to look outside of their own village.         

Our program for elderly, mostly widowed women, which includes a very healthy lunch on Mondays has been very well received.  They are so appreciative.  We are hoping to fund an expansion of this program in the new year.  More women, more food, more activities to keep them healthier while they live - there is no pension fund and no medicine for the poor in this country.

There is a small gardening program at the Centre with several of the women in the community who have no land on which to grow things.  We hope to plant a lot of traditional medicinal plants soon and are attempting to create a food forest as gradually we remove some of the trees that are either too big for the property or are not producing anything.  We also steadfastly maintain a patch of lawn where children can enjoy playtime!

During the school year there is a group of 4-year-olds who come to the Centre 3 mornings a week for a play school experience, in preparation for the real thing the following year; one afternoon a week a very small group of young women come to learn how to use computers – another program we hope to enhance with the purchase of ... more computers.  Regular activities and classes helping women to create things that they can sell and earn some money are really well received

So far I have only mentioned women and children however we are beginning to lay the groundwork for an AA program one evening a week for men in the community.  There is an enormous need and hopefully, once off the ground, will one day expand to women and ALANON.

I am sure I have missed a lot of the details but want you to know it is a `happening place´. All of these initiatives – the community centre, the scholarships, and the stoves – are increasingly under local leadership. The Colectiva, a board made up of women, meets monthly with Brenda, our employee, and a member of our Canadian group Skypes in when possible. This year we’re also involving a young American woman who lives in nearby Panajachel to mentor Brenda and the Colectiva, helping them assess and improve the effectiveness of the programs, and use the Centro as efficiently as possible.

So here I am as we move into winter, writing to you in the hope that this Christmas you might, again, or for the first time, choose to bypass a commercial present or two in favour of a Christmas donation in honour of a friend or family member. We have produced some new 2015 ¡Feliz Navidad! cards (see examples next blog post) that we can send you to pass on to your friends, saying that a gift given in their name has helped install an ONIL stove, or  supported education and the community centre.

Thanks to all of you for your support – whether financial or otherwise.  I have spent much of this trip saying farewell to very good friends, families and my godchildren, explaining my need to retire (from regular visits here) and to let go.  I will continue to work on this amazing and wonderful project at home in Canada, thankful for every moment I have had here and for everything I have learned.  It has been very rewarding.

Yours with heartfelt gratitude,


PS: We will issue income tax receipts for all donations. To donate online (and also to learn more about the work of ICO in Guatemala) go to Select Guatemala – San Antonio Stoves for Health or San Antonio Education/Community under ‘Select the fund your donation will support’, in the Donate to ICO page. If you prefer to send a cheque, make it out to Innovative Communities Foundation (put where you’d like it to go on the memo line), and send it to Innovative Communities Foundation, 1004 North Park St., Victoria, BC, V8T 1C6. Remember, every penny you give goes to the project; we are all volunteers and there are no administrative costs.

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