Saturday, April 16, 2016

Saturday April 16

An early start to the day found us making our own breakfast as we needed to leave for our day of activities before the Chicken Bus runs to get Carmen to work.  We made French toast and scrambled eggs and fresh fruit.  Delicious!!

Mynor took us to Antigua to a tour company that then delivered us in two different directions:

Coffee Plantation Tour – Brian and Diane
Volcano Pacaya – Suzanne, Kelly, Doug, Tim, Juli, Dianne, Lauren, Cathy, Gabby, Charlotte, Louisa

Coffee Plantation Tour
Diane and Brian visited the Filadelphia Coffee Plantation. It is 600 acres, and is owed by 4th generation in the same family.  Some interesting facts that we learned are:

•    152 beans to make 1 cup of coffee
•    from picking to packaging is a 6 week process
•    every plant is grafted by women only because they have a higher alkaline pH than men (grafting is 80% success rate for women compared to 60% success rate for men, who have a higher acidic pH)
•    the lowest quality of beans are used for instant coffee
•    beans are hand picked individually and sorted into 3 grades
•    the medium sized beans produce the best coffee
•    Harvest is from November to March 

This plantation stopped selling to Starbucks three years ago because they found out Starbucks mixes the quality/grades of their beans because Starbucks lovers enjoy sweeter and fancier drinks than plain coffee and the quality of beans are not a priority. 

We ended our tour with the best coffee in the entire world and we will never look at coffee the same way again.

After returning to Antigua we toured the market place to spend our Qs. We were delighted to connect with Cecii and Carlos who were our 2013 interpreters. We toured Cecii's family hotel in Antigua where they charge $35US per night. We surprised Carlos when we dropped in on his family store. 

Volcano Pacaya Hike
Arrived mid morning to the volcano and were immediately surrounded by youngsters wanting to sell us walking sticks.  In hind sight, THANK GOD we bought them.  A very knowledgeable tour guide started us on our climb….. and climb…..and climb….and climb.  The taxi service were following us closely behind in case they were required.  ie  horses for Cathy and Doug.  Frequent rest stops were required not only because of the climb, but also due to the high altitude.  From one vista point we could see a powerplant that was harvesting the earths heat to generate electricity – an Israeli Company who sells all of the energy to El Salvador…interesting? Because of the foggy conditions, and with the recommendation of our tour guide we went to the second crater.  Our guide informed us that there was an eruption last night and we were currently at an orange alert level meaning it could erupt at any time.  As we got into the lava filled crater, we could see 3 distinct lava flows, one from 2010, one from 2012 and one from 2013.  Those of us that had made this climb back in 2010 were amazed how different it was this time as a result of the huge 2010 eruption.  So in this crater, we were standing on more than 100 meters of volcanic rock.  There were still active hot spots that when we lifted volcanic rocks out, they were still very hot and we roasted marshmallows in one of the crevices that was emitting extreme heat.  We walked across the lava field to the “Lava Store”.  A very unique store that National Geographic recognized it for its uniqueness.  Local artisans carved shapes from coconut shells and filled with volcanic rock.  We enjoyed our time there and the rest, and then our guide called us to start our hike straight up and out of the crater.  Once out of the crater, the hike was somewhat easier as it was downhill albeit steep, most of the way down.   Then we loaded ourselves back into the van (and most slept) and went to Antigua to go to the market and catch up with Diane and Brian. 

We met up with Diane and Brian, enjoyed spending and haggling our Qs at the market, seeing all of their handmade crafts and handiwork.  We navigated Antigua well considering we haven’t been in 3 years…and met up with Mynor at 5pm at CafĂ© Barista.

We arrived home from our adventures today to find a surprise Team Dinner waiting for us along with Alicia, Sergio and Sergio, Brenda and Linda.  Carmen out did herself with BBQ chicken and a potato casserole.  Linda led grace and we enjoyed a time of conversation, fellowship and recapping of the day. We also learned tonight at dinner that the six acre flower and vegetable farm complete with greenhouses is for sale directly beside the "Centre of Hope" school for $150,000US. What a deal for a new owner.  Hugs and goodbyes are never easy, but the love in the room really said it all.

Tomorrow we have a long day of travel and won’t be arriving home until 12:06am Monday.  So, we sign off the daily blogs with blessings to all who have followed and prayed and supported this last week of work.  None of this would have been possible with out your love and support and the will of God. 

The Greenbank Mission Team
Doug, Kelly, Suzanne, Cathy, Diane, Brian, Dianne, Lauren, Tim, Juli

Friday, April 15, 2016

Another beautiful start to the day! A few went for a walk to the back of the property to see an amazing sunrise. There was a haze in the valley and contrasted by the clear mountains and we could see the sunshine on the peak of the volcano. It has been very quiet for the last few days.
Carmen made another wonderful breakfast of hard-boiled eggs, mango and coffee. Lauren and Doug accompanied Mynor on the school bus to pick up the students for the Center of Hope School. The students were excited and the bus was packed full of energy.

Science Fair
The students were going to have science for the morning. The science programs were from Ontario’s Scientists in School program. The team members presenting the science program were Diane P., Lauren, Brian, Suzanne and Cathy. The science workshop began with “Elephants Toothpaste” and many wide eyed happy faces. We divided the group of 40 students into 5 equal sized group and travelled to five exciting centres including magnets, structures, sight and hearing, marine biology, and solar and light energy. Since science is not a part of the curriculum in Guatemala learning was happening by both students and teachers.
The students spent 20 minutes at each center, experimenting and exploring all the activities. It was a delight to share the science activities from the Ontario science curriculum with the students. Highlights from each center were: the Solar art wheel which allowed the students to hold the solar wheel up to the sun to create a work of art, a competition between students as to which item was magnetic or not magnetic, the sound of the ocean waves from the snails at the marine biology center, the concept of needing light to see an object in the birdhouse, and creating a structure using connectors and straws. We hope the students had as much fun as we did.

Stove Program
Kelly, Doug, and Angel headed to La Hermita to finish the stove that was started yesterday.  We carried our tools down the steep path that would challenge a goat and arrived at the house.  Momma let us in and we began mixing more mortar to finish the stove.  The family had to leave so it was all business for the three of us.  Kelly mixed mortar, Doug cut blocks with a machete and Angel laid the brickwork.  After awhile, Angel got a phone call from Mynor saying he would be there in 10 minutes to pick us up.  So it was double time to finish the parging of the stove.  I haven’t seen Angel move that quick.  Just as we finished the stove, Momma returned so we showed her the gifts we left for the family and climbed back up the vertical goat path to Mynor who was waiting to take us back to the school.

Shoe Distribution at Corrales School
So we headed up the mountain to the town of Corrales with three hockey bags full of shoes in the hopes that we could meet the needs of all the children.  We proceeded into the school and laid out the shoes with boys on one table and the girls shoes on the second.  Four small chairs were brought in from a classroom for the children to sit on.  The teacher and principal then walked around the classrooms to determined who and in what order the children would be selected. Diane, Tim and Juli would then take their shoes off, determine if the current shoes were the appropriate size or not and then we tried to find a pair that the child would like and was the correct fit.  Many times the children would say Grande as they are used to having shoes or boots that are too small. The children had washed their feet prior to the shoe distribution but many had washed with their shoes and socks still on, this made it a challenge to get wet feet into shoes with no socks.  
In most cases we were able to find a great match yet in other cases the shoes we gave out were too big or the wrong gender colour, none the less the kids accepted them because they were far better than what they already had.  In most cases the shoes or boots they were wearing had holes thru the sole and the heels were split to elongate the wear. Some of the shoes were brand new the children would do anything to get their foot into that shoe even if it was two sizes too small. There were two boys that were buddies who were able to walk away with matching high top basketball shoes and their excitement and gratitude had us all emotionally charged.

We wrapped up and put the remaining shoes away and headed out to the road where all the children followed.  We then dug in our bags for candy and proceeded to chuck it in the air watching the kids scramble desperately for their fix of sugar.  I wish that it was money that we could give but the excitement was unmeasurable as if it was. As were drove away in the back of the truck we continued to launch candy as the kids followed us as if they were in a marathon.

Once back at the school the sponsored school children presented “Thank you” songs in Spanish and English and the story of creation through song. The children and staff were so appreciative of the time, talent and enthusiasm we share with them this past week.

We had a very quick lunch of sandwiches, fruit and potato chips.  We quickly loaded up the bed, gifts and armoire for the presentation and dedication of the Build a Home Project.

Adopt a Home
We were delighted to finally complete our adopt a home construction and present the completed home to Claudia, Freddie, William and Grandma. Funds for the “Build a Home” came from Uxport Tools in Port Perry. The families’ tears showed their gratitude. Their eyes widened as we carried in a new bed and armoire.  We attempted to attach the metal bedsprings with the headboard and footboard. But a rock and muscle power helped the bed go together. Dianne and Cathy taught mom Claudia how to make a bed with sheets and blankets.  We said our goodbyes and came back to the “Centre of Hope”.
We presented clothing, shoes, and toys to the family. Diane presented a homemade knitted square blanket to the family. Claudia mom was really overwhelmed with gratitude. This was the biggest gesture she has every experienced as she grew up in an orphanage.  Claudia is six months pregnant and was presented with a baby blanket and clothes with an angel teddy bear. We did a dedication with a prayer and blessing for the house. After a group photo we said our goodbyes and came back to the “Centre of Hope”.

Corrales Food, Clothing, Shoe Distribution
As we arrived back, 24 families from Corrales were waiting for us to distribute food, clothes and shoes. We offered a teaching on “Peace” to the women, and the God’s Eye Craft for the children.  Each child received a stuffed animal, while moms picked two pairs of shoes, three pairs of clothing, one pair of socks, and one hat.  Tim made sure that each woman received a freshly picked rose. This was a special time for Doug who met with up with his sponsored little girl Alba, who is from Corrales and received her gift package. Doug’s adopted sponsored girl was from the 2013 “Build A Home” project.

Presentation of Unsponsored Children
No sooner did they leave, when our next group arrived.  This new group consisted of 16 unsponsored children who are registered to begin kindergarten in January at the “Centre of Hope”.  We welcomed them and called each student by name to take their measurements for a school uniform, so our sewing team back home in Greenbank can begin to sew their uniforms prior to January school start.  Once measured, moms and dads went through the clothing and shoe distribution where they received two pairs of shoes, four pieces of clothes, a hat, a buff, pair of socks, a hygiene kit and a rose. 
We played parachute games with the children.  They had never seen a parachute before. These families are hoping that their child will be sponsored to allow them to attend school in January. Sponsorship for a child is $50 a month which allows them to a receive a Christian education, bus transportation, breakfast every morning, oral hygiene lessons, two uniforms, running shoes, a school backpack, school supplies, daily English lessons and a monthly food hamper.

After we cleaned up we enjoyed the market place crafts the various co-op groups had made. Our team purchased some of their wares.

After our lovely team dinner, we presented Carmen (our cook) with some family gifts.  The team divided and some when into Parramos for some shopping and the rest re-sorted and repacked.

From Guatemala best wishes to the Reals from Seagrave as they embark upon their new journey to Warkworth.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Thursday April 14

A light breakfast this morning of cereal and fresh pineapple and mango from the market – mouth watering delicious!  After a little confusion, and reworking of the schedule we were again divided into 3 teams:

Teachers Workshop – Brian and Cathy
Cathy and Brian led a four hour education session to 19 teachers representing six schools. All the teachers and principals appreciated the strategies and activities that moved the group through inclusion, influence, and community. Thanks to the Centre Source TRIBES for donating the Spanish TRIBES books. The Guatemalan teachers were impressed to hear about Ontario's success with graduation rates and improved literacy scores in the past five years. The Ontario schools that have done exceptionally well not only have high student expectations, but focus on student and staff well-being. The workshop moved the teachers through instructional strategies that focused student engagement and student voice. Many of their current lessons focus on rote memory with teacher directed lessons. They learned about multiple intelligences of their students and metacognition strategies through the TRIBES' process. They loved their new learnings and could hardly wait to weave curriculum content into their newly learned strategies.  These teachers are highly valued and are making a difference in the lives of the Guatemalan children. The salary of these teachers begins at $150 per month to a maximum of $550 per month if they have 35 years experience. Each teacher received a bag of donated classroom supplies, a medical first aid kit for their school, the Spanish tribes book. To Brian and Cathy's surprise was to see the excitement when each participant received their very own personal hygiene kit: tooth paste, shampoo, tooth bush, comb, face cloth, hand lotion, soap, Q-Tips, and band aids.   We couldn’t have been successful without our Spanish translator, Alicia, who translated every couple of English sentences throughout the four hours. We also held a raffle for two donated school parachutes. Prior to the draw we demonstrated curriculum related games using the parachute so the teachers would know how to use this instructional tool. Overall, it was an extremely successful morning. After the workshop some of the teachers rushed to their second school for afternoon classes. In many schools to accommodate the children k-6 is taught from 8:00am to 12:30 and grade 7-10 is taught from 1:00 to 5:30 to allow the older kids to work in the fields from sunrise to noon, when the weather is cooler. It is a long day of teaching for teachers.  Grade 11-12 is considered college. Families have to pay beyond grade 7; therefore, the majority of children only have a grade six education. 

Build a Home – Juli, Doug, Tim, Kelly, Dianne, Lauren (also Gabby and Charlotte)
It took 2 trips with the truck to get the walls to our work location.  Half of the group stayed back to start the walls while the other group went to get the walls.  Unfortunately there was no electricity at the location therefore we had to wait for the second group to show up with the remaining walls and an extension cord so that we could steal power from a house 2 doors down.  We started with one wall and nailed it to the concrete base and then nailed it to the next wall and nailed the next wall to the cement base and continued that process till complete.  After that we drilled 3 holes in each of the joining studs and inserted bolts into the holes followed up with nuts.  This ensured that all the walls were sturdy and connected.  We then added roof crossmembers that formed a “t” in the center of the house.  This was then followed by adding the tin roof sheets and nailing them to the frame and the crossmembers.

Uniform Alterations – Suzanne and Diane
The morning for us was spent doing alterations on existing uniforms for the Center of Hope School.  The uniforms were beautifully made but just to big for the children.  We were doing these alterations at night after dinner but found that we were so tired and limited light that we were making as many mistakes and correct.  So over three hours we had completed them all and so glad that we did not have to finish them into the late hours as our time here is limited.

Thanks to Carmen we had a feast of tuna protein for lunch…fuel for the afternoon!

Knitting Workshop – Suzanne and Diane
After lunch it was off to the center of hope for the second and last knitting class.  We  had six in the first class but  eleven in the second class.  So it was the first time around for some and good review for others.  The ladies from the first class worked on putting a blanket together while I taught the new group how to cast on and the knit stitch.  people we had 395 knitted squares that made eight complete blanket kits and a smaller kit for a baby blanket. We drew names for these kits. It was an experience that I will never forget and would like to thank all those involved that helped to make this happen.
The group came together to learn the purl stitch and how to cast off.  We talked about how to combine the stitches to create different patterns.  The ladies at the end of the class were given a set of needles and a large bag full of yarn.  The smiles and gracias were many they were so appreciative of every little thing that we shared.  With help from so many

Build a Home – Cathy, Dianne, Doug, Brian, Tim
At 2pm we headed back out to complete the house without electricity. 
We started by adding the hinges for the 2 windows and the door. Upon completion of that activity we painted the top half of the house green and then the bottom half in blue.  We mounted trim around the door and windows, painted them blue and then were complete.  During this process something very unique happened.  The neighbor came into the working space with a 10ft ladder.  She took the ladder and leaned it up against the cinderblock wall.  There were two floating electricity wires and she went ahead and proceeded by stripping them and then joining the wires from her house.  She joined the wires with masking tape that we were using to draw a straight line between our green paint and blue paint. I guess you don’t need an electrician when working with 120V in Guatemala.  The house is now completed and ready for us to move in the furniture tomorrow.  This house is sponsored by Uxport Tools in Port Perry that will be dedicated to its new family tomorrow.

Stove #3 – Kelly, Lauren, Juli
The third family to receive a stove this week from our team is a lovely family in LaHermita down the same steep mountain trail as the family the other day.  We met Mom, and two boys (4 and 6) and a little girl (8 almost 9).  Daniel had the cutest laugh and loved the Canadian ball that we gave him – he played with it the whole time we were there!  The children had a bugs bunny poster hanging on their wall and oddly enough we had a stuffed Bugs Bunny with us in our backpack so the little girl was thrilled to have her own new stuffy!  Love the synchronicity and the smiles!  We were fortunate to NOT have to carry 200lbs of ash (ceniza) down the hill – the family had already helped carry all the supplies down the mountain and they were waiting for us to assemble it.  We were busy sifting sand, mixing cement, soaking bricks and assembling with Jose (a new mason).  Although we didn’t finish the stove, we passed the halfway mark and there will be little left to complete tomorrow.  After 3 missions, this was Juli’s first experience with the Build a Stove Program – what an incredible experience to be welcomed into the home and greeted with gratitude and absorbed into the family with such love and acceptance.  The children played and chatted with us like we were long lost relatives…really cool!

Carmen prepared Chicken, rice and local squash for dinner tonight…delicious!  We were late arriving back from the worksite and didn’t want Carmen to miss the last Chicken Bus of the night so we offered to do the dishes and clean up.  Although reluctant to leave with her “job” unfinished we assured her that we insisted and that we would look after everything for her. 

Another satisfying day where we are making wonderful connections and building meaningful relationships through our projects.  It is so rewarding to see the smiles and feel the gratitude from those whom we are serving.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Day 5 - Wednesday, April 13

We were blessed with another beautiful morning in Guatemala.  It was cloudy and hazy and was unable to watch another amazing sunrise on our volcano.  Doug and Diane went for a walk behind the compound and were able to enter into some greenhouses.  The view was spectacular as there were so many different species of flowers including gerbera daisies and roses.  Doug and Diane then proceeded to the flower packaging area where they were being prepped to be exported.  Tim noticed this area and purchased 2 dozen roses for $4.72USD.  The first dozen was for his wife and the second for the other women he would encounter during the day.

Juli and Suzanne rode the short bus this morning through Parramos where they picked up all the students for the School of Hope.  We were surprised and thrilled to find a happy and healthy Marta board the bus who was a little girl from LaHermita that we met 3 years ago who was diagnosed with Leukemia and was very sick.  She is currently in remission and a very busy 5-year-old now!

Carmen prepared breakfast and served up scrambled eggs, watermelon and PB&J sandwiches, which has become a staple to our morning routine.  This was complimented with coffee and orange juice.

We then divided into 3 groups and remained local to the compound.

Build a Home - Doug, Tim, Dianne P & Cathy, Kelly and Brian
Sewing – Lauren, Suzanne, Diane J and Juli

The build a home started with 8 tasks ahead of us, which included 5 walls, 2 windows and a door.  Once again the dollar store nails bent on every mishit and we relied heavily on Angel to fix our mistakes.  In total the 4 of us messed up 34 nails of which we will be bringing home and will be using them for fishing hooks as they are shaped perfectly.  All of the walls are now completed and ready for assembly onto the cement paid that was laid earlier in the week.  We also did general clean up around the school and harvested a few more vegetables.

The women in the sewing co-op at the Center of Hope completed 12 pillow sham covers and 1 purse.  They were also educated on pricing their items and learning how to reinvest their money back into their business.  The women walked away really proud of themselves as did we.  We are also excited to show and share their creations with our friends back home.

The groups came together and enjoyed hamburgers for lunch.  After lunch the entire team headed back up to Parrojas for food distribution, a clothing and shoe drive.  Juli offered a Spiritual Teaching on Finding Peace and then the team made recycled craft necklaces with all the ladies.  Meanwhile the other half of the team, offered a Bible School with a God’s Eye Craft, along with some games and goodie bags.  Once the crafts were complete, Tim, Brian and Diane kept the kids occupied with silliness and pictures.  Tim handed out his roses to the local women as a gift of beauty and peace.  They loved the gesture and were flattered by his “ways”.  The rest of the team handed out food packages, and helped the ladies find shoes and clothing to suit their needs.  This is a really challenging task as we want to give them so much more than what we have.  Each woman was limited to one pair of shoes, and 2 items of clothing.  They had to choose by priority for their family.  It was heartbreaking to have families that are struggling so much and have so little who are really in need, only walk away with a few things.  Even so, they were so full of gratitude and blessings for us it was very rewarding.  Emotional, but we know our work was good work today.  We made smiles here.

Work day done, we spent an hour walking the local markets in Parramos, buying local fruits – Pina (pinapple) and Mango for 90cents each.  We also failed to find mousetraps…apparently they only trap rats here.  The evening entertainment continues…  We also found some beautiful fabrics and goodies made locally.

Carmen spoiled us again with a feast of lasagna!  Today is Faith’s birthday back home, so we celebrated here in the traditional Guatemalan way of lighting off Firecrackers.  When someone lights firecrackers it lets them know you love them.  Happy Birthday Faith!  We called it a night early…most were in bed and snoring by 7:30…we are working hard!

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Day 4 - Tuesday April 12

Carmen prepared a wonderful pancake breakfast for us this morning with hard boiled eggs – a great way to start our busy day!

We went to Parrojas School in a remote village up top of a volcano this morning, where the roads were really rough, washed out and vertical.  At the top where the school is located we divided the team into four groups:
Parachute – Brian and Doug
Soccer –Tim
Crafts – Suzanne, Kelly and Dianne
Science – Cathy, Lauren, Diane and Juli

Brian and Doug taught the parachute and relay games to 8 groups of children.  After the fourth group we were exhausted from giving sign language using our newly created language called Spanglish for the instructions of the games. Lots of smiles and laughter from the children who enjoyed some physical activity, which was a break from their studies.

Today’s soccer yielded a different outcome than yesterday.  We had 6 groups to play soccer today and again we used white and blue jerseys donated by Woodbridge Soccer Club.  This soccer field was concrete and doubled as a basketball court.  Surrounding the court were all the classrooms.  We started with the kindergarten class and to our surprise we had to educate on how to play soccer.  There were a lot of mano’s (hands) being used.  After the kindergarteners we had the next 3 grades and everything went smoothly.  Then we had the oldest boy’s in the next group.  They needed no instruction and did not want to use a player as the portero (goalie) because they all wanted to score. With 3 minutes left in the game the ball was deflected and landed on the roof of the school.  One of the players scaled a 12ft cement pillar to get on the roof to retrieve the pilotez (ball).  The game continued to completion.  The last group began and quickly again through a deflection we lost the ball on the roof.  Unfortunately we could not retrieve this ball and that ended our soccer game.  Before leaving the school we donated the jerseys and other sports equipment and once again were unable to donate the ball as it was not retrievable.

The children were rotated through the craft activity in small groups of 10-15.  Once again it was explained that the beads were created from recycled plastic and wallpaper by children from Canada with love for the children of Guatemala.  We introduced ourselves by name and as Kelly introduced himself the kids started to chuckle as they knew Kelly as a girls name.  They strung their beads with pride and when completed, each child was sure to say Gracias.  One small boy told Suzanne his dad was in Canada and she promised to take love back to him in the way of a hug.  We don’t have a clue how Suzanne is going to find him as there was no address provided.  He lit up with the biggest smile when Suzanne committed to this action.

We offered a Dinosaur Dig again at Parrojas, and the children loved learning about fossils, dinosaurs, identification and creating their own fossil.  We found our Spanish improving as we carried on today, with one interpreter for 3 stations, we used rudimentary Spanish to instruct the kids to match the dinosaurs to the skeletons and how to create their own dinosaur rub drawing.  Again, the kids giggled away with the fossilized Dino Poop!  We really struggled with the kindergarten kids, who can’t yet spell their names to “escribe tu nombre” so we found ourselves having to interpret and guess their names which are not common to our language – names like Fernando, Angelis, Marta, Hector, Feliz…and when J’s sound like H’s and H’s are silent it was a real challenge to get their names right – we had a lot of laughs trying to figure it out!  It was so rewarding to offer this science program at this remote village as they have never had a program like this before.  The teachers participated with us and really enjoyed the experience and were so thankful for us to be there!

At 11:00 am  parents of the students arrived to meet with their child’s teacher to receive a verbal report card update.  The descriptive feedback from teachers is communicated orally to parents (predominantly the fathers) because many of the parents are non-readers and writers.

We journeyed back down the volcano to have lunch with Carmen – chicken salad sandwiches and fruit.  We had a little extra time for a siesta today before the afternoon projects began.  Once we regrouped, we broke into three teams:
Build a Stove Program – Brian, Doug and Dianne
Knitting Co-op – Diane, Suzanne, Juli
Harvesting the Garden – Tim, Kelly, Lauren and Cathy

Build a Stove Program
The stove crew arrived in La Hermita ready to “build a stove” for a family in need.  Our vehicle stopped at the top of the mountain and we unloaded our supplies and proceeded to walk 1KM down a hill that was steeper than Lakeridge ski slope.  The momma of the corn stalk house was Maria and her three children welcomed us into their yard and were delighted that we were going to build a stove for her family.  We started sifting dirt to gather the finest grains of sand and this was mixed into cement and 22 cinder blocks were used to create the stove base.  Angel our mason, informed us he needed 140lbs of ash to fill the bottom of the stove kit.  We looked around and no ash in sight. Then the 4ft momma grabbed 4 bags and led her kids back up the 1km slope.  We followed not knowing where we were going.  She took us through LaHermita village and another km to the ash pit.  We loaded the bags and then it hit us.  We had to carry them back 2 KM back to the home where the stove was being built.  Brian shoveled ash into the bag and host momma lifted her bag and said “mas”.  Then added another couple of shovel loads weighing 40lbs total.  She then lifted the bag on her head and started back to her home.  Dianne Pelletier said “while in Rome do as the Romans do” so she lifted her bag to her head and followed momma like a BOSS.  The 4yr old son took the 20lb bag and Brian took the other 40lb bag.  Back 2 km with our bags of ash to fill our stove base.  Angel and Doug were cementing the cinder blocks together.  Mom was there busy making tortillas and corn chowder stew for their dinner over an open flame and a pan.  She used the same corn that was used to feed the chickens earlier.  This dinner smelled delicious.  Inside the cinder block frame with ash on the bottom layer, heat bricks were cemented in a rectangular shape and the 3 hole stove top was installed.  After 3 hours our job was almost complete and then we proceed back up the slope to wait for our vehicle.  We found time to play with the children and the boys liked their new RP Oil hats and the little girl hugged and continually hugged her new little teddy bear (created and donated by Eunice Rahm). 

Knitting Co-op
Today’s knitting took place on the balcony of the “Center of Hope” building.  There was a nice breeze.  The Canadians found this great although they were sweating.  The Guatemalan’s found this to be challenging as they needed to put on sweaters as it was too cold for them at 34C.  We had 6 ladies show up which will create the new knitting co-op in Parramos.  The project was to create 8” squares with the final assembly being a blanket made of 48 squares.  None of the ladies had any experience with knitting yet were quick to learn (just like Pierette’s knitting club).  The language barrier was a challenge at times but we were fortunate to have a translator which also had some challenges translating the knitting terms.  The first 90 minutes was spent learning to cast-on and the knit-stitch.  The remaining time was working on piecing the completed squares into rows.  The next class in 2 days will be spent completing the assembly to finish the blanket.  All the ladies left with their knitting kit consisting of a set of needles and 2 balls of yarn.  With this new skill they will be able to create their own blanket which can be used to keep them warm at 34C temperatures.

Harvesting the Garden
We headed out to the field after lunch and were instructed to pick onions.  It was a very hot afternoon at 34C however this didn’t stop us from picking 2 burlap bags full of onions.  After the onions, the four of us started pulling broccoli that had already gone to flower.  This was followed by chilli’s that had also gone to flower.  At this point in time we realized that we were essentially clearing the field of all past vegetables and weeds.  We cleared the 1 (20) acre field and at the end realized that there was one section that wasn’t completed which had leeks and beets.  We picked these and placed them into a pail.  This was a dusty and hot environment but we managed to get through it.  Lauren managed to find obsidian in the field as well as pumice.  If you don’t know what that is then look it up.  Since we were expedient in our task we were then asked to move a pile of sand that had been used to create concrete.  We moved the pile 4ft of which we still don’t know why.  After completion we all proceeded quickly to the showers to get ready for dinner.

At the end of the day when we arrived back to our casa we were surprised to see Carmen knitting – Diane had taught her earlier in the afternoon and she picked it up really quickly!  She prepared us a wonderful meal of BBQ chicken, mashed potatoes and onions from the garden, and a salad. 

To end the day, Suzanne and Diane found themselves preparing for the second sewing workshop planned for tomorrow, and the rest of us worked at setting up the programs for tomorrow and preparing this blog.   Thanks to Mynor we are prepared tonight with rat and mouse traps (big enough to catch a dog) for our casa…the mouse sega continues here as Tim protected the team in the middle of the night with his flip flop…but the creatures keep coming!  Mostly because the walls are “breathable”, a typical Guatemalan build, and we are surrounded by farm fields.  It certainly is making for humorous evening entertainment!

See you tomorrow!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Day 3 Monday April 11th, 2016

Another beautiful day in Parramos, Guatemala.  We have had lots of adventures today to tell you about.  Even though the villages are not expecting rain for another two months we heard thunder in the distance.  After inquiring we realized the live volcano 45km away, is letting off impressive plumes of gases. It has just become active over the past month.  It is a spectacular sight!

After our team breakfast we loaded the van and travelled to Corrales School for a morning of fun with 110 students and 3 teachers. School begins at 8:00 and finished at noon with a warm protein snack served at 10:00 am consisting of a warm liquid porridge drink and a hard-boiled egg.  For some children this food was the only meal of the day. Some the children worked in the field before school and will return to the field after school to help their parents with the crops.  It was a pleasure to see our build a home mom from 3 years ago is now cooking at the school.  Doug also got to spend some time with Alba, his adopted child – this was so rewarding.

We divided our team into four centres and rotated the students through each experience.
Station 1 Science Lessons on Dinosaurs (Cathy, Juli, Diane & Lauren)
Station 2 Recycled necklace craft (Suzanne & Dianne)
Station 3 Parachute games (Doug & Brian)
Station 4 Soccer game (Tim & Kelly)

Station 1: The science lessons were novel because science is not part of this school’s curriculum.  We talked in detail about different types of dinosaurs (with a translator). We showed them pictures of dinosaurs and 3D examples of the creatures. From there the students moved to the dinosaur rub Centre where they placed a blank piece of paper and rubbed a crayon over a dinosaur skeleton to create a skeleton print. The students moved onto the dinosaur fossil station where they used plasticine, a dinosaur skeleton head and plaster of paris to create an imprint of the skeleton head.  This became their keepsake.  After completing their imprint the students rotated to the dinosaur match and fossil centre.  Here they matched a full dinosaur figure with its skeleton. The students also learned about fossils, how they were created, what they looked like and how to use a magnifying glass. The students’ favorite fossil was coprolites (fossilized dinosaur poop).

Station 2: At the recycled necklace craft the students gathered in groups of 10 at a time. They were told with the interpreters help that the beads were created by “First Port Perry’s Boy Scouts” with recycled plastic and wallpaper. The beads were strung by each student and were worn when completed.  It was stressed that they were made by Canadian children and given with love.

Station 3: The students were excited when we pulled the parachute out because they remembered the activity from 2013. During the parachute educational games the students cooperated. They created poco waves and grande waves, used balls as popcorn to bounce ,which sometimes the balls were bounced over the school wall. Any runaway balls were quickly retrieved by a half a dozen students.  We also played colour recognition games in both English and Spanish.  Once the students had completed the parachute games the students used sidewalk chalk to draw their own creation.  We learned our lesson with the second group of students and demonstrated what the chalk was for prior to passing the pieces to students. Because some thought the chalk were stick candy and didn’t taste very good. 

Station 4: Soccer station. We set up two nets that we borrowed from “Centre of Hope” and we invited the first group out to play soccer.  The first group consisted of the older boys from the school and were about 16 in total. We equipped one half with blue jerseys and the other half with white jerseys. Each goalie had a separate colour (donated from the Woodbridge Soccer Club). We quickly same across a dilemma when the boys kicked the ball out of play which meant it landed in a neighboring  yard. The rule in this village is when anything lands in your yard, you become the owner of that item. This presented a problem, as we could not get our balls back.  To address this the kids ran home to get more balls. This allowed the game to continue.  In total we lost five balls, including the brand new one that GMT donated to the school. This game ended in a score of 2-0. Next the older girls played and their teams consisted of 6 girls per team. Here we lost another ball and the final score was 0-0. Next we had half of the younger portion of the school.  This was another 25 kids split in half. We lost two more balls in this game. Final score 2-0. The last game brought on another 35 kids which we divided in half, yet the blue team had far more skill than the white team. Therefore, Tim and two teachers joined the white team. We lost another ball, during this game. All of these games took place on the street which had a steeply graded slope.  In some cases the jerseys were way too big and came down to the kids ankles. We then tucked the shirts into their pants and in some cases you could only see the collar of the shirts.  The kids absolutely enjoyed soccer and some the girls even played barefoot to prevent damaging their shoes. In the closing ceremonies, we donated all jerseys to the school and unfortunately there was no ball to donate. The principal of the school was overwhelmed by our generous donations.

Once all the stations were completed, the 110 students lined up to receive their own goodie bag.  They were delighted to receive their treats. After saying our goodbyes with hugs and waves we traveled back to the guest house for lunch and afternoon instructions.

We were divided into two group for the PM:

Sewing Tasks (Pillow shams): Diane, Lauren, Juli, Cathy, & Suzanne
Build a Home Wall Construction: Kelly, Brian, Dianne, Doug & Tim

At the “Centre of Hope” the Sewing Coop consisted of 8 women from the local village of Parramos. This will be a new COOP group that will create pillow shams. The material used for the shams are tradition woven fabrics that are brightly coloured with intricate patterns. Many of the patterns featured birds or flowers. The ladies were shown how to cut 6 inch squares of two coordinating fabrics to create the top of the shams. The ladies were shown how to use the sewing machines to piece the squares together. Each sham has 15 squares. The group learned quickly how important it was to be precise when cutting and sewing the pieces together. In two and a half hours more than half of the ladies had a completed sham. They were very grateful to learn this new craft.

Some of the “Build a Home” walls were built this afternoon. Two were walls and two were walls with a door and window. We didn’t realize that “medir dos veces y corte una vez” meant “measure twice and cut once”. Therefore, our first wall ended up 10 cm too short.  We proceeded to measure twice and cut once on the following walls.  We framed the walls and while nailing them all together we realized that the nails must have come from a “dollar store”.  We managed to ruin 50% of them because they would not go in straight. We then observed our local mason/carpenter named Angel and noticed that he licked every nail before pounding it into the wood. We noticed that this was the only thing he was doing different to what we were doing, so we started licking our nails. Dianne perfected the nailing process like a BOSS by going 12 consecutive nails. Tim was 4 consecutive nails, Brian was 6 consecutive nails, Doug was 2 consecutive nails and Kelly was 4 consecutive nails. We noticed Dianne’s cheating technique that she had a magical orange hammer, that the carpenter had loaned her. The walls were completed after three hours of frustration.

At 4:00 Brian and Tim ventured into Parramos with our driver/translator Mynor to run errands. The first stop was to enter the bank to exchange American funds for Q’s. This was a fun process as we had to proceed past two armed guards with shot guns. We went up to the teller and exchanged $450 USD for our team members, which gave us Q3,429. We bought a 400gram bag of salt for 15 cents and 30 eggs for $4. We quickly learned that limon is not lemon and is instead lime.  After searching several markets we could find no lemons and settled for limes. We also went to fill up our drink water jugs and to our surprise they were only filled up at the volunteer fire station.

We had a delicious dinner of chicken, local grown carrots and potatos – Carmen is an amazing local cook -  and prepped for tomorrow’s adventures.  Night.  Night.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Day 2 in Guatemala. 

We were divided again today into three separate groups. Build a Stove: Cathy Kelly and Tim Septic Trench Digging: Dianne and Brian Prep for Church Service and Food /Clothing/Shoe Distribution: Juli, Doug, Suzanne, Diane and Lauren

The Build a Stove group travelled to the village of La Hermita to build a stove. We arrived into the community and parked the vehicle at the top of hill.  There was a cow blocking our way. Mynor, our driver tried to walk by the cow and got attacked like a bull!  We walked down the hill with the supplies - about 75 yards.  We entered the home and proceeded to the cooking porch. We removed a table and took a pick to the ground to loosen the soil for the stove.  First we sifted five bags of dirt/rocks  into 1 bag of fine soil. After discarding the rocks/stones, we added concrete mix and water to create cement. This was used to join the cinderblocks to create the frame of the stove. We took the water soaked fire bricks  and a machete to notch a 2in x 2in corner of four cinder blocks to be used later. As the concrete cured we created a game with 29 pogs to entertain the four children at the home.

Goddie Bags
After that game we created a musical entourage where we recognized the talent of the children with their God given instruments. Kid number one was responsible for clapping, Kid number two was responsible for finger flicking, kid number three was snapping their fingers and kid number four was responsible for saying “IEIEIE”. Lastly the stick banger was one of our own Cathy from Seagrave. Tim was the conductor and yelled a number and the corresponding child played their instrument.

Once this was completed we filled the stove with ash and ran out. Therefore, we walked back up the hill with the family to carry another 250 pounds of ash back to the home where we then realized we only needed a quarter of it. The ash is used to raise the internal base as filler and also prevent heat transfer to the cinderblock frame. Then inserted the firebricks and the metal plate stove top containing three holes. (one for the chimney pipe and two for cooking) We inserted a door allowing wood to be placed into the fire. We then finished with parging the exterior of the stove. The chimney will be inserted after four weeks of curing.  A dedication and blessing of the stove will take place in four weeks. Upon completion of the stove everyone received an RP Oil hat and a kit full of goodies for the family.

The Septic Trench Partners completed the final 75 ft of trench for the Septic re-route. Little did we know that the final grade needed to be a foot deeper to allow gravity flow.  The original goal was to the existing driveway as we understood to allow traffic passage, but our foreman Mynor fired up vehicles moving them to the road side to allow us to trench the final 20 ft 4.5 feet deep to finish the task. Of course the tools of the day again were shovels and picks. (Advil PM required tonight). Luckily we had time to shower for the second half of the day.

The Prep group started off preparing for the food distribution that included creating the 186 food hampers that contained: rice, sugar, cooking oil, 2 soup mixes, two types of pasta, cup of soup, oatmeal and a gravy mix. (Sponsored families receive this food hamper once a month).  We sorted 300 pairs of shoes into sizes for boys and girls. We sorted the donated clothes into babies, boys and girls.

We were ready for lunch and regroup for our instructions for the afternoon. The “Build a Stove” group had a successful morning, but with their timeline had to have a late lunch, quick refresh and be at the “Centre of Hope” for their assigned details.

During the afternoon the entire team were on hand to greet about 300 Guatemalans to “Centre of Hope” for both the Church Service and Sunday School.  The adults went upstairs for their 90 minute service, where at the end, we were able to do a hand made craft with the adults sharing a message of love and hope from Canada.  The team entertained 135 children for Sunday School. 
God's Eye
Activities included a God’s Eye Craft and story, Parachute games, Ball toss, and goodie bags distribution.  When the service completed the sponsored families registered for their food hamper which our team distributed, the families were then able to select one pair of shoes for a family member, one pair socks, two pieces of children’s clothing, one belt and one adult piece of clothing.  Any family with a baby also received a knitted hat. 

Today was also a wonderful emotional day for our team members to see their adopted families that were in attendance.Tim and Juli got to see Luis, Santos, Miriam, and Maria and Mom Maria Sepherina. Brian, Diane and Lauren visited with Juanito and his Grandmother Suzanne and Dianne met up with Angela’s sponsored boy (2010 & 2013 team member) Julio. Each sponsored family member received a personal bag.  We were extremely pleased to see the progress each sponsor family members have made since 2013. With such a successful day, there was still clean up ahead. (100 chairs stacked down stairs on the porch, sweep all floors and mop, and supplies put away and ready for school tomorrow morning).

Boy, were we ready for dinner! Following dinner we got our instructions for Day 3 and the preparation began.

We were so ready for bed!