On December 21, 2018 Fern visited the remote village of Chajmaic for the first time since learning about it in early January 2015. If not for the reports and photos for several years, she would have been in shock at the abject poverty.
Before arriving in Chajmaic, she bought boots in Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (30 minutes’ drive away) to prevent being bitten by a poisonous snake while in the village. We arrived in Chajmaic on their busy market day, which was just at the entrance to the village. The entrance road was paved six years ago.
We gave our project leaders in the village, Lety and Alfonso, a gift of appreciation for their work.
Here are some facts:
- Homes are constructed of raw lumber with openings for windows, tin rooves and dirt floors.
- Thanks to the municipality of Fray, every house now has a faucet, which will become functional when the water pump is operational. The water project was started in January 2018.
- Alfonso recently lost his job as a gas station security guard in Fray.
- They have a very small store adjacent to their home.
- Alfonso knows the owner of the land we plan to rent for the greenhouse, and it is available.
- The village size has grown from 1,600 in mid-2015 to 3,000 at the end of 2018, for the same square footage, which means more poverty in the same space.
- Some (very few) houses now have internet access via smart phone.
- Electricity is run by a wire through the inside of their home, on the ceiling.
- Some children sleep on the muddy/dirt floor, as they can’t afford a bed (Q. 2,500 / $300).
- Chajmaic and its river are stunningly beautiful and verdant, but nonarable, because of the rocky soil.
- They have a bridge that overlooks rapids where the river moves quickly due to its descent.
- Almost no one in the village speaks Spanish – just Q’echqi’.
- The warmth and kindness of the people is a statement of their integrity and resilience.
We climbed a steep, muddy, rocky and slippery hill of 60 meters (200 feet) to get to the water tank, which, when the water pump is installed, will become operational. There are two pipes – for inflow and outflow – that leads to each faucet.
There is an abandoned latrine project from years ago, which the villagers said they didn’t want. This needs to be explored further.
Bilingual (Q’echqi’ – Spanish speakers) may become the leaders, and this could be a motivation for young people to learn Spanish as a second language. Leaders could become Spanish teachers, as well.
We visited the pump house near the road on our way out of the village. It lacks installation of a pump.
We invited 3 adults and 4 children to come to lunch in Fray and discussed our plans. Alfonso told us he was thinking about going to the U.S. without documentation to bring his family out of poverty. To discourage them, we told them true stories – some from personal experience – and I cried. We hope that we convinced them. But this demonstrates the extreme desire to extricate one’s family from the oppressive conditions which they face daily.
As a testament to the depth of their empathy and character, one of the children with us at lunch, perhaps age 7, whom we learned was ill with fever, came to me after Fern cried and asked her in mixed Q’echqi’ and Spanish why she was crying. The girl had been holding Fern’s hand throughout my stay in the village. Fern told her it was because she cared about her and her family.
At the end of our stay together, Lety and Alfonso blessed us.
None of this would be possible without the able leadership of our Guatemalan project manager, Héctor Ricardo San José Roca. His decisions and actions have brought us to the successes we now have.
We can demonstrate need. We can demonstrate capability.
We can demonstrate solutions. We can demonstrate results.
Here are three videos of the group of 10 – 6 adults and 4 children – at the top of the steep hill, at the water tank. The first video is with Alfonso speaking in Q’echqi’ to the children:
The second video is with Ricardo speaking in English, with Alfonso carving a walking stick for a safe decline:
The third video is with Alfonso speaking in Spanish, handing Fern the walking stick that he had just carved for her safety:
Details on the entire visit can be found here: http://www.sowingops.org/en/learn/guatemala-travelogue-december-2018/