Photos from the May 23rd event at The Gallery@57:
We have an Event coming up in Malden, Massachusetts – Rescheduled date: Sunday, May 23th – for Earth Day!
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Since returning from Guatemala, I have some updates to share with you.
First, I cannot fully relay how moved I was to hold hands with those beautiful children in Chajmaic. They literally would not let go of my hands until our contact there, Alfonso, told them that we had to go single file up the slippery stones, climbing the steep mountain to where the water tank has been built by the municipality.
Second, my heart was literally broken to hear that Alfonso was strongly considering coming to the U.S. without documentation to escape the poverty and gang violence. When he told us this, I had just read that the U.S. government was going to undergo a shutdown over the border wall. The desperate need of the Guatemalan people leads me to consider immediate action for our project.
Here are the facts, as we know them:
One of Ricardo’s agricultural engineers, Federico, started an agricultural project in a Catholic boarding school for indigenous children, teaching the young students to grow vegetables in greenhouse farming – a system he learned in Israel – for food and livelihood. We visited this school, outside of Guatemala City (in Mixco), and learned that his plan is to replicate this system in Chajmaic.
with this breakdown on an annual and monthly basis:
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:
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/
On November 27, while Ricardo and his wife, Eva María, were visiting family in Massachusetts, Ginny and Fern met with them. We discussed the village of Chajmaic and the “Water for Life” project.
You might remember that Ricardo and his team had visited the mayor of the nearby municipality, Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, one year ago. The mayor had not only agreed, but one month after the meeting, had allocated funds and, when Ricardo and his team visited in May 2018, had begun building a pump house in Chajmaic. This saved our project $80,000 in start-up funding, using the government’s big machinery and funding. However, it was only through visiting the village in May that Ricardo knew about this improvement.
What we discussed last week with Ricardo and Eva María is that, as this is now an election year, we need to be careful about being connected with the municipal government. This is because of this historical relationship between the government and the villages in Guatemala. If we are associated with the government, we would likely be seen by the villagers as swaying the election results. This would make us lose trust with the village elders and the villagers.
As the mayor is seeking re-election, it is possible that she will continue the water project. However, at this time, we need to have a waiting period in order not to derail our safety or the project until after the election, in August 2019.
In the meantime, Sowing Opportunities plans to:
Tomorrow (December 10) Fern travels to Guatemala for two weeks to explore options for moving forward. A major goal that is planned is to meet with a lawyer to develop a branch of Sowing Opportunities in Guatemala.
We envision having the students working on cost-effective ways to develop solutions in Chajmaic and to put on an exhibition that would include science presentations, as well as art, dance, and music from Guatemala culture. We also envision a travel component, with students and teachers going to Guatemala.
If we get funded, the funding period is July 2019 through December 2020.
Here are details about the grant requirements:
The pdf of our grant submission is at this link.
This was the original press release.