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:
Stay in touch with our contact people in the village to assess the current situation
Possibly visit the village
Engage the people of the village to find out what they want
Do research into the most cost-effective measures for reaching our goals by learning what is done in other Guatemalan NGOs
Raise funds through large foundations and partnership with U.S. corporations involved with corporate social responsibility (CSR)
Not begin the project until we have a commitment of continued funds
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.
In prior newsletters, we had mentioned that Ricardo, our associate in Guatemala, and Antonio (agricultural engineer) will be taking a good faith visit to the village of Chajmaic. This is common practice in Central America and is necessary because we don’t have the funds to begin the “Water for Life” project at this time. Ricardo and Antonio are traveling this weekend. The cost of their trip is $1,600 for three people (including a bodyguard) traveling 14 hours each direction and spending three days.
The purpose of this visit is to maintain good relationships and ensure to the mayor of the neighboring municipality of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas as well as the COCODE (village leaders of Chajmaic) that we have the intention to carry out our mission to deliver clean and accessible water to the village. We need to keep the door open while we seek a large donor to begin the project in earnest, now that we have our tax-exempt status.
In December Ricardo and his team met with the mayor of Fray Bartolomé and she (the mayor) showed them the water filtration system on which Ricardo and his team will model the pump system for Chajmaic.
This is the piping leading from the river in Fray Bartolomé de las Casas to the pump house, to purify the river for the municipality. Photo taken in Fray, December 12, 2017
It is important to realize the historical significance of Ricardo bringing together the municipal government and the village leadership. The government is mostly comprised of mestizos (mixed Amerindian-Spanish). While the 26 indigenous Mayan groups in Guatemala constitute a majority of the population, they are very much treated as a minority.
Throughout history, the indigenous have been ignored, meaning inequitable access to health care, education, and other resources. Worse, they endure deep-rooted ethnic discrimination that has fueled many atrocities, including loss of land and rights, and most recently, the 36-year Guatemalan internal armed struggle, in which 200,000 unarmed, indigenous Mayan were slaughtered.
This has resulted in a distrust of outsiders among the indigenous and particularly regarding any government programs, which provide a paucity of options for education, family finances, and skill development. So, Ricardo and Antonio’s efforts are nothing short of a peace mission, which are providing healing and developing collaborative relationships.
Ricardo is not operating alone; on the contrary, he is working closely with key trusted individuals within the village of Chajmaic, who are very much on board with his strategic plan. The idea is to not only provide the villagers with potable, accessible water, but also growing food (agriculture) to sustain them, and a livelihood selling the food that they grow.
This entails renting a relatively small portion of land to build a tiered greenhouse, bringing in vegetables that are not native to Chajmaic. The team will use the now clean water for growing crops.
This is a full project rather than partial, in that the villagers will have food and jobs to sustain them, as well as the education to maintain their livelihood – not only clean water. This more fully fulfills the mission of Sowing Opportunities to cultivate self-sustainability, education, and wellness in rural Guatemala.
The total annual cost is $266,134*, and we need 1/3 up front to start the project, in order to pay for equipment, supplies, land rental, and partial salary, as in the U.S. This includes the cost of pumping water that will deliver suctioned water uphill and draw it into a tank that they must build in order to purify the water. They will send this water to the entire village by force of pressure and gravity push, approximately 450 gallons per hour, 24 hours a day. This will eliminate gastrointestinal diseases. The cost also includes maintenance of the system, the building of a greenhouse, renting land for erecting the greenhouse, and salaries for one year: project director, 2 agricultural engineers, greenhouse guardian, and assistant engineer. This will provide clean water – eliminating gastrointestinal diseases – nourishment, and a livelihood for 1,750 people (250 families).
* Update: In the fall of 2018, these costs were updated because the municipality of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas took on the water project. By December 2018, a 600,000 gallon capacity water tank had been built at the top of a steep hill in Chajmaic, with inflow and outflow piping, going to faucets at each home. In addition, a pump house and electricity had been installed alongside the road in Chajmaic. All that remains is the electricity. This has saved us $157,048. The updated cost table is at the bottom of this news bulletin: Updates Since Returning from Guatemala . In December 2018, we also learned that the village had grown to 3,000 people. This is still 250 families, using the same resources (same number of homes and land).
If you have given towards our “Water for Life” project, this is a separate request. Funds will be kept separate and sent immediately to the village. 100% of your donations will go towards aid. Any amount, from $5 to $5,000 helps!
Our partner, Ricardo, of the NGO CorGuate (Corazones en Acción por Guatemala, or Hearts in Action for Guatemala) recently traveled to Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, Guatemala to take the next steps towards our projects in Chajmaic, before we move to the #GuatemalanArtisanChocolate project in San Antonio Suchitepéquez.
Upon his return, Ricardo sent this prayer:
God on high, we thank you for the opportunity to serve you in this blessed work of helping our most needy brothers and sisters. We thank you because you have accompanied us, guided us and protected us from all evil.
To you, God, we humbly ask you to help us in this time of difficulty that is now going through the whole world, protect us from all evil and all danger, at the same time, teach us that helping a person is how we help the world, and that giving to the most needy is how we come to you, that our love for others is as perfect and profound as the love that you feel for us all.
We love and bless you God, today, tomorrow and forever. Forever and ever, AMEN.
Last Sunday was World Food Day – a day of action against hunger. “On October 16 people around the world come together to declare their commitment to eradicate hunger in our lifetime. Because when it comes to hunger, the only acceptable number in the world is zero.
“Every human being has a fundamental right to be free from hunger… The right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child has the physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.”
In our Yom Kippur service at Temple Israel this year, we read a passage:
You shall not oppress a stranger,
for you know the stranger’s heart…
Let justice well up like water,
Righteousness like an unfailing stream…
You must not remain indifferent…
Love your neighbor as yourself…
and: “[We] … must stand up for a society that is bound by human morality – and speak truth to power.”
As of October 22nd we have $1940 in Sowing Opportunities’ account. We have 58% more to go towards our goal. In order to send Ricardo and the CorGuate team to travel to Fray Bartolomé de las Casas we need $2,660 more by November 6th. Can you help with any amount?
This will cover the costs of travel at 12-13 hours per day, over 7 days for 3 people and 2,340 miles. The team of 5 will oversee the transfer of Olivia’s land, the wellbeing of Olivia, her 2-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, and negotiations with the owner of the land for the Chajmaic chili pepper project.
One year ago we had a successful Kickstarter campaign: you helped us to raise $5,400 within one month. We observed a chili pepper operation in Péten, Guatemala, found a sponsor to buy chili peppers, met with the owner of the land in Fray Bartolomé, established trust with the village residents, and received approval from the village leaders. We now must move on to the next phase. Can you help us raisehalf that amount within the next two weeks?
There are several opportunities for you to contribute towards this next, important step in establishing the chili pepper farm. Once CorGuate rents the land, the plan for 2017 is to train a group of workers, to prepare the land, and to find solutions for irrigation and potable water for the village.
The Jewish New Year has begun. This is the time of renewal, and it is part of our tradition to focus on Tikkun Olam, repairing the world.
If you have given one time in the past, or if you have never contributed to this project, would you consider doing so now?
We are edging ever closer to our goal of $4,600 that is needed to send Ricardo and two confidants to Fray Bartolomé de las Casas in the 1st or 2nd week in November. We currently have $1,800 in the account, which means that we need $2,800 (60% more) to reach our goal within the next three weeks.
This is the essential first step towards developing the chili pepper project in Chajmaic and we need to do it on time, in order to stay in sync with the planting season. As written in the previous update, Ricardo’s trip to Fray is necessary in order to oversee the name transfer for Olivia’s land, to view the land for the chili pepper project, and to negotiate with the owner of the land to rent a portion of it for the chili pepper project for the people of Chajmaic. Ricardo will negotiate price, size, and length of rental.
At Rosh HaShanah, our Rabbi Suzie Jacobson, gave a sermon referencing Rabbi Jill Jacobs’ book, There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice through Jewish Law and Tradition. She taught us of the importance for those of us who have privilege in society to use this power for good.
Rabbi Suzie explained that there are three basic human principles: (1) the dignity of human life: an injury to one individual is an injury to all; (2) a commitment to lessening inequalities and oppressive disparities; and (3) that community has a responsibility to the individual and vice versa.
As our sage rabbi told us, together we can make a life of compassion, justice and goodness.
You can donate through GoFundMe or receive a tax donation by writing a check to Sowing Opportunities, via our fiscal agent, Temple Tiferet Shalom of the North Shore.
If you have contributed recently, thank you. You are making this important work possible. May God bless you for all of your contributions, prayers, and support. You are actively participating in the creation of this peace and social justice work – the work of repairing the world.
Sowing Opportunities, Inc. was selected to participate in New England GiveCamp, a weekend-long event where technology professionals from designers, developers and database administrators to marketers and web strategists donate their time to provide solutions for non-profit organizations. I am excited for how GiveCamp can help our nonprofit to develop a beautiful website and become more visible!
Look for before (http://sowingops.wixsite.com/sowingopportunities) and after posts!
Two weeks ago Olivia and her 2-year-old daughter (see photo) left the safe house in Cobán (see sign over entry) and returned to their village in Chajmaic. During the three months that they stayed in the safe house, they both gained nutrition and medical stability, and Olivia contributed to the community effort at the safe house by participating in the preparation of meals. It was her personal choice to return to her village and resume her life there with her daughter. Her 9-year-old son remains in the safe, stable private home in Cobán.
Our current effort is to complete the work to put Olivia’s land in her name in the village of Chajmaic. This includes a letter from the COCODES (village leaders) to a civil engineer, a civil engineer’s expenses, a surveyor’s expenses, lawyer’s expenses, documentation, and filing fees. We expect that this will be completed in early October. The transfer of funds for this effort (nearly $700) was completed on September 13. A link to all expenditures is here.
The next step is for Ricardo to travel to the distant town of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas to oversee the name transfer for Olivia’s land, to meet with Lety and Alfonso who are managing the transfer, to check on the wellbeing of Olivia and her 2-year-old daughter, and to view and have face-to-face conversations and negotiations with the owner of the land to rent a portion of it for the chili pepper project for the people of Chajmaic. Ricardo will negotiate price, size, and length of rental. The total land size is 52 acres (30 manzanas), but we will start with a much smaller, pilot project – perhaps 8.5 acres (5 manzanas).
The current need is to raise funds to send Ricardo to Fray Bartolomé in the 1st or 2nd week in November. Because of certain current dangers in the area, it is necessary for Ricardo to travel via Rio Dulce and stay overnight there, traveling to Fray each day. This circuitous route is a greater distance, but is necessary to ensure his safety and this is paramount to the chili pepper project. In addition, Ricardo will bring two men with him who will assist with the project and provide a buffer of safety. The cost of this trip is $4,600 – reduced by 1/4 from the original cost analysis – and will cover 12-13 hours per day, over 7 days for 3 people and 2,340 miles (310 miles each way from Antigua to Rio Dulce, plus 110 miles each way per day from Rio Dulce to Fray). This total cost includes the costs of travel: gas, hotel, meals, and vehicle. We currently have 25% towards this goal. We need to raise $3,500 within the next month.
Ricardo will tell the COCODES that in Year 1, beginning January 2017, we will do a Pilot Project and he plans to organize a cooperative first group of trainees to work the land under the supervision of Ricardo’s agricultural engineer. For this, we need funding for land rental, equipment, tools, plants, and salaries. Planting season in Guatemala is February. The workers will plant seedlings, rather than seeds.
In Year 2, which we expect will begin in January 2018, we will need an increase in funds because we will need more land, equipment, tools, plants, and an increase in the number of workers and therefore, cost of salaries.
If you are interested in donating for the first time to the project or continuing your donations, you can do so through GoFundMe or receive a tax donation by writing a check to SowingOpportunities, via our fiscal agent, Temple Tiferet Shalom of the North Shore, 489 Lowell St., Peabody, MA 01960, USA
Thank you again for your support of this important peace and social justice work.