Travel to Guatemala to advance the Water for Life project

In two weeks, Fern will travel to Guatemala to further develop the water project, “Water for Life,” in the rural village, Chajmaic.  The dates of her travel are December 10 through 24, 2018.

While there, she plans to establish a Guatemalan bank account, meet with Sowing Opportunities’ associate agricultural engineers, set up a branch nonprofit of Sowing Opportunities through an attorney in Guatemala, and make arrangements for local craftspeople to create beaded bracelets with the Sowing Opportunities logo.

In addition, she plans to visit a nearby village to explore their established water systems (including wells),

and if the conditions are right, visit Chajmaic or a nearby municipality.  She will be accompanied by Sowing Opportunities’ associate Ricardo San José for most of the time.

Sowing Opportunities submits collaborative grant to Mass Cultural Council!

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.

Bike-a-thon in Malden, MA on Saturday, September 15 at 12:00 noon

Please join us on Sept. 15! Tickets:

Help us reach our goal of $5,000 for the new year! New possibilities for the people of Guatemala!

100% of the proceeds from fundraising go to provide potable water to the remote village of Chajmaic, Guatemala.

Bike-a-thon in Malden, MA on Saturday, September 15 at 12:00 noon

We plan to ride for ~4.2 miles along The Northern Strand Bike Trail in Malden, with stop-offs to rest, or for those who choose not to do the entire route.

Every rider pays $10 to ride; under 13 FREE & Over 65 – voluntary donation if you choose; Riders under 10 need a responsible adult with them

Options for those in the disabled community to participate

Every rider gets “sponsored” by people who donate to them which gets given to charity to ride

Roosevelt Park to Park – L for turn around and back (~4.2 miles round trip)



A good faith visit (May 6-9, 2018)

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.

Ricardo and Antonio with Olivia’s family
Photo taken in Chajmaic, May 14, 2015

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.

Lillian García Contreras, Mayor of the Municipality de Fray Bartolomé, December 12, 2017

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

This is the pump house in Fray, on which the one in Chajmaic will be modeled.  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.

This map represents the more than 20 indigenous groups in Guatemala, according to the Comisión de Oficialización de los Dialectos Indígenas de Guatemala.  The “Castilian” areas represent Spanish-speaking areas.

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.

History of Guatemala
History of Guatemala

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.

Possible land site for greenhouse, Chajmaic.  Photo by Ricardo, December 2017.

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).

Annual costs of the water pump and agricultural system in Chajmaic, estimated in December 2017.


* 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).

Hurricane flood waters devastate Chajmaic

Hurricane flood waters have devastated our daughter Maya’s biological village in Chajmaic, Guatemala. Aid is needed to rebuild and get them food and safe drinking water. You can help.

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 July 1st fundraiser at Sangria Restaurante & Tapas

Our fundraiser, Sip Sangria for Sowing Ops, was a wonderful success, thanks to the efforts of Sangria Restaurant & Tapas owners Marlon Cardona and Nora Elizabeth Niemotko, Erica SosciaNancy PeñaRuby SantosGinny Remedi-Brown, and Netta Remedi-Brown. The Bailaranas Marimbas were exquisite, Selena’s singing breathtaking, and Netta’s viola performance soulful. We are grateful to all who participated.

We will have another event on Saturday night, September 16 at Sangria Restaurante, in honor of Guatemalan Independence Day.

If you would like to make a contribution, you can do so at .

A Thanksgiving prayer from Ricardo

fray9-bodyguard-friend-and-ricardo-11-24-2016Our 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.

Creating food stability for the village of Chajmaic: standing up for human morality


Dear Friends, family and colleagues,

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.

Donations can be made through GoFundMe or through our fiscal agent, Temple Tiferet Shalom of the North Shore.  You can buy a chili pepper lapel pin made by Ginny. (See photo.)  Or, you can come to our fundraiser at the home of our Board Member Helene Weitzenkorn’s on November 20th.

Please join us in creating food stability for the village of Chajmaic, and realize the goal of World Food Day, where there is zero acceptance for hunger?   Together we can stand up for human morality.

Thank you and blessings for your generosity,

Fern and Ginny


Repairing the World

Dear Friends, family and colleagues,

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.

Blessings and thanks,
Fern and Ginny



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 ( and after posts!