Thursday, May 31, 2012

Recycling, reforestation, and the nursery

          Exciting advances are underway in the environmental program here at Pop Wuj.  Our very first Coordinator of Environmental Projects started work this week to help develop environmental projects and continue coordinating the stove project.  Currently we have three main environmental projects: recycling, reforestation, and the nursery.

            Our recycling project is aimed at creating a more efficient system of processing recyclable material both at the Pop Wuj language school ( and in some of the communities where Pop Wuj runs other projects.  The goal is to not only reduce the amount of waste produced by the school and rural communities but also to promote recycling in rural communities.  Additionally, collecting recyclables helps reduce the amount of plastic that families in the rural communities burn. Families often burn plastic to cook their food because it’s abundant and burns slower.We currently collect recyclable material from the Family Support Center in Llanos de Pinal, but we are looking for a way to increase the practice of recycling in more rural communities while not adding more expenditure to Pop Wuj’s budget.  There are some local recycling companies in Xela that will pay for recyclables by the pound, but after paying for transportation to the sites to drop off the material there isn’t much left over to give back to the community from which we received the recyclables.  There’s a long way to go but we are working slowly but surely to make progress.
            The ongoing reforestation project is back with the rainy season.  We are planning to hold a benefit in Xela to raise money to buy seedlings that can be planted in the communities where we work.  Additionally, a group of women from San Juan Buena Vista have formed a group to run a nursery for seedlings to be used for reforestation.  This week we will be going to visit their nursery and gain more information about their project so we can support them in whatever way possible.  The group came out of a group of women who received stoves and were inspired to do more for reforestation.  Not only does the group have positive environmental impact but it’s a way for the women of the community to organize and empower themselves.
            Finally, the nursery (formerly greenhouse) at the Family Support Center continues to be a focus of the environmental program.  Much of the information about the nursery can be found above, but our current aim is to find funding to revamp the nursery to put it back into full use.  We are also looking for a way to make the nursery self-sustaining, in other words, not in need of continual funding for such necessities as organic fertilizer, chicken wire and plastic tubing to repair unenclosed areas, and wood to repair the door.  We will also be going to the nursery this week to work on fixing it up and see what is possible for developing it in the future.

Timmy Brigade and Nutributter Visits

           Last week was busy for the medical clinic because a Timmy brigade from Butler University came to help out at the Pop Wuj and mobile medical clinic.  It was a group of about 25 medical students and doctors saw up to a hundred patients each day in different communities around Xela.   Monday they went with the mobile clinic to Buena Vista, Tuesday they worked in the Pop Wuj clinic (the line of patients wrapped around the corner!), Wednesday to Pujujil, Thursday to ACAM (Asociación Comadrona del Area Mam) in San Juan, and Friday to Xeabaj II. From what they recounted, the experience was beneficial, interesting, and educational for them.  Two weeks ago was the mobile clinic’s first visit to ACAM, which with around 25 patients was a successful first visit.

            The coordinator for the medical clinic continues to hold meetings with the NutriButter recipients. Two weeks ago we met two different groups of women from San Juan to distribute NutriButter supplies and have a discussion, and just yesterday we visited the women in Llanos del Pinal.  The discussion topic was dehydration and the importance of drinking clean water.  This coming week we will meet again with the women of San Juan to prepare a nutritious meal and discuss more about the role of nutrition in daily life.   

Pop Wuj Scholarship Meeting

           This past week mothers and family members of scholarship recipients from various communities met at Pop Wuj to receive scholarships as well as have an educational discussion.  This week’s talk was about domestic violence at home and the spillover it has into bullying at school.  Bullying is a new topic for the Guatemalan school system as the problem is becoming increasingly evident.  Some group members added their own stories and opinions about the effect domestic violence has on children’s performance and behavior in school.  We finished with a snack of chicken tamales, coffee, and cake to show appreciation for the group making the trip to Pop Wuj to participate in the discussion and receive the scholarships. 

Our next scholarship meeting will take place this week at the Family Support Center for mothers whose children attend the Center in Llanos del Pinal.  We will be discussing malnutrition, an important issue facing many scholarship recipients, and we will be preparing a balanced meal with the mothers to put the lesson into practice.

Mother’s Day, Tree Day, and Malnutrition

May 10th was our Mother's Day celebration at the Family Support Center (formerly la Guardería). As always, the children put together a program of performances, including dances, songs, poetry, and games for the mothers to participate in and win prizes. We had a group of almost 20 Spanish students in attendance to take part in the festivities. Gifts of health and household items were handed out to the mothers in addition to crafts the children had made for them. Everyone shared an early dinner before heading back. 

May 17th we celebrated Arbor Day with the kids by planting four trees. First we discussed why planting trees is important, how to keep trees healthy, and some of the biological functions of trees. Then we went out to plant the trees behind the Family Support Center – two eucalyptuses and two cypresses. The kids had a lot of fun getting their hands dirty digging the hole for the tree and covering up the roots. Afterward they played outside until it was time to go back.

This past week Carmen met with the women who work at the Family Support Center to discuss a problem that faces several of the children who attend: malnutrition. We discussed how the Center provides a hardy, balanced meal and small snack for the children each day, but for some children this is the only meal they are getting. Additionally, there is a perplexing disconnect between the abundance of vegetables grown in the community and the food that actually appears on the family’s dinner plates. Often times it wasn’t an economic issue but rather a behavioral one. Next week, along with distributing scholarships, we will be meeting with mothers of the community and the Family Support Center to discuss the issue of malnutrition and the importance of preparing balanced, nutritious meals.

Stoves in Llanos and Xepache

This past week a group of student volunteers helped finish the second stage of the stove in Doña Robertina’s house, another stove recipient in the community where we’re currently working, Llanos del Pinal. In the past two months four stoves have been built, and in March the stove at the Family Support Center was also completed. Seven families remain in the current stove group in Llanos. In the next couple weeks we will start visiting houses and interviewing our next group of stove recipients from the Xepache community. Coming up later in June we will have a big group from Timmy Global Health to just work on stoves. We’ve started preparing for their visit so we can make the most of their time here.