Sunday, September 23, 2012

Independence Day

September 15th is Guatemala’s Independence Day and the whole week leading up to the big day, the streets of Xela are filled with parades, music, food and an overwhelming number of people. One of the main attractions of Xela during this week is the Independence Fair, or “La Feria.” It is just like your average State Fair in the United States, complete with delicious smells wafting from the various stands selling fatty foods, screaming children, and the classic carnival games where you can win overly large stuffed animals.

Because the fair in Xela is such a big event, and because the kids of the Family Support Center (formerly the Guarderia) live so far away, we decided to recreate la Feria in Llanos de Pinal. We spent the week planning and preparing. A scavenger hunt through the city proved fruitful when we discovered a beanbag toss game buried under the odds and ends of a thrift-like tienda. Carmen splurged and bought a mini-foosball table that, although frustrating to put together, was a huge hit. We wanted to make the Feria feel like the real thing so our two Guatemalan secretarial interns crafted some tickets for food and games.

Thursday afternoon the whole Family Support Center staff helped set up la Feria. Balloons, a colorful umbrella displaying cotton candy, bright signs and all of the different game stations transformed the playground into a carnival. Some of the mothers cooked up some delicious treats to add to the festivities.

While we were setting up, the kids were inside learning more about the story behind Guatemala’s Independence from Carmen. The national anthem was played, and the older kids proudly displayed the flag of their country. Finally, the kids were allowed to rush outside to see all the games and treats we had prepared! Carmen led a hilarious game of Bingo, Amy manned a very popular game where each person was given two tennis balls to try and knock down a tower of old milk cartons. Foosball, of course was immediately taken over, and Ashley was bombarded with kids wanting to play coin toss. It was chaos! Screaming, laughing, smiling and joking sums up the atmosphere of the Center’s version of the Fair.

If you played a game you were pretty much guaranteed to win, and winning meant prizes! We had an assortment of yoyos (yoyitos), bouncy balls and candy. The moms even got into the activities and Doña Delfina wowed the crowd after knocking down the tower of milk cartons on her first try.

The fair was a complete success and it was so warming to see everyone getting along and having fun. Any worries or stresses evaporated and it was all fun and games (literally!). Days like these make it obvious why the Family Support Center is such a necessary and effective project. Any time we can find ways to bring a community and families together in a fun and active environment is an accomplishment.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Changes and Expansion!

From July 13, 2012

Next to the Family Support Center we are putting the finishing touches on our new garden. Once a greenhouse, the site was transformed to better accommodate the Family Support Center´s needs.  Jenn, a student enrolled in the Spanish Social Work program, lead renovation efforts which entailed installing raised beds, fertilizing and turning the top soil, planting new seeds and seedlings, and installing a fence. The children of the Family Support Center got in on the fun and were active participants in the transformation. They are enjoying the fruits of their labor by participating in educational lectures/activities on gardening. This week we will commemorate the opening of the garden by installing a sign indicating the name of the garden. The name will be put up to a vote for the children to decide. A new era of healthy yields await the garden!

The rainy season has produced fertile conditions for our Reforestation Project. Together with the families involved in our community development programs, Pop Wuj has shared experiences of planting trees and giving back to the earth. Our most recent work saw 100 trees of different varieties planted in Cantel. In addition, we recently planted trees on the skirt of Volcano Santa Maria with the children of the Family Support Center. On both occasions, the success of the project and the lessons involved in reforestation were of equal value.  In two weeks time, we will return to the sites to check up and to see what progress has been made with our “arbolitos.”

The increase of students has brought more life, festivities, and most of all, recyclables, to the school. To adjust, Pop Wuj has increased the number of visits to the recycling centers to one time per month, and maybe we have hosted an extra party or two. During our next visit, we will invite students to tag along and tour the centers that we visit to gain a better understanding of the recycling system in Guatemala.

In the upcoming weeks, we will continue to do what we do best: build stoves, garden, plant trees, and recycle, but that’s not all we have in store.  We have plans to decorate the inside of Pop Wuj with herbs, plants, and an array of flowers that are indigenous to Guatemala.

Stay green!