Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mission, Vision, and Development

With the support of Julie and Anssel, our former General Projects and Environmental Projects Interns, the Family Support Center (formerly La Guardería) has been working hard this year to improve the services and atmosphere that we provide.

Family Support Center staff, Carmencita, Amy, and Julie

During our monthly staff meetings and mothers' meetings, we have been focusing on defining and improving the project.  We have worked with the staff, the mothers, and the older children/youth to identify values and create both a mission and a vision statement. Since creating the mission and vision, we have provided professional development and mothers' activity on self-esteem, conflict resolution, and how to live the values that we have identified.  Professional development continues each month during the staff meetings and mothers meetings.

Small group work during the mothers meeting

Ser un proyecto que gana la confianza de las familias para todos juntos (familia, escuela, y proyecto) dignificar a sus integrantes con valores y amor para su calidad de vida practicando la solidaridad.

Be a project that earns the trust of the families for everyone together (family, school, and project) to dignify its members with values ​​and love for their quality of life by practicing solidarity.

Forjar para el futuro, jóvenes y adultos capaces de realizar con felicidad su labor para el desarrollo de las comunidades y Guatemala con respeto, solidaridad, honestidad, comunicación, y amor.  

Build for the future, youth and adults able to happily perform their work for the development of communities and Guatemala with respect, solidarity, honesty, communication, and love.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Stove Interviews

Pueblo La Victoria:  Mam Maya
We just completed another round of stove interviews:  I feel very privileged to be a part of the process!  Our stove interviews for this round are in Llanos del Pinal and La Victoria.  Llanos del Pinal is closer to Quetzaltenango (Xela, as it's often referred) is Quiché (K'iche') Maya.  The other community, La Victoria is within 20-25 kilometers from Xela and is Mam Maya.  Despite the language and cultural differences, both groups share similar aspects of need:  cleaner air to cook in, safer environment for themselves and their children (reduction of burns and exposure), and the reduction of firewood usage.

Llanos del Pinal:  Quiché (K'iche') Maya
The stoves are built in different stages.  First stage consists of building a base of cinder block and cement that measures 90cm x 125cm and is three blocks high.  The second stage is constructed of brick, cement, and clay which is also three bricks high.  The third stage consists of building the fire box of brick and clay, setting the plancha/cooking surface, sealing it, and then installing the chimney.  The stoves get a door after about 40 days and it is completely ready to use in about 45.  In June we are hoping to construct eight stoves in La Victoria one week with the help of Timmy Global Health.  We will be dividing this effort into three days with four stoves beign build in the morning and four in the afternoon.  The subsequent days we will build the second and third stages, again four stoves in the morning and four in the afternoon.

Llanos del Pinal:  Quiché (K'iche') Maya
At Pop Wuj we are excited to have the opportunity to impact the local communities with these projects!  It's amazing what can be done with volunteer help.  There is much that can be done when like-minded people come together.  The impact to the health of the women and their children is quite clear as they no longer have a compromised cooking environment.  There is also an impact to the environment, specifically the reduction of wood usage.  This allows more time for other aspects of their daily lives with less time and money spent on wood procurement.  Win win all the way around!!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Feliz Cumple!

On April 25, 2013 we celebrated the birthdays of the 13 children and youth who turned a year older during the months of January, February, March, April, and May.

Check out our video and celebrate with us!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mothers Day Celebrations

Last Thursday the Centro de Apoyo Familiar, the Family Support Centre, had their annual mother’s day celebration. Which I had the wonderful pleasure of being my first day at the centre, as the new project coordinator. And what a way to begin! The children had toiled hard to organize and choreograph dances, songs and drama performances. All the mothers and children got involved in hilarious activities including plantain eating and balloon popping contests (without hands of course). Everyone had a great laugh especially the mothers. Some of whom were quite reluctant at first but ended up having a ball. We wrapped up the day with the kids presenting their mothers with some personalized gifts. They all said a few words of heartfelt love, of how much their mothers meant to them. It was an extremely touching and emotional time; there wasn’t a dry eye in the centre, from the kids, the mothers and to the dozen students from Pop Wuj that came along to share in the celebrations.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Second and Third Stages of Stove Building

By Anssel López

In my last post I talked about the great things I’ve seen while interning at Pop Wuj and how Pop Wuj brought a community together. Among all that I witnessed, the most striking was the power of changing a life.  I know it sounds a little extreme, but hear me out and then make up your mind.

I was only involved in building eight stoves during my short time at Pop Wuj. My direct involvement was leading the team and translating to English for the Spanish immersion students. Once or twice I was told, “We are learning Spanish, and we should be speaking Spanish, not English.” Perhaps they were right, but I saw volunteers working to achieve a common goal: a new Safe Stove for a complete stranger! I know that when we come to Guatemala to volunteer it is because of just that. We don’t care who is receiving the safe stove, rather we come to build it so we can contribute in some way.

Cutting Bricks,  Photo by Juan Burlew

Broken Bricks!  Photo by Juan Burlew

Paty, working on the Second Stage
Photo by Juan Burlew

This attitude sounds a bit bad in one way or another. However my perspective changed in the last few weeks working with Pop Wuj. I got to know the people. I got to know Doña Rosa and Doña Josefina, how many kids and how many grandchildren they have. I got to know what was affecting them. I had never seen these things before I started directing the stove construction.

Leveling during the Second Stage
Photo by Juan Burlew
We help people with asthma, cataracts and many other problems—too many to describe. Many of them where so happy that they cried when we finished the stove. Doña Margarita was the last stove that I had the honor to build—talk about need. I took three groups of students to the home and we worked in the same way as any other stove. However, not a single student could resist saying, “Wow!” as soon as we stepped into the kitchen. There were layers of smoke, soot and creosote from the last 49 years. It was so thick that you could take a knife and cut it. Can you imagine what her lungs must look like? Not a pretty picture.
Doña Margarita, before picture
Doña Margarita cried of course, but it was her words that struck us the most. “Gracias, nadie me había dado un regalo tan lindo como este. Ustedes son ángeles.” Thank you, nobody had ever given me such a beautiful gift. You are angels.” It might not seem that impactful, but for me, knowing her story of abuse, neglect, and her husband’s alcoholism and that she is ending her days alone, these words were very valuable and important. 

This is what your contributions and work do; it changes lives and gives opportunity to those that already have lost faith in life and humanity. As part of my last assignment I want to take this opportunity to say gracias, thank you, to you the donors of time, money, and logistical support. Every single thing you have done has left a deep mark that time will only make greater.

End of the Second Stage,  Photo by Juan Burlew
The family's reminder not to burn plastic!  Photo by Juan Burlew
Although the stove recipients might not know your name, they will never stop thanking those that made this possible. This sentiment is coming from a Guatemalan that had the opportunity to come home and help with only a grain of sand. What you have given are bags and bags of sand, you are their heroes and dream makers. For these communities you are the superheros. The families do not know you, but they know that you are there when they need you. 

Finished Stove with Reminder
Photo by Juan Burlew

Gracias Pop Wuj por la oportunidad de servirles con poco, pero más que nada por permitirme ser parte de esta historia sin fin, que ustedes siguen escribiendo semana a semana. Ustedes cambiaron mi vida y mi forma de verla.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Jornadas Dentales/Dental Brigades!

By Anssel López

In Guatemala all high schools offer different career tracks for the young adults that are getting ready to enter the workforce. When I was in high school in Guatemala, I chose to study to be a dental hygienist. If you are thinking of the people at the dentist office that clean your teeth, then you’re on the right track. However, my time in high school was just part of my preparation for university.

Now that I am back in Guatemala, this time as foreigner in my own land, I have had the opportunity to collaborate in all of Pop Wuj’s social projects. One of the most heartwarming projects is La Guardería, as everyone still calls it. I can picture our staff and student coordinator telling us that the project is actually a before and after school program and a family support center, not a daycare. We do not have babies at the project and nearly all of our participants are old enough to attend school. But calling it ‘La Guardería’ instead of the ‘Family Support Center’ is easier and nicer.

During my time at Pop Wuj, I became very attached to the project. I loved to visit those kids every Thursday. It melted my heart every time they greeted me with huge smiles and asked for my name again because they could not remember it. Because of this and the need for good oral health, I decided that it was a great idea to contact my old school, El Colegio San Jose, where I studied and also taught for a short while. Among other career tracks, the Colegio San Jose teaches and trains students to be dental hygienists in Xela.

After a few meetings school administrators and I put together a “Jornada Odontologica.” What a wonderful experience it was! The school provided us with dental records, materials, and allowed us to take 7 second-year students to La Guardería to work on our kids’ teeth. The excitement on the kids’ faces depicted something unexpected and indescribable. They could not wait to have their teeth cleaned!

The students of Colegio San Jose brought cleaning supplies, equipment, and a great attitude to our kids who have very little. I could not believe how little Guayito and Oscar were so excited to have someone look in their mouth, or how Amy cried out her eyes because she was afraid. All of them were very interested and paid close attention to the lecture about oral health as well as common diseases.

Each cleaning session took at least 30 to 45 minutes, and every time one of the kids went out, all of the others ran towards us asking if they could be the next one. I had never seen so much desire to have their mouth poked around and to have other people’s hands in their mouths, but the excitement was greater than the fear.

Sadly we could not clean of the children’s teeth the first day, but the ones that did had the cleanest teeth that you can imagine. The students from San Jose took their time to ensure that there was not a single millimeter missed in their work. Fortunately, a second group of San Jose students were able to continue the jornada dental a few weeks later. By the end of April all of the children and youth had their teeth cleaned. Well, all of the children except little Amy. She was still too scared. We are planning future jornadas odontologicas to help our kids maintain clean and healthy teeth!

¡Gracias al Colegio San Jose y a sus estudiantes!