In the group with which I traveled, led by our fearless Director Carmen, the 3-5-year-old “pulgas” (or fleas, as they are affectionately called), ran ahead with smiles, laughter, and happy chatter as we carried nearly 100 arbolitos up the base of a mountain. The walk was incredible despite the hefty weight of the trees, most carried in two canvas bags slung over the shoulders of myself and one of our social work students, Charlotte. It was easy to appreciate the beauty of Guatemala’s rural highlands as the sky was clear and the sun was shining.
It was apparent immediately upon arrival to the farm why the trees were needed, as most trees had been cleared from a large plot of land sloping steeply downhill with corn planted everywhere. We planted our trees intermittently across the plot of land, the hope being that they would provide stability during periods of high rain where there is risk of the top soil washing away.
It was good to know that these trees would serve a necessary purpose for both the farmer and for the land itself- I believe the children felt a similar sense of accomplishment. As they grow it will be good for them to return to the land where they planted these saplings, which will grow to protect the land that provides us with so much. To show appreciation for the land, for Mother Earth, is a sacred Mayan tradition, and to keep alive this spirit of reciprocity among the young Guatemalans of the Family Support Center is to keep alive the very spirit of the indigenous culture.