Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"Hasta Luego," not "Adios"

Text by Emily Rempel and photos as noted

General Projects Coordinator Emily Rempel  finished her 3 months of intensive volunteering at Pop Wuj on May 5.

How does one properly reflect on a life-changing, four-month-long experience in one single blog post? It simply doesn’t seem possible.

I arrived in Xela the evening of Saturday, January 7th and to be honest, I was terrified. The sun had already gone down, my terrible sense of direction was failing me completely, and I had spent the day subsisting on the few remaining power bars that I had in my backpack. Looking back on the “what the heck am I doing here” messages I had sent to my mom (like the proper almost 23-year-old adult I am), I can’t help but laugh and be completely amazed by how much has happened since then and how much I’ve experienced.

During my time at Asociación Pop Wuj I helped build numerous stoves, I interviewed families for our current group of stove recipients, I got to see our “compra” day where we bought and delivered enough materials for some 11 stoves. I listened to Carmelina, our stove boss, explain to every group of volunteers just how big of an impact our safe stove project has on the families of Llanos del Pinal, Xecaracoj, etc. I was welcomed into the homes of so many families.

Carmelina and I on my last day of stove building (Photo by student volunteer)
I also got to participate in all of our medical projects, which is a life experience I never expected to have. I got to help measure and weigh babies in our Nutrition Prgoram and learned all about the different supplements we use to help combat varying degrees of malnutrition. Through my own research for the blog, I also learned way more about the pervasive problem of malnutrition in Guatemala, how it self-perpetuates and is compounded by intersecting social, political and institutional oppressions. I spent a week working in the medical brigade with Pop Wuj and Timmy Global Health and learned the Spanish names of countless medications that I had never even heard of in English. I helped translate during triage in our Pop Wuj cCc, so that our medical volunteers could provide the high level of care that Pop Wuj promises.

A favourite photo from a Nutrition day in La Victoria (Photo by Emily Rempel)
I also spent a lot of time working in our Scholarship Program and Family Support Center, two projects that focus on providing opportunities for education. Meetings in our Scholarship Program always amaze me. First, every participant there (usually mothers of scholarship recipients) greets us and welcomes us to their community. Then, we discuss the progress of our becados (scholarship students), challenges faced in school and at home, so that the educational journey of each of our becados is something shared and supported by the entire group. At my last scholarship meeting, with our group from Chirijquiac, we also discussed human rights: what are our human rights, examples of how human rights are being denied, and the barriers that exist in demanding our rights. The scholarship meetings always remind me that it is the participants in our projects, usually women, who are leading the struggle for human rights. It’s been an honour to work with Pop Wuj in helping to support this struggle.

My last meeting with the scholarship group from Chirijquiac (Photo by Carmen de Alvarado)
By far the most fun part of my internship was my afternoons at the Family Support Center. The kids there are just SO GREAT. Each one is so full of energy, so full of kindness, so full of potential. The FSC is a vital part of the community of Llanos del Pinal. It provides a safe place for these wonderful children to be nurtured, to explore, to grow. Saying goodbye to the kiddoes there was incredibly hard, but I look forward to following their growth through future posts on this blog - like this one!

All smiles with Rosemari and Yadira (Photo by Emily Rempel)

Packed into our casita with the pequeños, Yosvin, Daniel, Emmanuel, Yadira, Andrea, and Daniela (Photo by Ashley Aue)
Yadira and Daniela running circles around me (Photo by Elizabeth Barnes)

Pop Wuj is a labour of love. It’s a project of passion. It’s sustained through constant, non-stop work. In a country marked with institutional weakness, pervasive corruption, that continues to be robbed of its resources, that has been, and continues to be, so thoroughly affected by colonialism, it’s grassroots organizations like Pop Wuj that help realize the human rights of the most marginalized Guatemalans. The opportunity to be a part of this human rights work has been, by far, the best thing that I have ever done in my life. I am eternally grateful for my time here and look forward to supporting Pop Wuj from afar, in whatever way I can. A Pop Wuj - gracias y nos vemos otra vez.

Emily's internship at Pop Wuj was the final requirement for her Bachelor of Arts in Human Rights at the University of Winnipeg, and she graduates this semester. ¡Gracias por todo, Emily, y que te vayas bien!

You can read more blog posts written by Emily or spotlighting her by clicking here.

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