As this week comes to a close, we finish our time volunteering in Guatemala. It leaves a bittersweet taste to return to our homes in the United States. Each of us has missed our family and friends back home, but it was a sacrifice that we were willing to make to have the opportunity to help Mayan Families as Nourish International interns. We could not have been happier with our experience.
On Thursday, we visited the garden for the last time, and the transformation of the plot of land is very profound. In the beginning, weeds and trash littered the plot; the land was rough and unkempt. However, through the care that we alongside the Mayan mothers have shown it, the plot slowly changed into something of which we could be proud. Each mother and volunteer came together to make a space that could be called our own. We have cleared away the debris of the rain’s runoff; we have leveled the ground. We have carried each stone up to the garden, where we meticulously positioned them in the stone walls and around the beds. Each phase that we completed created a sense of pride. It is with great sorrow that we will not see the fruits of our labor when we leave; however, we bequeath the garden to the mothers. We have no doubt that under their care, the garden can flourish.
This space is not simply a garden; it is a sanctuary for the mothers, who have so many responsibilities. It is a soothing place for them to escape daily life for a short time. On Thursday, after the work was completed early, they decided to stay in the garden to talk to one another. This demonstrates that we have established a sense of community among the mothers. It was nice to see the mothers relax because typically, they would be working, watching their children, or cooking. They have so many duties, and we admire them for their time in the garden. Afterwards, they said goodbye for the last time, and we have to remember that this is not goodbye. We will return next summer to volunteer again; this is only goodbye for now.
This past Monday marks our last week working with Mayan Families as Nourish International interns. Although there is never a shortage of work here, when we look back, we realize how much progress we have made in the past five weeks. We can barely recognize the plot of land because of its remarkable transformation. This plot, which was once covered in trash and weeds, is now groomed into a practical space for gardening. The stone walls have endured the test of heavy Guatemalan rainfall and have prevailed. Also, the Mayan mothers under the direction of Señor Raimundo, one of the Mayan Families’ carpenters, have made a fence to protect it from unwanted animals and pests. They have worked diligently to paint the posts, dig the holes, and erect a durable fence. Additionally, we are beginning to create the gardening beds by finding and filling bottles with dirt to weigh them down. These bottles will surround the fertile soil in various smaller sections called raised beds. By creating them, we attempt to prevent soil erosion, which is very prevalent in this area. We want to keep the large amount of fertile soil where we put it instead of having it run down the mountainside. Finally, since this plot of land is small, we take every opportunity to maximize the space by utilizing small areas. We have weeded another space above the second terrace, which we plan to utilize as a small herb garden. We will place used tires in this area and fill the middle of them with dirt to plant the herbs. Another idea that we have is to plant along the outside of the fence with chaya, which is an incredibly nutritious native plant. It can grow along the fence to create a living fence. Also, that will aid the prevention of soil erosion, as its roots will delve deep into the ground.
One of this week’s challenges, as well as in other weeks, is rain. Before we left the Mayan Families’ base in Pana, it began to rain. We were determined to work in the garden since it was our last week; however, we were worried about the mothers’ health. Even if it rained slightly, the women are susceptible to illness. We always have to be wary of this aspect because a small infection that makes them sick for a couple of days takes them away from other obligations. This could be detrimental to a family, who relies on the mother to work and take care of the domestic chores. It lightly rained the entire drive to San Antonio; however, thankfully, it ebbed, and the women came for another day’s work.
This week begins another monumental stride in the gardening project, but there are even bigger ones to come, and we are truly disappointed that we will miss its progress. However, we are excited and hopeful to see its further development once we return next summer.
Here is IU Nourish checking in for the week of May 26 through June 1! The third week in Panajachel, Guatemala was a success. We are finally getting in the groove of our work schedule, and our community garden has made a large transition in just one week!
Because we only worked in the garden in San Antonio on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Monday was filled with office work. We have each been given assignments that allow us to contribute to the project in a “behind the scenes” way. As we are all learning, the behind the scenes work is some of the most important types of work. Nothing happens without the research, funding, paperwork, and loads of excel spreadsheets!
Sam has been working on finding the variety of seeds that we want to plant and where we could find donations of seeds. She is now a qualified seed expert, according to the rest of us who lack that knowledge entirely.
Jenn’s research has been focused on finding tips and tricks for organic farming, specifically in Guatemala. Now that she has mastered that, she (along with Sam and Marija) is working on creating education materials that could be given to the women of San Antonio. One of the things that we have learned about working on a pilot project is that we want to create a project that, if successful, can be replicated. So their focus is to make simple pamphlets that contain educational information regarding organic gardening, nutrition, or health that can be given to anyone, if was used again.
Danielle and Annie worked all week to create ways to monitor and evaluate the project. They geeked out on Excel spreadsheets and finally created a simple, yet effective way, way to keep track of the project in qualitative and quantitative ways.
Unfortunately, the soil that was supposed to be delivered to the garden on Tuesday, was not. As Wednesday rolled around, no soil again. We are learning to use patience, something we were told we’d be tested on. We are also learning the concept of “Guatemalan time” — time efficiency is not a strong suit.
Thursday we were not able to spend in garden because of torrential downpours in the morning. The raining season has just begun and it is hitting hard. We spent Thursday continuing our research, utilizing the wifi in the Mayan Families building, and various internet cafés around town.
On Friday, some of our group went to Mayan Families home and watched a documentary called Living On One. It was about a few guys who decided to live in Guatemala, and could only use $1 dollar/day (hence the title…kinda self-explanatory). The documentary portrayed the mental, physical, and spiritual effects that group thought was very eye-opening and interesting.
Then of course it was the weekend!!! Our group, plus the Virginia Tech Nourish group (our roommates) headed to Antigua for the weekend. It was one of the most beautiful towns we had seen thus far and we loved every minute of it. Whether we were sightseeing, eating crepes, or watching live music in the square; we wish it could have lasted forever.
Unfortunately this week, one of our members returned back home to the states for school. As sad as we were to see Ciara go back home, we gained another member. Keira is now officially with us, straight off the plane from Israel! She met us in Antigua, ready to work and see this beautiful country.
Week 3, even with the bumps in the road regarding the garden and weather, was another amazing week in Guatemala. We are drinking lots of cafe and are still learning so much. Can’t wait to see what the next few weeks have in store for us!
The IU Nourish team has successfully made our way to Panajachel and made it through our first week! For three out of the seven days we were here, we made our way to San Antonio, where we will be building a community garden for the pre-school and its mothers. Although the plot seems small, we believe that we will be able to maximize the space in order to provide the community a beautiful, productive garden.
Becky, one of the project organizers with Mayan Families, has described the way in which she plans to arrange the garden. We want to terrace the three beds to protect the gardens from erosion from the heavy rainfall that occurs during this season. We will create one narrow bed closer to the trees, another larger bed lower on the mountainside, and on the side of those two beds, is a square bed in which we might plant herbs. We would want to incorporate the banana trees and coffee plants in the back into the garden. They would help stop the soil erosion and create the Circle of Bananas, which is a good way to compost the area. The building in the very back would be used as a shed; its top would be used as another bed.
On the second day, we began to clean up the space and found a little help. Two boys, who live in San Antonio, were curious about our work and aided with the weeding and cleaning. With their help, we finished early .
Our last day in San Antonio, we met the mothers, who will aid in the creation of the garden and keep it going once our Nourish team leaves. It surprised us that so many mothers were interested in participating in the garden; furthermore, we are excited to work with them and maybe learn a little bit of Kaqchikel, their native language, along the way.
When we were not working in San Antonio, we were making friends in the Mayan Families base in Pana. The kids at the pre-school are learning Spanish so that they can advance quickly in school when they reach first grade in public school.
Adios, IU Nourish Team!
Hi from the IU Nourish Team!
We are so excited to get on the plane for Guatemala and get started on our project! For some of us it is going to be our first time out of the country and we are a little nervous, but excited. We feel prepared and confident in our abilities to make a lasting change on the community in Pana. We look forward to meeting our Virginia Tech partners and the Mayan Families volunteers we will be working with.
Will we get any sleep tonight??? Updates to come.
Here’s to safe travels, adventure, and the rainy season.
The IU Team
Final blog post! We’ve been back from Guatemala for quite some time now, but the memories and experiences still seem so fresh! We set out to provide supplemental education to country who desperately needs a way out of their unfortunately rough economical situation. Obviously we didn’t single handedly accomplish this but I definitely think we had a positive impact on it.
The IU chapter along with UTK integrated ourselves into the UPAVIM school alongside the other volunteers down there and really got an educational movement stirring. Even at the end of six weeks these kids were transformed tremendously and we have confidence that even though we’re no longer down there they will continue to grow and hopefully be able to shed some light on what seemed to be a pretty dark community.
The poverty definitely shows through their tough exteriors. Crime and violence was definitely eye-opening and we envision a place where these children grow up and bring money back to their community and this abomination of injustice will no longer prevail.
Aside from teaching we really got close with the team of volunteers, Guatemalan teachers, as well as people from the community. It was definitely hard leaving them all behind. We’ve stayed in contact pretty well and always look forward to any news they can give us about the school or the kids.
Well that’s all for this project! We are all looking forward to what Nourish has in store for us next year.
Well the two chapters (Indiana University and University of Tennessee) have finally merged as one supporting unit for these Guatemalan children. Our first week together was spent acclimating and getting into the groove of things. We have decided to divide and conquer this project by placing ourselves in different environments and areas based off of the skill sets we have as individuals. We are thrilled to get the opportunity to enhance the education of these children, but at the same time create these relationships simultaneously to build better connection and trust so they can understand our purpose for being there as well as grasp what we are trying to achieve together. The challenge we’ve come to face is understanding that the Guatemalan lifestyle isn’t exactly that which we live. More specifically we’ve noticed that their perception on education and other things differ from what we originally thought. However we’ve overcome this cultural barrier and believe we can better understand their mindset which allows us to provide a more enjoyable experience. We’ll keep posted on the progress.
IU and UTK
We survived our first week of classes! This week was not a normal week. They spent majority of the week getting ready for their Mother’s Day celebration! Mother’s day here is like Christmas. Actually every holiday is like Christmas here, including birthdays. They go all out for every single event. Both the English and Guatemalan teachers taught their kids songs and dances for them to perform for their mothers today. The kids dressed to the nines and gave their moms gifts that they had made by hand. Because of the holiday the kids do not have school tomorrow and will get to hang out with their moms all day!
We decided that the best way for you to understand what we are doing is for each of us to share a personal experience that we had this week.
Carli- I have already learned a ton in these first three days! The classrooms here, in Guat, are nothing like the classrooms in the US. The structure is different entirely and the kids are at different levels. Here it is not rude to interrupt and it is just loud in general. I went in expecting the kids to listen to me and do the worksheets we gave them, but this is not what happened. I realized the kids need one-on-one attention and when I would give it to them they actually were learning how to write in English. I try to speak to them only in English so that they become familiar with the language. I also have a new respect for all teachers! I am completely wore out by the end of the day! After this week I know how the classroom is structured and how the kids respond to certain styles of teaching. I am hoping to brain storms some new ways of teaching for next week and see how the kids respond!
Colt- Well..to get started I’m working with children not in the UPAVIM school kindergarten to 6th grade. These children only speak Spanish which has definitely enhanced my Spanish speaking abilities. I am currently teaching topics ranging from language to mathematics at every grade level. This was a lot easier said than done, because I had to learn the topics myself in Spanish from my co-instructor Raquel the morning of each lesson and all of the corresponding vocabulary. Examples being like finding area and perimeter of shapes like parallelograms, rhombus, and trapezoids , exponents and factorization, or even easy concepts such as subject and predicates! I could obviously teach these in English, but Spanish was a whole new experience; a positive one though. The kids are really responsive to our teaching and definitely benefit from it, so it makes it all worth it. I cannot wait to actually be apart of helping Raquel build the curriculum for the upcoming weeks. I’ll keep you guys posted on future successes and challenges.
Me (Mykala)- I have the absolute best job ever! I work with the Preschoolers and the Kindergartners teaching them English. In the morning we go to the two Preschool classrooms for a half hour each and sing songs that teach kids words that have to do with family and emotions. The kids absolutely adore us! Then in the afternoon we are in the Kindergarten class for three hours straight. We do a variety of English things that include stations, like math, library and house, singing songs and coloring. These kids are sooo smart!! I speak English the whole time and they understand majority of what I am saying, it is amazing!! They love the attention that they get when they get it right too. These kids seriously make my day everyday! They are so sweet! Also a thing with these kids is that they are sooo affectionate. When they leave they give you kisses on the cheek and hugs! Sweetest things in the world! Next week I know what to expect so I can go in more prepared and ready to teach!!
To all our mothers back in the states, we want to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day and we miss you!!
Hola todos! (Hello all!)
We arrived in Guatemala City around 11:30 am their time. Which is on Mountain time for those of you that don’t know. This is two hours behind our normal Indiana time. We survived customs without being searched and all our bags arrived with us! This is a great way to start off our trip. Laura, our contact here at UPAVIM, picked us up form the airport in a taxi. With all our luggage we had two seats left and 4 people….it was very cozy. We had to sit on laps and squeeze in tight. As we were driving through the city to our destination, it was felt like we were watching a movie, but we were the actors. This is totally new ground for all of us so it was very surreal. We got to the school about a half hour drive later and met all the volunteers that we will be working with while we are here. We were introduced to our room which has three beds, some dressers and some plants. Our rooms are on the roof and we have a little garden outside our room next to the clothes lines.
After we got ourselves acquainted with our surroundings, we traveled by bus to the local supermarket. The buses are free here so everyone has access to them and they can pack them pretty tight. Luckily for us, ours was not that packed. First things first, we had to exchange our money for their local currency, Quetzales. Then we headed to the supermarket, which much to our surprise was not much different than our local ones at home. With a little guidance and translation from one of our UPAVIM volunteers, Mariah, we were able to successfully purchase some basic necessities. Upon our arrival back to UPAVIM, we had black bean chili that was prepared by one of the other volunteers. During dinner we discussed what our roles will be while we are here.
As of now, Colt will be working in the “Raforest”, where he will be helping tutor and provide supplemental learning to kids ages K-6th grade. Most of these students are from other local schools and attend this free program after they get out of their school. Carli will be helping the English program for kids in grade 1st-6th. In the mornings, they work on reading and in the afternoon they focus on conversational English. I, Mykala, will be working with the Preschool and Kindergarten kids. We will be working on jump starting their English language skills.
Tomorrow morning we will be starting our first real day here and so excited to be immersed in the school and their daily routine. We look forward to sharing our first day experiences with you sometime soon!
Buenos Noche! (Good Night!)
¡Hola! … Hola, hola, hola!!! We better get used to this, because we’re going to GUATEMALA!!!
I don’t think excitement can really capture the emotion IU Chapter is feeling right now. If you would have told us last semester that we would be traveling to Guatemala City this summer, I think we might would have questioned your sanity, just a little. After all, we’ve only existed for one year! That’s right, our first year and we’re already going on project! How awesome is that? Despite the odds, after a semester’s worth of hard work and unlimited dedication by our team, it is with great pleasure to announce: we leave in 2 days!
Teaming up with on-site organization, UPAVIM (Unidad Para Vivir Mejor) and our future best friends, University of Tennessee Knoxville, we’re going to be extending a helping hand to the community of Guatemala City. During our stay of 6 weeks we get the extraordinary opportunity of integrating ourselves into an amazing program that acceleates the learning of children of all different ages! What will we be teaching, you might ask? Well, we get to supplement the learning of subjects including, but not limited to: English, Science, and Art. My expectation is that this experience is going to blow our minds! But it doesn’t stop there! We also get to help out the community in other ways, too. We’ll be planting Moringa trees that bear leaves that can compensate for more than half the basic nutritional neccessities one requires, as well as, coming up with other innovative, environmental projects while we’re down there to imact the community as a whole.
To give a logistical perspective of the project there’s 3 members coming from IU Nourish (Carli, Mykayla, and Myself (Colt)) in addition to 6 members coming from the UTK Chapter, who we’re dying to meet. After a semester of communication via email, Facebook, and Skype, it’s going to be bittersweet meeting everyone in person and creating friendships with other Nourish International members. It’s amazing, the chance we get to discover other people united under the same cause of eliminating global poverty, just like us.
So it’s safe to say we are pretty pumped about the whole situation, all together! Both of our chapters have raised more than what we planned on in the beginning, and intend on using the money to fund teacher’s wages at the school we’ll be particpating in, in addition to funding all the projects we we plan to implement once we get down there. Keep tuned in as we update you on the advancement of this project and we’ll keep everyone informed on the highlights and experiences to come from this amazing adventure to Guatmemala! We’re going to let curiosity be our guide and allow this journey to unfold before us.
Wish us luck!