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Nourish International

Guat’s Up! UCLA-UCSC team wraps up in Guatemala

August 9, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Summer Projects, UCLA, UCSC | By

Just over two weeks ago we started the work week with finishing the bunny cage that tortured our souls (we tried to upload a photo of finished product, but it repeatedly caused the computer to freeze). It was a great way to begin a week full of completing projects. After finalizing the construction at San Bartolome in the morning we taught all three workshops (accounting, empowerment, and herbs) in the afternoon. The next day (Tues., July 22 if you’re following along), we conducted the accounting workshop at Sumpango and we were treated to delicious local cuisine made by the women of the cooperative.


Anna Goldby, Jeffrey Hsiao, Ashley Luna, and Marisa Galasso instruct a lesson on accounting to the Cooperativa de Mujeres in San Bartolome.


Tamale, beef, and soup made for the team by the women in Sumpango.

After lunch and a round of good-byes, we transferred back to Guatemala City and surveyed the site at Junkabalito. Over the next two days, we made, sanded, and sealed three tables, tilled ground and planted mother herbs, installed wire mesh inside a structure (note: getting the wire mesh inside the structure was a task in and of itself), and made two planter boxes from recycled pallets.


Allison Stafford, Paul Lee, Ashley Luna, and Jeffrey Hsiao secure additions to recycled pallets, which will be used as planters at Junkabalito in Guatemala City.


Allison Stafford installs wire mesh and nylon screening to the greenhouse frame at Junkabalito in Guatemala City.

The weekend greeted us early – with a trip to Maria’s finca south of Mazatenango. For two days, we were hosted by a fabulous family in a fabulous puebla and stayed in an amazing home built by Maria’s grandfather 60 years ago, who styled it with antique Spanish and Moroccan flair. There was a waterfall, a gorgeous pool, coffee production, vermicompost production, bats, and insanely delicious home-cooked food in a grand hall. It was difficult to leave this wonderland, but we headed back to the city.


Maria’s finca, a Spanish-Morrocan masonry estate with coffee production, on the side of a volcano in east Guatemala.


Marisa Galasso and Lilianna Romero enjoy the waterfall on Maria’s property in east Guatemala.

After conducting all three workshops for the women of Junkabalito on Monday, we had our first inauguration there that afternoon. It was great seeing the women excited about the work we did and eager to ask questions and provide feedback during the workshops.


The team celebrates with the women of Junkabalito at the ribbon-cutting event for the new greenhouse.


Anna Goldby and Jeffrey Hsiao instruct the women of Junkabalito how to create planters from recycled plastic bottles and adhere them to the wire mesh.


Lilianna Romero shows the women at Junkabailito the garden that was cleared, where the mother herbs are planted.

We traveled back to Antigua that night to conduct our first follow-ups in Sumpango and San Bartolome. On Thursday, we left early in the morning for a major vacation: Semuc Champey and Tikal. There are no words to describe the beauty and awe of these two places. “The pristine, sky-blue natural pools, waterfalls, underwater caves, cliff and bridge jumping, incredible ruins, and magnificent scenery” doesn’t do these places justice. They seem other-worldly.


Semuc Champey – gorgeous natural pools formed by a rushing river below the surface – as seen from the mirador after an intense 40-minute hike.


Swimming in the natural pools at Semuc Champey.


Looking east from the highest pyramid in Tikal.


Most of the crew in Tikal.

We’ve been back in Guatemala City now for the last few days. We visited Sumpango and San Bartolome Tuesday to do a final follow-up and answer questions the women had. We were again treated to delicious food, great conversation, and said our tearful good-byes por ahora – as we are all certain we’ll accept their offers to return. During a debriefing session with Byoearth, we all acknowledged how grateful and positive this experience has been. We are excited to see how next year’s team follows up and are anxious to stay in touch with each cooperativa.

As this trip wraps up, we’re bidding our final adieus and taking in all we can of this amazing country. We’re sad to leave and our good-byes are always tearful, but we’re looking forward to seeing our friends and family back home. Expect a reflective post in the coming weeks, and thanks for all your support, encouragement, and positive thoughts throughout.

Adios por ahora.

Guatemala, Upavim, Children, You.

July 26, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Summer Projects, UTK | By

Guatemala, UPAVIM, children, you.


With such a large world, it becomes easy to think that one person cannot possibly do anything to invoke positive change -so it is easy to sit back and watch.

This summer I realized just how easy it is to help. I became involved in a trip to Guatemala through Nourish International, and my experience as a volunteer teacher has been so much more than I expected it to be.


Our “dryer”, the street view from the roof, and our hand “washing machine” and “dishwasher”

Even at first glance, the level of poverty in the area surrounding UPAVIM -the school in which I worked- is evident. However, there is something about La Esperanza that holds true to its translation: Hope. It both amazed and inspired me to see that those who have so little, yet they are still grateful for all that they have.

I think that was my favorite experience: the cultural change, especially with regards to school. As a first-generation Filipino American, I think that I was more used to different cultures than some of my other organization members. I have visited the provinces in the Philippines in which my dad lived the majority of his youth, and it was actually a bit worse off than the area where we stayed in Guatemala. However, I was never able to experience Filipino schools, and although it was stressful at times, this became my favorite part of my experience in Guatemala.


I worked in Reforzamiento (“Reinforcement”), an after-school program which provides opportunities for learning to those who cannot afford school. However, unlike in America, there are no laws against truancy. Children are not dragged to school by their parents. Children came to Reforz voluntarily. Most always had notebooks with them, always came in smiling, were always happy to be there.

This is not to say that teaching was always easy. Surprisingly, teaching in mostly Spanish was not the difficult part, rather the culture in which students were raised, combined with the lack of schooling, made teaching tricky. Most days, I would help kid of the appropriate age level in writing letters, reading, multiplying and dividing. However, there were days where I would teach a twelve-year-old how a sentence has a period at the end and the difference between certain letters. After a good twenty minutes, repeating “espacio” (“space”) multiple times to show the difference between a letter and a word gets tiring.


But that’s the beauty of it. While there were few who did not want to cooperate fully, there those who would not stop no matter how long it took. My fondest memory (but also most frustrating) was when I had to teach a seven-year-old how to write the number one. Our supervisor – a native Guatemalan- wanted them to write the number one a certain way (like 1 without the base line), and the little boy I was working with could not seem to get it; his numbers kept turning out oblong, even after his friend and I drew examples. I even had to resort to drawing out dots for him to trace, but he still could not write the number one. After an hour of attempts, the moment he finally drew it made me ecstatic! Through cheering and smiles, I made him high-five me plenty of times to show him how proud I was of him.

THAT, is how one person can make a difference.


It was not always instructional time for the kids, as we often went to the canchas, which was the cement area where kids played. Even in the Reforz room we often played games with the kids. We came to realize that anything was good for them, as long as they were not on the streets. In Reforz, they were not exposed to gang violence.

And at the end of the day, many students voluntarily give the teachers a kiss good-bye on the cheek out of respect and gratitude. As an aspiring teacher, I think this is the one thing I will truly miss the most, as I know this would not be considered “okay” in America. Even if the day was exhausting, you were left knowing the kids appreciate what you did for them. Some days, your cheek would be more slobbery than others, and the “Gracias, hasta manana!” was always worth it.
1888565_10203632186061110_366448524801358188_nHasta luego,

Kirsten Salonga

Memories from Guatemala

July 25, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Summer Projects, UTK | By

After being home for several weeks, I have been able to reflect on my time volunteering with UPAVIM. Before I got to Guatemala, I was worried about how the teachers and students would feel about some American college student coming to teach English, but those fears soon went away as we were welcomed with open arms from both the students and staff of UPAVIM.

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An average day for me at UPAVIM started with helping to teach a second grade English class. Once class was over, I returned to the roof to have lunch with the other volunteers. After lunch, I then went to Reinformaziento, where I helped tutor students in math and reading. Twice a week I would also teach an English class to some of the kids after school.

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My favorite memories from my time spent in Guatemala, revolve around the interactions I had with the children. Despite the challenges that many of the children faced in their lives, they were truly the happiest most loving children that I have ever met. I will always remember my first full day at UPAVIM when we took the kids to the park. As we rode on the bus, it was filled with the sound of laughter and singing as one of the students danced up and down the aisle.

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I look back at the 6 weeks I spent in Guatemala and am very grateful for the experience. Even though I came to UPAVIM with the intent of teaching the students, they taught me more than I could have ever imagined.






Working Hard, Playing Hard: Two Sites in Two Weeks and Excursions!

July 21, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Summer Projects, UCLA, UCSC | By

Wow, what a couple of weeks it has been for the UCSC-UCLA team in Guatemala. In five days, we constructed seven tables from scratch (well we didn’t cut down any trees, but each one of us learned how to use a chainsaw and cut the lumber into the right-size pieces); cut recycled plastic bottles and installed them on the mesh wall so they could be used as planters; weeded an overgrown area, made it arable and planted over 25 mother plants of 11 different varieties; finished the water collection, drainage, and irrigation system and buried the pipes under ground; built two benches from our own design and modified the construction as necessary on the spot; and taught two workshops about growing and maintaining herbs and empowerment for business.


Jeffrey Hsiao and Marisa Galasso remove debris from window frames so that new, stronger metal panes can be installed for increased security at the Sumpango site.


Jeffrey Hsiao and Byoearth’s Juan Pablo Pinto work on the water drainage system the UCLA-UCSC team designed and installed.


Allison Stafford, Ashley Luna, and Marisa Galasso clear and overgrown area of grass to plant mother plants for the herbs the women at the Sumpango cooperative will cultivate and sell.


Part of the completed space at Sumpango – water collection, drainage, and irrigation, tables, wire mesh walls, and hanging plants.


Lili Romero masters the chainsaw to create properly sized pieces of wood for the team’s construction projects in Sumpango.


Jeffrey Hsiao and Marisa Galasso build benches from the team’s own design.


(Left) Anna Goldby explains how removable pieces of wood added to each table can be conveniently used to create different kinds of surfaces to work on. (Right) Members of the cooperative listen to workshops about growing herbs and business skills.


Members of the Sumpango cooperative pose with the UCLA-UCSC team.

Oh! And we were rattled awake Monday, July 7 by an earthquake (slightly different feeling for us Californians because we’re now surrounded by three volcanoes). Not only that, every day that week one person was feeling down, yet the team pushed through and accomplished all our goals and more.

During the weekend, several of the team members went to Puerto San Jose and had quite an experience taking a camioneta (aka chicken bus) and local shuttle three hours to appreciate black sand, warm waves, ceviche, and pescado frito. The ride home was something none of us will forget, nor will our tailbones. But, hey we got one helluva deal.

This past Monday, the UCLA-UCSC team started working in San Bartolome at a cooperative that not only generates vermicompost, but also raises rabbits to use their excrement in the compost. We love being surrounded by these cute pals and the babies that boost morale. Within three days we cleared our workspace, installed and painted a blackboard, built two tables, hung wire mesh on a ledge, cut and hung plastic bottles on the mesh to be used as planters, planted 14 varieties of mother plants (in an area the women from the cooperative cleared for us – so sweet and so helpful), built two step stools, and began constructing a portioned rabbit cage. Please give us a few weeks before we can talk about the rabbit cage construction process :-/


Anna Goldby, Marisa Galasso, and Paul Lee cut and add chicken wire to the rabbit cage for the San Bartolome cooperative.


Jeffrey Hsiao and Ashley Luna saw lumber to create steps for the San Bartolome cooperative.


Anna Goldby, Lili Romero, and Mimi (the president of the cooperative in San Bartolome) plant mother plants.

We took a few days off during the week to travel to Lago de Atitlan with Maria and Lissette from our project partner Byoearth. Lago de Atitlan is an unbelievably gorgeous place and we had a blast there celebrating Ashley Luna’s 21st birthday. Ayyayayaayayayayayay XD.


Ashley Luna blows out the candles on her 21st birthday cake in Lago de Atitlan after the team surprised her with a celebration on the terrace of its hostel.

The team is truly working as an efficient and skilled unit, making each person and those involved with the project more proud each day. We can handle a chainsaw and circular saw like pros and love speaking with the women from the cooperatives and working with them to improve their working conditions. And, we absolutely love hanging out with each other and are really appreciating our time together – bickering, teasing, and laughing with (at?) each other like best friends and siblings.

Hellos, goodbyes, setbacks, and progress

July 11, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Summer Projects, UCLA, UCSC | By

The UCLA-UCSC team has settled in nicely in Antigua and is enjoying all that this quaint town has to offer, including a fantastic parque central, lovely people, good food, and ice cream. There seems to always be something going on so wandering the streets (safely, of course!) has become a favorite pastime among us. We learned that the mercado in Antigua is the second largest in Guatemala and we understand why – there are many sections that make getting lost within its maze quite easy.

There were some delays with having materials for our project at Sumpango delivered, but that allowed us more time to work closer with the women in the cooperative and discuss what they hope to accomplish through our partnership. We learned about some of the robberies that occurred on the property and started collaborating about ways to improve the security.


The team discusses with some of the women at the cooperative the concerns and hopes they have about the project.

Marisa’s dad, William, joined us in Guatemala last week and was a great, invaluable help in obtaining supplies and working on revamping the water collection system at the Sumpango site, as well as installing an irrigation system for the herbs that will be attached to the wire-mesh walls we installed. And, with much attribution to the tools he brought, we were able to quickly and evenly put up a blackboard on a cement wall.  Also with his help we ordered lumber for our project and purchased a chainsaw to cut the wood into the necessary-size pieces.


All hands help to stabilize the blackboard installation on a cement wall.


Lili Romero and Jeffrey Hsiao paint the plywood with blackboard paint.


William Galasso explains to and helps the team install a pump-driven irrigation system for the herbs that will be planted along the mesh wall.


Dominga thanks William Galasso for all his help on the project at Sumpango.

We had to say goodbye to Betty last Tuesday morning, as unexpected happenings in the United States required her to head back home. She is missed daily and we are constantly thinking of her. The night before her departure we were able to spend a wonderful evening together at a local bar where Jeff had secured a DJ gig for the night!

We also went to our next site in San Bartolome last week to see what supplies are there and what supplies we might need. In addition to vermicomposting, the women at the cooperative in San Bartolome raise rabbits so there are cages of adorable bunnies everywhere!

Last week, some of us went to nearby coffee and music museums at Centro Cultural la Azotea via tuk tuk (covered three-wheel motorcycles with a bench for passengers). We learned a lot about the coffee-making process and indigenous music. We also found out that the next day was St. Peter’s Day so any town in Guatemala with San Pedro in its name would be celebrating – lucky for us, San Pedro Las Huertas is a neighboring town so Paul, Anna, and Jeffrey took a camioneta (aka chicken bus) there and ate the local version of fair food and joined the via crucis procession around town. We also experienced a Guatemala BBQ for the Fourth of July, and witnessed how a fan and a fast-moving wrist can bring flame from a near-completely dead fire.


The procession in San Pedro Las Huertas stops at a shrine to give offerings and pray.

This week we have been working extremely hard finishing up construction at Sumpango. We’ve recycled plastic bottles to serve as plant containers hanging from wire mesh, built seven tables, completed the water storage and drainage system, and finished a garden for mother plants. Stay tuned for pics and construction details coming soon!


June 30, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Summer Projects, Uncategorized | By

After six weeks of being in Guatemala, our team’s work at Mayan Families finally, and sadly, comes to a close. This week the team wrapped up both of our projects. The computer integration plan that we have been working on since the start of our internship was presented to the Panajachel preschool teachers and the Mayan Families education department members. Afterwards we held a Q & A session with everyone in attendance. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive which was SO rewarding!  We also completed our report on the Spanish language evaluations and presented that to members of the Education Department as well. Because the report involved a lot of tedious data entering and compilation, it felt great to finally be done! To top it all off, the Department threw us a surprise going away party with cake, coffee, and speeches! It was such a nice gesture and a perfect last day at work.

We leave for the airport at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow and all of us have so many mixed emotions about going home. We will be happy to see our families, but we’ve also created a life for out here in Pana…Words cannot describe what an amazing experience we have had and the memories we’ve made, the friendships we formed, the inspirational people we met, and everything we have seen will not soon be forgotten….

Ciao, Guatemala…




Final Reflections on our Internship with Maya Traditions

June 25, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Pitt, Summer Projects | By

Here’s to our internship with Maya Traditions in Panajachel, Guatemala this summer!

Photo Apr 29, 4 09 05 PM (1)

Below is our final blog post, consisting of our individual reflections from our experience working alongside Maya Traditions!




It has been a little over two weeks since my return to the States and not a day has gone by where I haven’t reminisced about my time spent in Guatemala and reflected on what I’ve taken away from my time spent there. If Guatemala taught me one thing it is that flexibility and adaptation are necessary elements for success in any aspect of life. In order to acclimate myself into and become accustomed to the laid-back and slow-paced Guatemalan lifestyle, I had to learn to be open-minded and willing to embrace the unfamiliar. Moreover, this translates into the workplace as well. Being able to adjust when a plan goes awry or when faced with unexpected bumps in the road is needed to overcome challenges faced to make the best of the situation. I’ve learned that plans cannot be expected to work out perfectly, as they often did not in Guatemala, and that having flexibility is necessary in order to move past these unexpected issues. This lesson I will keep with me forever as it will translate into every aspect of my life. I am so thankful to have learned so many valuable lessons during my time abroad, in addition to the amazing experiences I had.



My five weeks in Guatemala were so incredible, unexpected, and motivational that I find it difficult to describe them in words.  I walked off my flight with a list of expectations and goals only to walk back on five weeks later with an entirely different perspective and list of life lessons learned.  Perhaps these life lessons is what I took away most with my experiences during this project.

To start, I learned just how challenging and rewarding travel can be without parents or close family.  While responsibility and organization fell straight on my shoulders this trip, I made amazing connections with the other project members as we all grew to depend on and share our experiences with each other.  Through my constant interaction with Guatemalans I discovered just how similar I am to those whose cultures and lifestyles which appear so different from the first impression.  My host family and coworkers helped me to realize all of our common values, goals, and interests.  Finally, this trip to Guatemala helped me to adapt to and make the best of any situation.  Travel, group work, and international projects hardly ever go exactly according to plan, and my five weeks in Panajachel were filled with adjustments, cooperation, and unplanned changes that benefited the entire project as a whole.




It has been nearly two weeks since returning from Panajachel, but it feels like only yesterday  we were savoring our first taste of street food in the form of lime-squeezed corn-on-the-cob along Calle Santander, biking beside gleaming lakeside views of Lago Atítlan, and cooling off with well-earned Sarita’s banana splits. The past two weeks have hit me with a punch of suburban banality — sinking back into summer classes, catching up with high school friends, and readying myself for family roadtrips. A distinctive element of Pitt Nourish’s project this summer for me was how culturally immersive the entire experience was. Although nobody could mistake the seven of us for locals, hailing down tuk-tuks became commonplace after six weeks, and we had become so familiar with Pana’s marketplaces and shortcuts that none of us felt at all like tourists by the time we had to leave. Our host families embraced us into the amiable Guatemalan lifestyle with open arms and plates of steaming tamalitos and exchanging ¡buenos días! every morning to our neighbors helped to smooth our transition into the tranquil work life at Maya Traditions Foundation. Volunteering at Maya Traditions allowed us to experience the ways of life at different communities around Sololá through a local lens and better sense the foundation’s aim to preserve indigenous heritage by sustaining rural communities’ livelihoods through weaving cooperatives and community health clinics. Through the relentless rainy season and insects aplenty, we each learned lifelong lessons in adaptability, global healthcare objectives and necessities, and nonprofit-powered international development. I am so excited for our chapter to return next year to contribute to the success of Maya Traditions’ initiative, and I know our upcoming interns will have an incredible journey traveling through Guatemala and sharing an unforgettable adventure with each other!

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There were several times during my stay in Guatemala when I questioned my initial reasons for going. Was I making the impact that I wanted to make at the NGO? Was I getting the cultural exploration and exposure I wanted? When will this god-awful traveler’s diarrhea end?

As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one mulling over these worries. In fact, these concerns helped our Pitt Nourish team members truly bond with one another and also became the driving force of our internal growth.

We divided the work to be done among the seven of us hungrily as we eagerly did what we came to do in Guatemala. We gained a sense of accomplishment as we created the products to sell in the States to raise awareness for Maya Traditions Foundation’s work and benefit the Maya artisan women. We gained a new insight into these women’s hard work and talent after learning how to back-strap weave from the masters themselves. We became honorary family members of our host families and enjoyed some of the most delectable Pepian chicken, rice, and tamales I’ve ever had. And on the days our colons pleasantly surprised us by adapting to some of the ethnic cuisines we were devouring, we were reminded of how far we’ve come–mentally and physically!–from being the people we were before we came to Guatemala.


Six weeks of culture, of experiences, of memories that will be cherished, laughed about, and definitely remembered for a lifetime.

As we worked alongside a well-established NGO and lived outside of the country independently, it has been a rollercoaster ride– one that was a bit rough in the beginning but smooth sailing by the end. Throughout the experience, I have learned to say guatever to times things haven’t gone as planned, and definitely learned to be flexible and to be creative with backup plans when the first and sometimes the second plan falls through. Working in the Maya traditions garden-cutting weeds, carrying rocks, digging dirt, I’ve learned a lot about naturopathic medicine and the importance of these preserving traditions.  I’ve come to realize how often these roots are lost in this fast-paced modernized world, especially since I live with my first generation parents in America. I myself do not know much about my past generations and their Chinese heritage and traditions celebrated. Seeing the weaving that the women who work for Maya Traditions do for a living  and actually trying to weave ourselves left me with a sense of awe and also appreciation for the hard work they do. And after this trip, it has really motivated me to dig deeper into my own culture and to learn more about my own history and heritage.

What I will take alway the most from these 6 weeks of  Guatemalan culture is how I live, I mean really live. Being in America, I always look towards the future and never really appreciate each day as its own and I’m always so worried about the future that I forget that there’s only time to live in the present. It is important to live with an open mind, an open heart, ready to embrace everything and everyone that comes into your path, and the people that I’ve met in Guatemala have all taught me that. I without a doubt have had a wonderful experience here in Pana, and cannot imagine it any other way. And as the days go by from the daily adventures of boat rides across Lake Atitlan and buying 15 cent chocolate cupcakes from the local panaderia, I miss Panajachel and the people I met more and more.




And here’s to more adventures next year.

With Love,

Pitt Nourish

UCSC-UCLA team hikes Volcan Pacaya, arrives in Antigua, surveys first site

June 25, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Summer Projects, UCLA, UCSC | By

On our way to Antigua, we took a side trip to hike volcan Pacaya. Though we intended to start the hike at 3:30 p.m. to see the sunset from the top, we did not get started until 6:30 p.m. Oh Guate time! So, under black skies and pouring rain we began our ascent. For those that were prepared for a sunny hike, plastic bags served as raincoats over shorts and Vans.

UCLA-UCSC team on Volcan Pacaya

The team atop volcan Pacaya.

When we reached the peak 4 km later, the rain stopped and we found a warm pocket where everyone eagerly jumped in to get warm. Our guide Manuel also took us to steam vents where we could see active lava flowing down the mountain and he pulled out a bag of marshmallows for us to roast. The moment was as spectacular as the view. (Side note: Anna thought the marshmallows tasted different because they were made in Guatemala or because they were cooked with volcanic heat – in reality, they were just flavored. Hahaha) At 1 a.m. we checked into Hostel La Quinta and some immediately jumped into a warm shower while others quickly fell asleep.

On Saturday we worked hard on the workshops we’ll be conducting. Because we’ll be teaching about certain herbs and vegetables, we did a lot of research on planting, maintaining, selling, and cooking with them, as well as their medicinal uses. That night we hit the town to celebrate Marisa’s birthday. Marisa selected Dona Luisa Xicoteneatl for dinner because it was recommended for its pastries and great deals on food. And it certainly delivered – Marisa rang in 23 with delicious German chocolate cake. After dinner we discovered that the bars and clubs in Antigua close at 10:30 p.m. so instead of dancing the night away we went to Monoloco and chatted until it closed.


Feliz cumpleanos Marisa!

To close out the weekend, we worked on our workshops on Sunday and toured the town. We found Rainbow Cafe  to be a great place for Wi-Fi, food, and live music. At night the team bonded over several rounds of Loteria, during which we practiced Spanish vocabulary, got to know the hostel’s night guard, Don Jose, and saw our partner architect, Alejandro, being interviewed on TV!

Though we were ready and anxious to go to our first site Monday morning, a protest was occurring so we would have had to walk a dangerous 15 km to the site. To err on the side of caution, the project partner canceled the trip and we continued to work on our lesson plans and check out the city. On Tuesday we were excited to finally go to Sumpango. We met three of the women from the cooperative and surveyed the structure we’ll be turning into a greenhouse. We also got to help with the vermicomposting process at the cooperative and see the herbs that the women are already growing.

Juan Pablo and Viviana

Juan Pablo and Viviana talk to the team about the few herbs they are currently growing outside of a greenhouse.

Now that we have a feel for the property, we’ll return tomorrow to begin construction!

UCLA-UCSC team arrives in Guatemala, begins training and enjoying local cuisine

June 20, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Summer Projects, UCLA, UCSC, Uncategorized | By

We landed in Guatemala Monday, June 16 and though we endured a few mishaps (a delayed piece of luggage and a lost iPhone), we were thrilled to meet our project partner representatives Lissette, Juan Pablo, and Maria. Our trip has so far been a great mix of hard work, amazing people, and delicious food.

After checking into our hostel Quetzalroo and meeting our fantastic host Marcos, we went to Lissette’s home to enjoy a traditional Guatemalan dinner prepared by Maria. The meal consisted of chuchitos, rellenitos, chips, guacamole, salsa, and Gallo beer. Era muy delicioso!


Maria Rodriguez describes some traditional Guatemalan dishes to Jeffrey Hsiao and Lilianna Romero.

The next couple days consisted of on-boarding training sessions, during which we were thoroughly briefed on the locations where we’ll be building greenhouses (Sumpango, San Bartolo, and Junkabal), met with Alejandro, the architect from Torus who designed the plans for the build outs of the greenhouses we’ll be constructing, and learned a lot about Byoearth’s business. We also gave a presentation for Come y Aprende (Eat and Learn) at Chamba to share information about Nourish and our project with Byoearth. Carlos Toriello, a Nourish alumnus from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill who lives and works in Guatemala, graciously chatted with us about his previous experiences with Nourish and provided insight on local culture and our project.


The UCLA-UCSC team reviews blueprints for the greenhouses with the architect team from Torus and Lissette from Byoearth.

UCLA-UCSC team at Chamba

Marisa Galasso and Betty Flores present at Chamba.

For lunch one day, we hit the streets for shukos – an elaborate hot dog that was so good we all ordered seconds. We were also lucky enough to partake in a traditional Mayan meal prepared by Rosita at La Cocina de Señora Pu. All our food was incredibly delicious, but if you ever go, order the duck. Also be sure to spend time talking with Jorge and Roger – Rosita’s only assistants in the kitchen.

UCLA-UCSC eats shukos

Shukos on the street in Guatemala City near Chamba.


UCLA-UCSC eats at Rosita's

Bistec al cacao at La Cocina de Senora Pu. The duck dish was devoured too quickly to get a picture!

Yesterday, we had our first induction into agricultural work in Guatemala: We were part of a collaborative effort to install a garden at Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta No. 856 in San Jose Pinula. We used Byoearth’s vermicompost in the garden and Aguapac for its irrigation, which is an innovative method that uses a backpack to easily transport and store water for a gravity-drip system. Accompanying a breathtaking view was an engaging community full of phenomenal people and kids that impressed us with their strength, wit, and skill. Our time working, talking, and playing with them made it difficult to leave. The chicken salad sandwiches, leche con arroz (milk with rice) and pan dulce that women at the school made for us made it equally difficult to depart. This collaboration also introduced us to Ecofiltro, a social enterprise that makes a clay, sawdust, and colloidal silver pot that effectively filters water to make it drinkable; Wakami, which helps to create sustainable, artisanal, income-generating opportunities for isolated communities in Guatemala; Quetsol, a company that offers small solar energy systems that can replace the candle-source lighting exclusively used in many rural homes; and learned about composting latrines installed by Rotary International. It was great to see all the efforts being made to alleviate poverty and its related effects within the country.

UCLA-UCSC at escuela

Anna Goldby and Ashley Luna work with children at Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta No. 856 in San Jose Pinula, planting vegetables and herbs using vermicomposted, organic fertilizer.

We’re off to Antigua ahorita (right now!), where we will be based for the next few weeks and Monday we’ll start building a greenhouse in Sumpango.


June 20, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Summer Projects, Uncategorized, Virginia Tech | By

Well, golly do we have a lot to catch you up on! Life has been pretty crazy here in Panajachel, Guatemala the last couple of weeks, SO crazy, in fact, that we have just had not a moment to blog! But never fear…. I have a couple of nice, juicy paragraphs to update you!


The computer officially arrived from the United States and boy, is it glorious! It’s so shiny and new, even though I won’t be able to actually see the kids using it, I can only imagine their excitement when they get to play on it for the first time! Now that we have the computer, we were able to start downloading and saving all of the educational games and resources we found to go along with the school curriculum. The best part about this was actually getting to play the games—I PERSONALLY learned a lot of Spanish. After we finished downloading everything and organizing it all into folders based on grade (maternal, pre-kinder, kinder) and category (vowels, animals, etc..), the head of the preschool here at Pana came to the education office and Luis (bless his fluently Spanish heart) explained to her in detail where everything was and how to work it all.

In the last few weeks we have also finished up the Spanish-language evaluations in all of the preschools—Panajachel, El Barranco, Chukmuk, San Antonio, Tierra Linda, and San Jorge. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t go to two of the schools, which I was really bummed about… Nothing like sitting at home by yourself bored, as the rest of your team gets to play with the sweetest, cutest kids ever. Maybe I’m biased, but something about the children here is more heart-melting than usual. On the bright side, while I was stuck at home, I had plenty of time to enter individual evaluations from the preschools into a Google Drive spreadsheet. We are currently working on analyzing all of the data from these evaluations and writing a report on our findings—which schools did the best, which children improved, under which circumstances do the children succeed the most on the evaluations, etc. It is very interesting looking at all of this information. In the different schools, 77% to 100% of the kids do not speak Spanish at home, only Kaqchikel, the local Mayan language. Yet despite this most of the kids were very successful, which really shows how beneficial the Mayan Families preschool program is.


Today is our roommates’, the IU Nourishers, last day at work which is a bittersweet occasion indeed. They have made so much progress on their garden and the department they were working for game them a heartfelt thank you for their work this morning, our house will feel so empty without them!! One of the members from the VT team returned home after week, so after this weekend the total number of people in our house will have dwindled from 10 to 3. Therefore there is only one thing to do, have a going away party! Tonight, we are splurging on a piñata, cake, and will spend the evening listening to some classic Latino tunes and relaxing under the pomegranate tree in the yard of our lovely, pink casa.  I can’t imagine a more perfect way to spend the night. Over the last 5 weeks, the Virginia Tech and Indiana University teams have gotten so close, we are all really sad to be saying goodbye. I guess this is one of the beauties of Nourish International though… Not only helping the community and making a serious impact on the people here, but also forming lasting friendships with other students doing the same thing.  I wonder if the IU girls will ever see this….. (HALLOOO LADIES!!)


As for exploration, we spontaneously ventured to Semuc Champey last weekend, which we all agreed was quite possibly the BEST and MOST AMAZING experience of our entire lives. Not only did we hike through the jungle to get to the pools of Semuc, but we also jumped off of a bridge and flew off of a rope swing into the river, and went caving by candlelight (all for one cheap price of 190 Quetzals–$25 USD). The weekend before we boated over to another town on the Lake called San Marcos to jump off of their famous “el trampolin” which is, in reality, not a trampoline, but a huge wooden platform that you leap from into the lake 30 feet below. I’m sure you must be thinking, “Gosh, how many things can these people jump off in Guatemala?!” …It does seem like a lot.