With endings come new beginnings.
These past couple of days have been quiet without the rest of our Nourish intern group, who have all settled back in the States. Starting on Monday during the 24 hour tropical storm, Linda and Anisah finished braiding the headbands made from the recycled scraps that have been accumulating in Maya Traditions for years. Once the braiding was finished and our designed bags were made and picked up from the tailor on Tuesday, we tagged all the products- 33 headbands and 25 bags. And just like that, we can call our designed products project a success! Now, time to make space in our suitcases to bring these products back to the States … Our intentions for the headbands we made and the bags we designed are to increase awareness about the work Maya Traditions Foundation does for the community and and also to support their efforts with the money we raise.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, we began figuring out ideas for the video we plan to make to encompass what we have done and learned these past six weeks with Maya Traditions. Linda and Kira also set up a spreadsheet for the products to account for the manufacturing costs in order to make a profit from the designed products. Anisah interviewed Mayan healer Juan to write a biography about him, which will be added to a collection of Mayan healer biographies that Maya Traditions is working on to create. On Thursday, we spent the morning in the garden working with Edgar and Eko to help tidy the garden up for a mid-morning tour. Kira, Linda, and Anisah worked hard to sweep the stairs and the pathways in addition to cutting down bamboo and moving piles of weeds and plants off to corners of the garden. It was hard work but it was a great last time spent in the garden surrounded by the herbal plants and the gardeners. In the afternoon, we talked to the Maya Traditions director Erin about the Theory of Change and the partnership with Maya Traditions for next year’s Nourish Interns. Through the discussion, it is a definite option for Pitt Nourish to come back next year and spend six weeks in Pana!
During this week, we have also met with Dr. Carlos and the volunteer coordinator Susie from NMGH [Naturopathic Medicine for Global Health] , who set up a naturopathic clinic here in Pana for the indigenous community, and talked to them about starting the first undergraduate club back at University of Pittsburgh next fall. We are very excited to be given this opportunity and hope that Nourish can also partner with NMGH next year for their internship.
Today marks the last day here in Pana and our final day of our internship. We will spend our last hours checking the inventory of the teas at a local grocery store called Sandra’s and finishing up any last-minute ends.
It has been a great six weeks learning about NGOs, experiencing Guatemalan lifestyle, and also becoming a part of the community. We are all sad to be departing and will definitely savor the last corn tortilla we will eat for cena. The people we have met, encountered, worked with in these forty two days have all been so eagar to help us and also to teach us. We can all say we’ve gained a mass knowledge about herbal plants and natural medicine, acquired an interest about the traditions including weaving, and also learned to be appreciative of the beauty around us that we often neglect to notice. We will most definitely be taking a part of their easygoing lifestyle back to the States and will surely miss Pana and its people. Thank you to everyone at Nourish and Maya Traditions Foundation who made this internship possible. A special thank you goes out to Erin, Alison, Marisol, Oseas, Isabel, and Flori, who were there with us from the beginning of the internship and helped guide and lead us through our many projects with the foundation. Without them, our success with our internship could not have been possible. Muchas, muchas gracias.
See you back in the States!
-Linda, Kira, and Anisah
Virginia Tech has now spent two weeks in Panajachel, Guatemala! This week, we did a lot of exciting things! We visited three of the six Mayan Families preschools to help do the Spanish language evaluations. While the teachers evaluated students one at a time, the team was tasked with leading games and activities with the remaining children. It is always so amazing to get to meet and play with the kids that Mayan Families works with. The help that these kids are getting, both educationally and nutritionally, really shows. A challenge the team encountered was that some of the kids only spoke Cachiquel (the local Mayan language), which made communication difficult at times. However, despite the occasional language barrier, the kids were very enthusiastic and chatty. Every time we walk into a classroom, they all shout “Hola! Bienvenidos!” grinning and waving at us.
The preschool visits are definitely a highlight of each week even though we only go in the mornings. In the afternoons, we work in the office. We have been continually working on integrating computer activities with preschool curriculums and translating all of our work into Spanish to present to the teachers. We have also been entering the data from the Spanish evaluations into a series of spreadsheets, which we will later use to write a report on the progress of the students.
Over the weekend we ventured to Antigua, only a few hours away from Pana. The architecture there was stunning! Being able to travel on the weekends and experience all of these great places is one of the many awesome aspects about our project!
Until next week,
This past week has been a busy one. On Tuesday, Kira and Anisah traveled an hour and a half to the village of Chirijox, accompanied by Marisol and a few healers from surrounding communities. Here, they participated in a clinic funded by the money that Pitt Nourish raised. The clinic was much like the one that Aarti, Gianna, and Jenny attended the previous week. Chirijox is affected by high poverty and has one of the worst problems with teen pregnancy in the area. That being said, the clinic saw many young mothers come in with their children plagued by the ‘evil eye.’ In addition, back and foot problems and insomnia were some of the most common ailments affecting individuals of the community. Being in the clinic was a wonderful chance to see exactly how the teas, tinctures, and creams created through Maya Traditions were dispersed throughout the Lake Atitlan communities in conjunction with the expert knowledge of the local healers that work with the Foundation.
On Thursday, Linda alongside Marisol and the Mayan healers set up a community clinic in San Francisco, a small village forty minutes ,by a chicken bus, from Solola and Panajachel. Families of men, women and children of all ages traveled from a far to come to this clinic for free health care. The health care that was provided consisted of natural medicine from the tinctures we helped make, to the various dried herbs we helped bag and tag over the past few weeks. From nine in the morning to three in the afternoon, we were able to provide care to over eighty indigenous people. Each family was given a number, and by numerical order, each number was called and the corresponding patient would be seen by the Mayan healer. The patient would tell the Mayan healer, who is specialized in traditional healing methods and natural medicine, where he or she was having pains or what was hurting. The Mayan healer would prepare a bag of either fresh or dried herbs, tinctures, and creams from the pacient to use as treatment. Most of the problems consisted of headaches, stomachaches, or indigestion. Over all three clinics, over 180 people were provided with free healthcare.
Aarti, Kira and Anisah roamed the streets near the Maya Traditions garden on Wednesday going door to door speaking to the neighborhood about the compost project. The Foundation hopes to be able to collect compost from surrounding households to incorporate into the garden as a source of natural fertilizer. Each home that agrees to help the Foundation on this will be given a bucket, where each home can to place their organic trash that will then be collected weekly by a member of the Foundation. The girls received positive feedback from everyone they reached out to in the neighborhood.
Wednesday afternoon we were privileged enough to learn to make mashed black beans with Oseus’ wife. We were able to enjoy the beans with chips and guacamole. On Friday Oseus made us tamilitos with chipilin, an herb that we picked fresh the day before in the garden. We enjoyed these with salsa and queso fresco, along with a good conversation with Oseus, his lovely wife, and their three adorable children.
Friday was also the day that the two teas, designed the week earlier, were completed and ready for tasting. Linda worked hard to create the packaging for each of the teas, she described the ingredients to us, in both Spanish and English, so we could understand there unique uses. Both teas tasted fantastic and quite different. The Stomach Strengthener, a blend of peppermint, green ginger, and apazote; is for relief and prevention of stomach aches, diarrhea, and parasites. This tea was refreshing and had a nice mint aftertaste. The other tea, deemed the Cold Crusher, is made from a combination of ginger, lemongrass, and sweet herb. As evident by its name, this tea is for the relief of cough, fever, and flu, and had a light, sweet taste. As we were conducting taste tests on our two tea products, a few visitors arrived at the Foundation for a tour. One of the visitors was suffering from parasites and tried the Stomach Strengthener blend. She liked it so much she requested to take some of the leaves with her when she left and as soon as that our first outsider taste test was a success! We hope to produce more teas this week so that they will be ready for distribution in the area.
Gianna, Anisah, and Linda started making the headbands from the scraps hemmed by the local tailor. The handwoven multicolored fabric make for a sturdy and beautiful accessories. After hours and hours of accidentally sticking ourselves with the needle, hand stitching each piece of fabric together, and squinting to thread the needle with yarn, we have finished braiding the headbands. We hope that the headbands will be a hot commodity back in Pittsburgh next fall; while also being a way to raise awareness for Maya traditions.
Saturday morning we bid farewell to two more of our team members – Aarti and Gianna – who headed back to the States to begin their summer jobs. And then there were three. Kira, Linda, and Anisah spent their weekend relaxing and taking in Panajachel for one last weekend. On Saturday we completed our last-minute shopping and when the usual afternoon rain began we retired to our favorite coffee shop to read. Sunday we rented bicycles, explored the beach area, and enjoyed the sunshine with some refreshing ice cream.
The beginning of this week marks the last days of our journey. As Monday closes we only have four remaining days to finish up all of our projects with Maya Traditions, wander the streets of Panajachel, and lastly to be immersed in the easygoing Guatemalan culture.
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 past week, we have been busy traveling and experiencing more of the culture here in Pana and in the towns around the lake.
Last Tuesday, we spent the morning in San Juan, where we met Joel who is a part of a clinic called ODIM (Organization for the Development of the Indigenous Maya). Joel gave us a tour of ODIM’s building, including the pharmacy, the dentist office, and the doctor’s check-up area. This organization works with the indigenous Mayan and helps provide free health care and western medicine to those who need it. The western medicine is funded by many methodist church groups back in the states, and US doctors and nurses travel to Odim to work for a year and provide care to the indigenous people of San Juan. Joel expressed how many of the Mayan people who come to their clinic trust western medicine more because western medicine is made with better technology and stricter regulations and therefore the medicine is more trustworthy and reliable. Within the community, ODIM also sponsors the creation of homes for families who are unable to afford a sustainable shelter as well as educational scholorships to students. To learn more about ODIM, check out their website here: http://www.odimguatemala.org/
Last Wednesday, we traveled back to San Juan for a cooking lesson with one of the weaving cooperatives. We learned how to make tamilitos–small corn pancakes steamed in banana leaves, a traditional chicken soup—using all the parts of the chicken for the broth with mixed vegetables including potatoes, uisque (a native-Guatemalan squash) and carrots, and rice steamed with cilantro and carrots. To complement our meal, we drank a refreshing hibiscus iced tea sweetened with sugar. We all enjoyed the fresh, simple, and very tasty home-cooked lunch, using a wood and fire stove!
On Thursday, Linda, Anisah, and Kira spent the day in the garden, where they helped pave the way for the new stone staircases that will be built, and in the afternoon, they organized and sorted the scraps of fabrics for the headband product that will be sold back at Pitt. Over the past week, we have finalized the design for our bags; our designed bags will have a zipper on the top and a zipper in front for a small pocket and will be made out of the Maya Tradition’s handwoven fabric. Yesterday, we placed the order with the local tailor for the bags and also for the scraps of fabrics to be hemmed, which we will then braid into headbands!
While Linda, Anisah, and Kira were busy in the garden and office on Thursday, Jenny, Aarti, and Gianna traveled to San Lucas, a small community about an hour’s drive from Pana. After unloading and organizing boxes of medicinal herbs, they spent the day housing a low-income medical clinic with other Mayan healers from around the Lake. Men, women, and children of all ages came to visit these volunteers, paying what they could to receive consultations and herbal remedies for ailments such as stomach parasites, sore knees, and “the evil eye,” a spirit that takes control of infants and causes long-lasting tantrums and crying. The long day ended with an eventful pick-up truck ride in a storm, but Aarti, Gianna, and Jenny arrived home just as satisfied as they were wet.
In addition, we have decided on two new tea creations; one of which will be a stomach strengthener made out of menta pipierta, apazote, and ajenjo, and the other is a remedy for colds and is a concoction of orozuz, ginger, and lemongrass. This morning, we began the chopping and cutting of herbs from the garden to be dried for our teas, which will begin hopefully bagging on Friday.
Over the weekend, we spent Friday morning on a hike to the Indian’s nose in San Juan and spent Friday night in San Pedro, the neighboring town near San Juan. We met up with Indiana University’s Nourish group for the hike and had a great time climbing 3km up to the Indian’s nose. On Saturday, we had a farewell barbecue with Anisah, Kira, and Jenny’s host family to send off Jenny as she left this past Sunday for another internship back in the states.
For the rest of the week, we plan on working on the compost project, which will help promote increased compost material for the garden and also help the environment, starting to braid the headbands when we get the hemmed scraps back, and also to continue to visit the community clinics with Maya traditions.
You guys may be wondering how do I clean? Cook? Shower? Wash clothes?
It’s totally understandable! I had a friend ask me if I was staying at a hotel, which I wouldn’t mind, BUT I am actually staying in the roof of UPAVIM!
The building in which we are staying has at least 5 floors, and each floor has a different purpose! For example, the first floor is the nursery and kindergartners classrooms, the second floor is a pharmacy and doctor’s office, the third is where the women make crafts, the fourth floor is the location for the classrooms for the grades 1st through 6th, and finally it’s the roof floor!
The roof, or my home for the six weeks, has four rooms, along with a kitchen, bathroom, and a pila! The pila is where all of the dishes and clothes get washed! NO, we do not have an official sink in the kitchen nor do we have washing machines! We all have to handwash our clothes, which is terrible because in the morning there is always the older women washing their clothes and they are PROFESSIONALS! One said that we [volunteers] didn’t wash our clothes, we just soaked them in water and hung them up…. [I AM GUILTY]!!
We are all assigned a day to cook and clean! My day to cook is on Wednesdays, and I must say that people really loved my “half-cookings” yesterday! I guess when you only have a limited amount of food and meals per day, you’ll literally eat anything!
Yesterday the shower stopped working! Now we all have to shower with “buckets!” The water, I must admit, has been the coldest water that I’ve showered in since I don’t know when! But usually we do have hot water! And In order to turn on the hot water, we literally have to turn on a switch!
Even though, we lack basic commodities, I have learned to look pass those things and really enjoy the simple basic things! I love the simple life that I am living!
It has only been a week in Panajachel and we have accomplished so many things already! The team has had a great time getting to know both the Mayan and Guatemalan people, as well as all of the Mayan Families staff. After running all over the place for a week, we are really familiar with the town and following a little exploration, we have picked out our favorite spots to hang out and to EAT! Not only is the food here amazing, but it is also cheap! We have greatly enjoyed the mangos, avocados and most of all, the fresh bread…
At Mayan Families, we immediately felt very welcomed by everyone. On our first day of work, the preschool children welcomed us with handmade posters, songs, and best of all, with their beautiful smiles! The rest of the week we were really productive and actually finished the Maternal, Pre-Kinder, and Kinder (3-5 year-olds) year-long computer curriculums! On Thursday the electricity was turned off state-wide, so we had the opportunity to help in the preschool at Pana and interact with the children. It was so great to talk to them and hug them! Over the weekend, we traveled to San Pedro, which is a 40 minute boat ride across Lake Atitlan. We explored the town and went horseback riding into the mountains… it was such a beautiful place! I’m excited to continue learning from the community, working with Mayan Families, and exploring more places in Guatemala for the next 5 weeks!
The Nourish International at UCLA and Nourish International at UCSC team members are really excited as we go through pre-departure planning and training and are looking forward to meeting the team members from ByoEarth and Junkabal, our project partners in Guatemala. ByoEarth is a nonprofit organization in Guatemala whose mission is to improve the living conditions of vulnerable communities by finding solutions through vermicomposing that also improve the soil, nurture the land, and integrally restore life to the planet. Junkabal is a women’s cooperative in Guatemala that promotes the human, social, spiritual, and economic development of women through various means, including schools, job training, and dental and nutrition clinics.
We will be helping to build greenhouses so that women in at least three different communities (in and around Guatemala City and Antigua) will be able to grow and sell organic herbs. Some of the women currently working with ByoEarth and Junkabal use vermicomposting to sell fertilizer and wish to increase their income by selling herbs, but there is a need to control the environment where the herbs grow so that the women can be successful. The Nourish team will talk with the women about business relationships, accounting, and herb growth and harvesting.
Training for the UCLA-UCSC team has included Guatemalan history and culture lessons by reading “Guatemala in Focus” by Trish O’Kane, construction workshops (many thanks to Kyle Berry, Brent Bradford, and William Galasso for their extremely patient instruction), and individualized Spanish classes. We also went camping in Big Sur, Calif. to meet our teammates in person, complete a construction workshop, and have a great time getting to know each other. We leave for Guatemala in three weeks and as we’re winding down our spring quarter, shopping for hammers, and packing our rain gear, everyone is getting more and more excited to start the project.
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!
The past week, we have been traveling to various communities around Pana to help administer literacy tests to the various weaving cooperatives that Maya Traditions works with. On Monday, Linda and Anisah hopped on many chicken buses to arrive at Santa Catarina and Santa Clara, where they watched Isabel, Maya Tradition’s Artisan Development Coordinator, test the recognition of various written Spanish phrases and letters. Many of them had trouble processing the letters printed on the paper; although it was difficult for them, the literacy test will help gauge their current level of proficiency in Spanish literacy. The literacy test helps Maya Traditions prepare Spanish lessons that are reasonable for their current Spanish comprehension level, which will be provided to the weavers later in June. The indigenous communities we visited were a stark contrast to our daily life here in Pana and gave us a new perspective on what life is like for a weaver for Maya Traditions. Santa Catarina and Santa Clara are both hikes to get to, about two hours away by chicken bus from Pana, and the villages are much less westernized and the houses have minimal electricity.
On Tuesday, Aarti and Jenny visited the village of Quiche. It was quite the trip! They took two chicken buses, a shuttle van called a microbus, and a pick up truck into the mountains. It was interesting to experience the time and distance that the cooperative travels in order to come down to the foundation and teach us how to weave. Once we arrived there were many young women speaking in a language very foreign to us. We performed literacy tests, and the women did very well with the names of the letters and naming words with those different letters. A lot of the women said elefante for e and Walter for w which was surprising because we expected them to say words associated with weaving and household items. The pick up truck on the way down was definitely an extreme sport experience. What we took away the most from this experience is that these cooperatives are spending day and night to produce these handwoven items and we need to think about the hard work when we bargain on the streets for their products. Also, side note, the kids were very fun to play with:)
On Wednesday, Gianna and Kira took three chicken buses to Chuacruz, a village that was massacred during the Civil War. As a result, the majority of women in the cooperative there were widowed or grew up without fathers and brothers. This particular community provided an eye-opening view into Guatemala’s past and the hardships that the indigenous people have faced. Here, Gianna and Kira helped administer literacy tests to the women, who all had a good level of Spanish literacy.
When we were not traveling to the other communities, the rest of the group spent their mornings in the garden to help with the reconstruction of new bamboo fences and a new stone staircase. Massive bamboo shoots grown in the corners of the garden were chopped down with machetes and trimmed to make the poles and grates of the brand new fence. The head gardener Geraldo was an expert, but he had enough patience to allow all of us to try our hand with the machete and the wiring necessary to link all the shoots together. It was amazing to see the progression of the garden and how efficiently all of its resources are used every day.
We’ve done a little bit of traveling on our weekends off, spending two days north of Pana in Antigua last weekend and three days even further north in Semuc Champey this past weekend. Both trips were a ton of fun, a great opportunity to get to know each other better, and allowed us to learn even more about Guatemala. We took a walking tour of Antigua with a very friendly guide, Roberto, where we saw ancient ruins of cathedrals and learned the history of Jade throughout Central America. He claimed he was in the Olympics for Judo. Also we were introduced to the typical Guatemalan dish of Pepian chicken, MUY delicioso!
Just before leaving for Semuc Champey we had to say an unexpected goodbye to Erin. She struggled with a stomach illness for the last three weeks and knew it would be best to head home in order to take care of herself. She made it home safe and sound but we miss her every day. Semuc Champey was quite the drive, but after nine hours we found ourselves in the middle of an incredible jungle at a Hostel Utopia. We spent two nights getting to know the volunteers, reading in hammocks, and taking an incredible tour through Semuc Champey National Park. We were able to wade through dark caves holding only candles, hike up and down a mountain in order to reach a beautiful lookout point, and swim between crystal blue pools inside a huge valley. It was definitely an unforgettable experience.
This week is a very packed week! We are focusing on the development of our new design product that we will market in the United States to promote the Maya Traditions Foundation and the weaving cooperatives. We have been able to see how these products are produced, their natural dyes, and their tailoring. Here are some of the beautiful fabrics we are working with and we will have more information later this week on the actual design product. Feel free to give us feedback! We are also designing two new herbal teas that we hope to sell through the foundation to the local community where they already sell their bagged herbs. We have collaborated with Dr. Anabella and Oseus the head gardener on which properties to focus on in our designing of the teas. We are planning to work with stomach illness, bug bites, and cold/headaches. Also Aarti, Jenny , and Gianna are heading to their first community clinic this week, in San Lucas to work with the local Mayan healers and teach/distribute about the tinctures that we produced two weeks ago!
Keep reading we have a lot more coming:)