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

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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Swimming in the natural pools at Semuc Champey.

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Looking east from the highest pyramid in Tikal.

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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.

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