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Week 5 in Guatemala | Nourish International

July 19, 2013 | Posted in 2013, Guatemala, Summer Projects, UCLA | By

“I feel that we are teaching that we care.” – Alba

We spent the majority of our fifth week in Guatemala working with people. We worked with children, down-syndrome patients and Enactus members.

On Sunday afternoon, we met with Josué to help plan the biodigestor project (for more information, see “REcyclathon and Other Adventures”). During this meeting, we suggested calling the project “Bio-CH4nge”. “Bio” alludes to the enviornmental aspects of the project while “change” represents both economic and chemical transformations.  “CH4” is the chemical formula for methane, the gas produced from the biodigestor.

We also discussed plausible directions that Enactus could take in the second stage of Bio-CH4nge. Josué explained that Enactus would like to use the methane gas produced from the biodigestor to also produce cheese since the current community already has cows and goats. To facilitate the selling of cheese, we weighed the options of selling in mercados versus in stores. We also suggested that Enactus introduce both the Bio-CH4nge and Harvesting the Future projects within the same communities. This way, the methane produced from Bio-CH4nge could be used to fertilize the moringa plants for Harvesting the Future. Later, moringa could be added to products produced by families using the biodigestor.

On Monday morning, Isa took us to Si a la Vida, a shelter for pregnant women who have been abused. Women here have been crafting Ecoweaving products for 2 years (for more info on Ecoweaving, see “Guatemala City, Antigua, Ecoweaving, Ziplining, and more!”). The bracelets, bookmarks, key chains and picture frames made here are crafted out of advertisement materials donated by companies. We spent our morning making intricate key chains with a friendly young woman who was 8 months pregnant with a baby boy. Some people picked up the craft quicker than others (ahem, Jessica), but each of us made a 7-link key chain. We were impressed by the amount of work that goes into something so small. We enjoyed learning from her and hope the opportunity to teach others gave her confidence and greater optimism.

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After leaving Si a la Vida, we visited Maria (the marvellous) at JUNKABAL, where we met her Arizona State intern, Natalie. At JUNKABAL, we helped women with their Red Worm Composting by extracting the materials that the worms did not eat from the composting bins. We also assisted in rolling balls of fertilizer that were ready to be sold for $2 per pack. In our last blog post, we mentioned that Maria hoped to eventually expand her work with JUNKABOL to sell organic herbs. So we are excited to begin planting oregano! Hopefully, we will have the opportunity to go back to JUNKABAL and further assist with the new garden!

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This weekend, we will be going to build a house for a family with an organization called ‘Un Techo para mi País’, also known as Techo. We visited their lively office on Monday night and met with Tato, the 26 year-old director. He began volunteering with the organization in 2006. The office was bustling with spirited young people, not unlike ourselves. We toured an example of the 18 square meter house that Techo builds. The solidly built home consists of exactly one room, without a kitchen or bathroom. Tato explained that Techo was founded in Chile in the 1970’s. At the time, the goal was to build 2,000 houses by the year 2000 – a goal far surpassed. Recently, Techo opened offices in Miami and New York and plan to open one in London. Almost all of the staff are volunteers, with only 10-15 paid workers. They have approximately 150 permanent volunteers and about 1,500 pass-by workers. Beyond building houses, Techo also works with other companies to improve the community’s access to clean water, electricity, and to teach them how to grow vegetables. The community is also involved in physically building the house and contributes $100 to the project. The rest of the costs are covered by donations from companies and volunteers. Overall, it costs approximately $1,500 to build a house. Each house takes 2 days to be completed, but requires months of planning. Our visit to the Techo office left us inspired and we are looking forward to working with the organization this weekend.

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On Tuesday, we paid another visit to Santa Catarina Pinula to give English lessons, at the children’s request. We had the pleasure of attending the grand opening of their new play structure which was donated by a church in Canada. The children were ecstatic to play on the new big toy, and stampeded toward it after the cutting of the ribbon. We enjoyed losing our age with them and joining in on the excitement. However, the play structure was very distracting to the kids when we began separating them into groups for English lessons. Each age group presented their own challenges in teaching a second language. The younger kids couldn’t sit still and focus while many of the older kids were apathetic and unwilling to participate. Despite the initial difficulty, we eventually managed to find ways to connect to the children and successfully encouraged them to participate! Alba’s even had a student ask for homework.

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This week, we presented a PowerPoint about public speaking to present to first year students taking LIFE, a required class that Enactus helps teach.

The classroom professors told us they preferred that we present in English because UVG requires all students to pass an English fluency exam in order to graduate. We found that all of our audiences were very attentive and showed considerable interest as to what we are doing in Guatemala. One professor even asked that we share our presentation with him so he could use it in later classes.

On Wednesday morning, we visited a local care center for individuals with Down Syndrome. We were separated into five different classrooms, each of us assisting teachers with different groups of people. In Dylan’s room, individuals in their late teens with Down Syndrome socialized while eating breakfast, while Jessica danced with a group of people in their twenties. Dylan’s group then merged with Jessica’s and they made cookies in a production kitchen. Pavit supervised snack time and play time for a class of 2-3 year olds, and played with them during their physical education lesson on bowling. Anthea repaired chairs with adults in a carpentry workshop, and Alba worked with 5-year-olds who sang lots of songs and joined Pavit’s group for play time.  Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the individuals attend different workshops, such as industrial food production, carpentry, and beauty treatment, while every Tuesday and Thursday, they take conventional academic classes. These classes equip the individuals with the necessary skills, and many of them eventually get hired by companies such as McDonald’s and San Martins Bakery’s.  The whole experience was eye-opening!  Some walked in a bit hesitant because they didn’t know what to expect or how to help but we walked out with a whole different perspective of these children. These are kids like any other, they know how to laugh, how to play and how to love and take care of each other.

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We spent today meeting with various leaders of Enactus to analyze projects and discuss solutions to challenges and brainstorm opportunities for growth. We hope that these discussions positively impact our partner organization.

Overall, we worked on a variety of projects this week and we are pumped  for a weekend of house-building with Techo!

 

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