Lessons learned…. so far….

This Wednesday we will have been here in El Progreso, Guatemala for 7 weeks. Hard to believe its been that long… and yet at times it feels like I have always been here. Funny how things that at the beginning are so foreign to you, become the new normal. Washing dishes with paste… filling a resevoir with water for the days when you have no water out of the tap…. having no hot water & learning to shower in cold…. sleeping in a kitchen with no privacy whatsoever…. driving in the chaos that at first made my heart almost stop…. roadblocks of livestock on the highways…. construction tie ups that last 30+ minutes at a time…. etc etc… the list is long. I’m learning so much here. Patience is a big one. Everything here takes a long time. Guatemalan’s are famous for “10 minutes” which in our terms means an hour or more. I am also learning humility. My way is not always the best way. There are other ways of doing things… better ways in some cases. Learning to un-Canadianize myself is a tough one…. slowing down… enjoying the little things… stopping to smell those proverbial roses…. very foreign concept in Canada, even if we think it’s not… trust me, it is! I find myself not just learning from the Guatemalans though… I am learning from the visitors we have coming and going here. I find it fascinating how each individual that comes here has a certain gift. Everyone brings something so different to the table. Honestly it is so refreshing to see things differently… through the eyes of the diverse fellow humans we have had here. As hard as it is to live in community at times, I have truly learned that I was made for this!

My blog has had a lot of my personal thought thus far. Let me fill you in on some details on what is going on here: We had 4 students here from Canada…. Rachel, Jazmin, Juan David (JD) & Jessy. Oh the youthful exhuberance they brought with them. We worked hard and we played hard… and we miss them terribly even now, weeks after they have gone.

Dave and Justin arrived a short time after the above gang. The house became a bit more challenging to maneuver because it is fairly small. We managed and it was great. Dave is doing weekly videos and working hard here. Justin is a carpenter by trade and his skills are ones we simply cannot do without!

Fast forward a bit and Tim & Matt arrived. Matt is our Chef. Simply stated, he saved me. I can cook, but not very well for larger groups. He is feeding us way better than we deserve! He rocks! Tim, we barely knew before he arrived. What a guy, and we were very lucky to have him here.   Love him to pieces with his friendly attitude and quick, sarcastic wit. He kept us all smiling even when we truly didn’t feel like it. He passed along some fantastic business advice for our fundraising efforts. Look out people… you don’t know what you are in for in the coming months!

As I am writing this, there is only my family, Matt, Dave and Justin here. It is quiet here now. Geoff’s parents arrive this afternoon. So looking forward to having them here and see first hand what we are doing here. Many more people will fill our house in the coming months… including a team of dentist’s that will be running free clinic’s up in the mountains. The house will be full, challenging and fantastic!!!

Work wise, we have many projects on the go. Exciting times filled with great things happening here like:

First and foremost… Marquito had his surgery 3 days ago!!!! After a year of waiting, hoping and praying, thanks to Rachel it is done! Marquito is recuperating nicely at a hospital in Antigua. Thank God for this little boy and all he has taught us, and continues to teach us.

Secondly, we have begun construction on Marquito’s family home he will share with his parents and 2 little, precious sisters. The current state of his family home was such that he could not return there even when he is better. They live in a one room mud brick home with no electricity and no water. Upon completion, the home will be 3 rooms, a fenced in play porch (Marquito is also blind) and running water & electricity. They will be able to care for Marquito and his sisters so much better and live as a normal, happy Guatemalan Mayan family.

Thirdly, the hospital renovations are still under way. The new bathrooms, showers, closet and dorm rooms for the novitiates are almost complete. The study/living room is also complete. We are in the process of finishing up minor renovations to the kitchen and a new pantry. The garden is dug…. the chicken coop is finished and Geoff’s dad will soon begin planting corn, beans and other vegetables for the hospital to grow to help them become even more self-sustainable. The construction of a new second kitchen will begin shortly.

Lastly, construction will hopefully begin on a new home for another family during March Break. Jazmin’s family is hoping to take on fundraising for this corn stalk home to be replaced. The family that lives there is so amazing… but so very poor. The condition of the existing home is deplorable and no one should ever have to live that way. If you are interested in donating to this home visit http://www.ctenc.ca/ritadoppenberg

We have spent time doing other things here as well. Justin, Tim and Geoff spent time helping Fernando’s family build some closets and minor renovations to help the family prepare for the arrival of Fernando’s new wife Elisa after their wedding in Feb. This family has helped and continues to help us so much we were happy to be able to help them. We have had many trips to the Jalapa dump and meetings with the people there. We did find out that no one actually lives there in the shanties. They live off site and return there every day to work. In the big picture, I suppose that is good news… however after touring their homes we quickly saw that the situations were still desperate. We hope to work together and come up with a solid plan of helping these people become more stable and self-sustaining. We have helped and will continue to help Mynor, Vincenta, Claudia and the boys. We are in the process of finding him solid, sustainable work that can improve their standard of living. We have toured villages and continue to make notes and plans for next year or when more funds become available. We have met several times with Hermana Mercedes and hope to shortly begin planning the next Nutrition Hospital that will be in El Salvador… In our down time, we have enjoyed touring Esquipolas, Antigua, Ziplining and visiting villages to play with kids… (my idea of Disneyland.. so fun).

We truly feel we have accomplished so much already…. we try to not get ourselves down that there is still so much left to do. People here are incredible. JD learned something when he was here…. how incredibly difficult it is to walk away with your head held low saying, “I’m sorry, there just isn’t enough money for us to help you this year”. Its a tough, tough thing to do. One of the hardest things you will ever do in your life. Imagine looking into someones eyes… eyes filled with hope and desperation…. eyes filled with thirst and hunger and saying… “I can’t help you yet”. It’s funny that the lesson lies in their response…. It’s always the same…. “Thank you, I will pray for you”…. Wow…. that hurts… hurts deep within… I cannot help you and still you pray for me….? …. and yet I am understanding more and more.  And let me tell you,  It changes you… those simple words… changes occur very deep within yourself in a place I would call your soul…. it changes you so much for the better… I know each and every person who visits here, including myself will go home a much better person than the one who arrived. And for that I want to say to each and every Guatemalan that we have met, helped or said no to… “Thank you, I will pray for you… ”

Me and Marquito a few days before his surgery

12500 mini bags of water we bought to hand out in the mountain villages

Matt handing out bags of water at the dump

Mynor & Vincenta's little boy Jose David & his healed arm!

Construction begins on Marcos's home (Marquito's dad)

Planning the second room addition for Marquito

Hermana Mercedes & Marquito's precious baby sisters

Tim handing out water at the dump

Me and Andrecito... one of our favourite kids at the dump

Jessy & Andrecito

This little one is now at an orphanage after her mom tried to sell her for under $30.00 US. Desperate people are forced to do desperate things....

Rachel getting mobbed handing out treats at the dump

Hanging out with the kids at Yolanda's village... my Disneyland!!!!

Its been so fun for our family to watch these kids grow up... especially Zack... they love him!

The Zip lining gang

Jazmin taking it all in

Our friend Ceasar had a special birthday quesedilla ready for Zack's birthday

The cornstalk home that we hope to build during March Break with Jazmin's family

The mom of 10 & owner of the cornstalk home... so amazingly loving .... pure joy despite having nothing....

JD explaining to the people that we simply don't have enough money to help them this year... toughest day yet....

Having to walk away from these kids... looking into their eyes is the hardest thing we have ever done. No one should ever have to do that....

About ritadoppenberg

I am a wife, mom, missionary.... generally a human being who along with God, my family, friends and Commission to Every Nation (CTEN) Canada, seek to "Be The Change"...

Posted on January 22, 2012, in Guatemala Missionary, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Wonderful Posting again! you are very honest and open about what is going on in guatemala. our hearts and prayers are with you all.

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