Well….. here we are. Easter Sunday. A very happy Easter to you all from the Doppenbergs. It is a day off here. Well actually it’s closer to a week off. Easter is a BIG deal here in Guatemala, as it should be. People get off work Wednesday at noon and do not go back until Tuesday. It is a time for family… for community to celebrate the gift of the Resurrection. So the Doppenbergs are pretty much forced to stop… to rest… to reflect, as we should at times.
I have done much reflection and processing this week. My friend Joanne blessed us with a visit and seeing that we ended up with so much time off this week due to Easter we sat and talked. ALOT. More than I have ever talked in my life to be honest. I realized that I needed this. I may not have known it at the time… but for the first time ever, I have been forced to process. Most times people leave here and I see their facebook status updates… their emails etc that speak on having to process their visit. What they saw, what they did, what they learned. I guess this is my turn.
For us, as far as visiting volunteers, it is pretty much finished for the season as we draw close to the coming rains. This by no means we are done work… but we are pretty well done hosting the majority of our people for this season. We have hosted well over 100 people (close to 140 people) since making our permanent move here this past October. We have not been alone as a family since one week of arrival October 7th. This week is our first full week alone just the 5 of us. It is day one and it feels a bit weird to be honest.
For those that are waiting for a highlight reel update of our work here. It is as follows:
Over 300 people in the villages of El Progreso/Jutiapa got dental care who could never afford it.
The Hospital Infantil Padre Pedro pediatric malnutrition rehab centre is running and functioning better than ever.
Clean life saving water was brought to the Villages of Salitrillo and El Terrero.
Children who have sponsors are home and doing well thanks to their sponsors.
More than 10 young people are attending college to further their education and secure a bright future as nurses, teachers and bilingual translators.
Our test plot of chia seed has been harvested and one little bag of seed produced almost 400 pounds of nutritious chia that will be distributed to villages for some to be planted and the rest to be eaten to provide healthy nutrition.
We have begun construction on our first school, thanks to our partner Miracles in Action, in the village of El Silencio.
Our feeding programs are doing well and providing food to families that find themselves in dire need at present.
Women and children have been taught to crochet to sell items to help earn income for themselves and their families.
There is more… but this is after all a highlight reel. The biggest highlight?
The Village Empowerment project in Salitrillo is still in full swing. This is our 5 year model village program that we will be monitoring and documenting data to be presented to other non-profits, governments, donors, foreign aid organizations etc to show how just a little goes a long way in helping people help themselves. We (and by WE I mean our family and all donors who through generous hearts help all of these things happen) have seen VAST measurable improvements in the health, nutrition and wellness of the village already. It has been one year since we first set foot in the village. Since our first medical clinic… We have clean, running water to the village….We have installed smokeless stoves in every home…. built some metal structures for those that needed a roof over their heads…. We have provided solar lights for every family that wanted one. Some of these were given as gifts to the village leaders but others were purchased on a micro finance program.
The Solar Light Program… As mentioned above this program has evolved over the past year as we saw need arise. The dilemma: there is no electricity available in the high mountain villages so they purchase candles for 1.25 quetzals (approx. 18 cents USD per) and they burn between 3-4 per night. That may not seem like a high cost to each family but when your wage is approx. 25 quetzals (approx. $3.50 USD per) per day (when you can find work) that is a HUGE cost burden. They also travel down the mountain via a treacherous walk every few days to charge their cell phones (provided by the government years ago) that they need for medical emergencies and work calls). Local tiendas (stores) offer a phone charge for approx. 4 quetzals per charge (approx. 50 cents USD). The solar light costs approx. 550 quetzals ($70.00 USD) and not only provides light but charges their cell phones as well. In light of the hand up not hand out philosophy that we have adopted we have offered them the opportunity to buy these solar lights on a micro-finance program. They can pay 25 quetzals (or more if they wish) per month for the light/charger and be done with the payments in 1,2 or 3 years whichever they choose. The lights battery last 5+ years and this program saves them money. They make small payments and never have to buy candles or pay to charge their phones ever again. This frees them up to buy much needed nutritious food to feed their families. Win/WIN. This program is flourishing and word is out to other villages and people are coming from all over the mountains to sign up for this. They do not get a hand out but it is one of our BEST hand up’s.
Every facet of the lives in Salitrillo has been changed for the better through loving hearts of donors who believe in what we are doing. People are healthier… children are learning better…. water is better… nutrition is better… BUT, there is still so much more to be done. When we take people to the village now, people from Canada and the USA it is no longer a sad visit. It is a visit full of joy and hope. It is one village… our first one…. our test site. As I said, Still so much more to be done here and that is for the rainy season. The Agriculture program has begun. Fruit trees will be planted… more nutritious crops like Chia & Chaya will be planted… Reforestation trees will be planted…. etc etc. Our 5 year plan might just be done in 3 instead. It is going THAT well. Thanks be to God.
Its a funny catch 22 circle though… the more this village thrives the less poor they look. Visitors are not seeing the ‘tug at your heart’ moments anymore here. Thus donations go down. Funny how things work in that respect. Nothing I hate more than fundraising… and all it brings. One visitor asked once, “Where are the REALLY poor people?” A fair question… and one that stuck with me. Thus my need to process…..
How do we make people see what we (all of us together) are doing is making a real difference…. saving REAL lives? People who have almost no access to social programs because there aren’t any. This is just one village. There are literally thousands in our area. We are just one family…. just one small organization. Money constrains our efforts. This makes me sad.
With all the victories I have described above there are failures as well…. Our Chaya crop, much of it, failed…. Children continue to be malnourished… to die. Other villages beg us to help them as we are helping Salitrillo. They are willing to do the work…. but we have no more means to help them as we are limited financially.
People ask all the time… how do you do what you do? How do you process the enormity of it all. My answer… I don’t know. I came very close to burning out this season at times if I am honest and its only year one full time. That scares me. Out of sight, out of mind plays heavily on my mind and heart as we see the less time we spend in Canada and the USA touting our cause the less we hear and receive. How do we deal with that reality? I don’t have the answer and that is something I will be spending much more time processing.
All I know is that for our family, this is the life we have chosen. It is our passion and thus our calling so to speak. We hold it dear to our hearts and we will continue. We believe in what we do so much so that we will shout it from the rooftops to anyone who cares to listen. We are not finished here, I don’t believe we ever will be. I have hope in my heart that our model will work and people will continue to come on board for the wildest and most fulfilling ride of their lives.
So as we celebrate the gift of our Risen Saviour let me take a moment to also thank you…. all of you…. those that love us, believe in us, come be with us, put up with us, call us out on our stuff, work with us, pray for us, think about us, donate financially to us etc etc. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. Without you nothing would be different. And so much is different. So many are here celebrating Easter with their families thanks to you and will continue to do so for many years. We are here because of you. Blessed to be able to follow our hearts and our beliefs. YOU all keep me going as much as the people here do. YOU all mean so much to me and my family. More than you will ever know or realize. So again thank you. We love you all. God Bless!
Posted on April 20, 2014, in Guatemala Missionary, Uncategorized and tagged celebrate life, friends, grief, Guatemala, Hope, Malnutrition, mission, Missionary, nutrition, Volunteers, World Impact, Youth. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.
Oh rita, i love what you have told us about in your blog! it is all too real…the problems, the volunteers, the joy, sadness, and challenges with fundraising while you are ‘in the field’. you are in our prayers, and love you so much!