Monthly Archives: January 2015
2014 and beyond….
Well…. what can I say… 2014 has come and gone. What a year it was! The Doppenbergs have been living in Guatemala full time for 16 months. I have to admit that if anyone told me 6 years ago while I was nestled safely and quite comfortably in my home in little, rural Beamsville, Ontario, that I would be living some 6000 miles away I would have laughed near to death. And yet, here I am… safely nestled in our new rental home in the hustle and bustle of Centro (Centre) of El Progreso.
2014 has been quite the year for both our family AND for our work here. A couple years ago I wondered to myself why our eldest son Zack felt such a strong pull to live here in Guatemala…. and how the heck he managed to learn Spanish so darn fast. Well, I got my answer in 2014. The answer came in 2 parts… Amelia and Lisandro. Zack met Amelia last year at our dental clinic (she is a dental assistant and volunteered with our local dentist Dr. Jose Juan who assists our own Dr Laszlo from Canada in running a free dental clinic for the villagers here who cannot afford it), and after a whirlwind dating experience, married Amelia on Dec 6, 2014. Sweet and beautiful Amelia who, as we were to learn, had all but given up looking for love. In Guatemala a woman who has a child out of wedlock is shunned as ‘damaged goods’. This is where 2 cultures combined…. It made no difference to our son if Amelia had 1 or 7 kids. He fell in love with them both. And she with him…. And voila…. Zack is now a husband and a father…. Luke and Gabe have a sister and are uncles…. and Geoff and I gained a beautiful daughter and are now grandparents! We couldn’t be happier. We have encountered some opposition to Zacks decision to marry at what is by Canadian standards, a young age. Zack is young, yes… but he is by no means immature. He knows what he wants… he grew up differently than most. He grew up here. He is more Guatemalan than Canadian. He is a man. Plain and simple. And one, Geoff and I are so very proud of. I know now that God called Zack here… the same way He called us… for reasons I now understand. It is indeed a beautiful thing.
This wedding indeed blessed us too in that many made the trip from Canada and the USA to share the day with us. Zack, in a moment of vulnerability before the wedding took time to thank everyone and admit that he was afraid that we would be alone for this event…. He, and all of us were so thankful to all that came and to those that expressed the desire to come but couldn’t and sent video messages or other greetings. One never knows how far away you actually feel from those you love until an event like this comes about. In this beautiful day, we were allowed the privilege to share it with some of those we love from afar, those we love here in our town…. and those from the village of Salitrillo who have become like family to us. It truly was an incredible experience to have 3 different cultures in one space…. North American, Guatemalan and Mayan.
We are now in a new rental home as well. Our old home was plagued with Dengue type mosquitos… had new (and highly dangerous) high tension power lines to run the Canadian mine installed 10 feet from our door…. and we were quickly outgrowing it. We are now a family of 7 since Guatemalan tradition says the man and his wife move in with the husbands parents. Thus we moved to a very large new home in the centre of town. It is a 3 level home and is much better suited to the needs of our family…. and to hosting teams. In short, it is home. We are very thankful to Don Rene for the opportunity to rent this beautiful home at such a great price as he wanted to help our mission. For me I am especially grateful to him for this home as I had Dengue fever this year and if I were to get it again it would be very dangerous the second time. As a family, we have our own ‘space’ where we can go to be a family…. And a huge communal area where we can spend some time with volunteers and just ‘hang out’. Volunteers have their own space too (and many more bathrooms, with roofs on them … (those of you that have been to our old home will understand why that is a big deal haha))
Reading all this above, it seems like this year was mainly concerned with our family growing and getting settled into our first full year here. But, our mission saw many things happen too. We saw our goals, and ways of doing things shift greatly. We have learned much during the past 5+ years here… Things like, what to do, and what NOT to do. If you come here now to volunteer… it looks VERY different. There is a lot more ‘observation’ and a lot less hands on. We have learned to let the people do for themselves instead of having the volunteers do for them. This plays into our hand up, not hand out mentality. If you come to volunteer you may find yourself with a lot more down time than was seen in the past. This is not to say you will be bored… but you will possibly find yourself a lot less exhausted than you would have been on previous trips. This does not by any means mean we are doing less… it just means we have learned to do things a little different.
We are in the process of developing a ‘manifesto’ of sorts. Basically a do’s and don’ts list. We do not EVER hand out clothing or other things. We try to be less invasive as we were. We found ourselves creating North American type problems in remote villages where this never existed before. This was NOT good and it was completely our fault. These hand outs help no one. They do way more harm than good. The people here want to do things for themselves but are crippled by poverty and lack of options. What we offer is options. This means great things for the people here and we have seen first hand in Salitrillo and other villages enrolled in our Village Empowerment Plan that this method works. Suicides are down as the men feel hope and empowered to help their families without resorting to accepting someone else scraps. Health and wellness is on the rise as people can afford to buy more food, and most importantly more nutritious food. Malnourishment in the areas we work is becoming a thing of the past. The program is working. We are still learning as we always will be… but some things are changing for the better and we are so blessed to be a small part of it.
2014 was a huge year for us….. We managed to do many awesome things thanks to all you who partnered with us:
– We have distributed over FIVE HUNDRED solar lights to many different communities, and the program is going awesome.
– We have started a tree and plant nursery, wherein we are seeding nutritious plants and trees. We have a deep water well there, so plenty of water. The land and the water is all thanks to our great mayor, who has provided the land and the access to the water completely FREE OF CHARGE! So we only have to pay for all other parts of the nursery, i.e. soil bags, soil, seeds, etc…
– We have also initiated our “Community Empowerment Program”, with 90 families already having received their solar lights and water filters! This translates into 440 people having access to light, phone charging, and clean water!!! As well, they will be receiving their moringa trees, neem trees, chaya, chia seeds, and amaranth seeds at the start of the next rainy season, which will all come from our nursery!
– The malnutrition centre is doing great, all of the women are doing well, and we are seeing less children being admitted all the time.
– We also, in the past year, built our very first school, in conjunction with “Miracles in Action”! This school was built in a VERY remote village, and took a LOT of walking and hard work to complete.
– We completed 2 water projects in 2 different villages, providing clean potable water to over 50 families!
– We have begun an “aquaponics” project in Salitrillo. While there are many bugs to be worked out in this project we are off to a running start!
– We have begun adult seminars in nutrition and health to various villages as well we have begun a math and english program in the village of Salitrillo for grades 1-6.
– We have also started a small “restaurant”, in which the boys and us sell “American hamburgers, chicken burgers, and hot dogs”, to supplement our rent on our new home. We are all having a TON of fun with this, as it also allows us the opportunity to meet all of the people from town and surrounding cities whom we have not met yet, as well as we get to practice our Spanish!
So there you have it…. a proper update from all of us Doppenbergs in Guatemala… All 7 of us… no longer 5. We feel so incredibly blessed to be here and to have the opportunity to enjoy a life here in this country of such incredible beauty… and with some of the kindest and most genuine people I have had the pleasure of meeting. Please consider continuing to partner with us. There is so much work yet to be done and we are excited to be on the ground working to end malnourishment in this forgotten region where larger organizations no longer work because it is so ‘far gone’.
And so…. from our family, Geoff, Rita, Luke, Gabe, Zack, Amelia and Lisandro we wish you Health, Prosperity, Hope and Peace in 2015. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all of you who believe in us and in what we do. God Bless You all. We love you!