Hello there dear friend. It’s been a while…. I do really try to keep on top of everything but honestly sometimes its just a bit too much. Running a Ministry, a family, a home, fundraising efforts etc. etc.…. It just overwhelms sometimes. And again there are times when there simply isn’t much to say. I’ve said before, at times its not very exciting here… But there are still some things to report on…. Settle in, blogging only every few months means I have a lot to say…. Sorry about that….
Much of the past few months was spent preparing for our STIMMA (Short Term International Medical Missions Abroad) team. It was a huge team and a huge success! Not to sound lazy but you can read a much better description of their time here, complete with tons of photos, than I could ever write at: http://footprints.stimma.org/ . Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not lazy but its all there so why re-write it? Have a look when you get some time… the blog was so incredibly well done and I’m not going to try and duplicate it. Suffice it to say more than 1500 people received medical care they so desperately needed AND medicines were left to sustain those that need it for the next year (yup they are coming back next year)! AND, part of the team worked tirelessly on our newest project, The School of Hope, Jutiapa Provinces first and only school for special needs! The progress they made was outstanding…. Despite the rain, mud and horrific conditions. You see our ‘rainy season’ was a bit weird this year and the rains came… but they came late… and did not stop until about a week ago. The school began as a huge swimming pool almost every day for the construction team…. Sorry guys… haha.
This brings me to talk about the most ambitious project we have ever undertaken…. The School of Hope (Escuela de Esperanza) . First of all, the people chose the name in a round about sort of way. The word Hope keeps coming up from the parents of potential students. During the medical clinic with STIMMA we met some incredible young people with Down’s Syndrome. Christian, Boris and others. Christian’s mom cried with excitement when we told her about the school. Hope. That was the word she used. Boris’s mom had a similar reaction. Hope.
Hope – such a simple word and yet it conveys so much. Good old Webster defines it as: “to want something to happen or be true and think that it can happen or be true”. We hesitated to use it as it can be a bit… um… overused. BUT, honestly, it fits. Parents HOPE for a bright future for their kids. Parents HOPE their children can have a place in this world. The School of Hope is bringing that to Jutiapa Province for the parents of the forgotten children. Christians mom said: “You mean there will be a place in this world for my son?” Yes dear mommy… there will be…. And we all have such HOPE that it can bring a bright future for your son and so many others like him.
The snags however are abundant. We learned, and continue to learn some valuable lessons here as always…. The largest being…. Its probably not the best idea to begin a big, ambitious project in Guatemala during an election year. I have to admit, sometimes we get so frustrated. There is so much corruption in Government and among the people. All we want to do is help but then you hit brick walls… people searching for bribes… special favours…. robberies of money and materials….. those in power threatening to stand in your way unless you pay them. Its actually crazy.
My dad, Rudy, passed away more than 23 years ago. He was one of the best men on this planet. He had a special place in his heart and life especially for children with special needs…. He was very instrumental in the world of Unions back in the day through his humble work as a tool and die maker. He taught me to stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves. Be a voice for those who have none. To always have hope and cling to it. He also taught me to also stand up for myself and never give in to threats, corruption or anything like that. But at the same time to be patient with people and to look behind their motives and ask yourself one question: Why? Perhaps there is much more going on than you know or realize. I realize that sometimes the answer to why is greed… but sometimes, the motivations are fueled by desperation. Poverty is soul crushing. Not having enough to provide for your family makes you do and say things you normally wouldn’t. I don’t fully understand this desperation because I have never lived it. Thank God I was born to a family who provided and had the means to. I have the absolute blessing of marrying a man just like my father…. But so much better in the way that he is so much better educated through life experience. Geoff keeps me grounded in this frustration that sometimes grabs a hold of me, makes me throw up my arms and be ready to just pack it all in! He has the ability to restore my hope when I feel all is lost. I love my husband with all my heart. Its amazing to feel so much love and thanks for having someone like him in my life. Its incredible to watch this man raise his boys to share in his dreams and take a full and integral part in them. My boys are a good mix of the two of us. Enough of me to ask the questions and enough of him to search for the answers without throwing up their arms and walking away.
The bottom line is that the budget for the School of Hope continues to climb. Corruption has greeted us at every turn. Corruption we know is fueled by desperation and a tad bit of greed at times. We figured this out when we took the time to step back and ask ourselves the WHY? We now know enough to ask the WHY? But we do not have to roll over and take the answer either. Thus we made changes. Big plans and big changes.
- The School of Hope now sits on land we purchased. A HUGE purchase that we did not count on. A HUGE purchase that was completely 100% necessary to secure the future of the school. We could not take chances on people coming in and taking it over 3 years down the road. The land includes a part for us to build a home. A home we so desperately need so we can stop renting and facing the corruption of that part of our lives as well. A home, right on site so we are there and readily available at all times. A home that will include an area for teams to stay. (NOTE: This part of the construction is funded by our family. This is not with Ministry money. Our home is 100% going to be built by and funded by our family. The school is funded by donations. Just needed to clear that up so there is never any question about the use of money within our organization.) A place for teams to work and be a part of the school and its workings each and every day.
- The School of Hope may in fact face a name change before we even begin. It may in fact change to the Centre of Hope because we are learning that this is going to be so much more than just a school. It is already planned to hold medical and dental clinics, hold nutritional seminars, health seminars, malnourishment consultations (The Hospital Infantil Padre Pedro where we began also has undergone many changes over the past few years and we need to begin doing some of our own childhood malnutrition consults- long story for another blog someday), education and training sessions etc. etc. The list is becoming endless of what will be done in this, our very own, central location. The “school” of HOPE is not even finished yet and is already so much MORE than a school it’s a Centre. A central location that we HOPE can bring HOPE in so many facets of life here.
- In the beginning the Director of Education in Jutiapa said we would need a small school. One for a maximum of 50 students. There are already over 100 waiting in just our little portion of the Province alone. Thus, the School of Hope has already evolved. This is Phase 1. Phase 2 and 3 are already being planned for. The foundation of the structure has been reinforced to include a 2nd and 3rd floor. All of the plans have had to be revamped and we have had to buy much more building materials than we first thought. All to accommodate this incredible small thing that has now evolved into something so much bigger and better than our original plan. Yes it is costing us WAY more than we had originally said…. But my father taught me something else as well…. Do it right the first time, even if it takes longer and with more effort than you thought!
- With the recent near total collapse of the Government here…. The election of a new President and almost total restructure of every facet of Government…. We needed to change our plan. Its take us a long time to debate and weigh the pros and cons but I think we have finally come to a firm decision that the School of Hope will be privately run. Funded 100% by donations and run 100% by us. Again, we have faced so much corruption amidst the board of Education here that we simply do not see another way. If we fund and run this school, then we remain in control. Classes will be held. Special Needs kids will be educated. Our work will continue. All with the security of knowing its not in jeopardy tomorrow from someone seeking a quick bribe. Life just runs differently here and while we are here to help… we are not here to pay to do so!
- Labour costs are above what we had initially thought. However, this is due to the fact we have hired professional masons and construction workers to oversee the work being done on the site AND we are employing some of the men from our Model Village of El Salitrillo. These men and their sons are working not only on our school and making much needed wages but ALSO learning a trade that gives them hope to secure more work in the future!!! These men literally sleep on site to protect our construction materials from theft. They are such incredible men and such hard workers. We are hoping that learning as much as they are about masonry on site they can secure work in the construction field long after their work with us is completed.
So there you have it. The School/Centre of Hope is well on its way to becoming a reality. Construction moves as money flows in at some and trickles in at others. We are still full of hope for a January 2017 opening date. We truly feel that this place is going to be the central location for the DIG. Work will be done there…. Special Needs Children will be educated…. People who need help will have a place to go…. HOPE will be given for free….. Thank you to my husband who keeps filling me with HOPE every day… hope for the possibility of this place making a real difference here…. And thanks to my father for placing within me the ability to have Hope and to cling to it. Sometimes it is all we have… and it’s the most important thing because without it, we have nothing! Daddy, we are going to dedicate this school in your honour. Rudy Oliverio… this one will be for you! Thanks for being who you were…. I miss you every day and I love you still.
**(Remember: If you want to be a part of this project…. A project that will be ongoing…. Join with us and donate any amount or buy a couple of blocks and a bag of cement for $25.00. Your name will be printed on a block once construction is done. Just imagine the School of Hope covered in names of people from all over the world. Names that show the kids and adults here that there IS Hope and that people really do care! Note that donations made online will say: Guatemala Community Empowerment – Doppenberg – This is a Rev Can rule, not ours so just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know you want your donation to fund the School of Hope.)
Partner with us today! www.thedoppenbergs.com