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We interrupt this program…..

With fresh eyes…..

Greetings from Sunny & Warm Guatemala. Happy New Year to each and every one of you!   I sit here once again in a t-shirt and shorts (sorry to those in the North). The winds have finally arrived and the oppressive heat seems to have finally gone. It is my favourite time of year here. Warm, breezy days, cool, windy nights. You actually get to use one of the many blankets I have crocheted while watching tv. Its wonderful. New Years Eve here in “little Canada” is very quiet in comparison to the rest of this wild, party country. We sit and attempt to make it to midnight and then we hug, kiss, cheers and peer out over our balcony to watch the show that unfolds in the form of some of the most spectacular (and loud) fireworks. We are notoriously quiet here. Everyone knows ‘little Canada’. If you are visiting and stray out for a walk and get lost, a question to anyone where “Canada” is will be greeted with a smile and some directions (maybe even a guide escort) to our house. While everyone else was partying, we were sitting, playing board games and chatting about the past year… and our future.

The past year was a tough one for me. I am not going to lie about that. My blog has gone from being a personal journal of my thoughts, hopes and fears to being heavily edited. I have changed my style because I know others are reading. This seems foreign to me and I honestly did not enjoy writing it anymore. I didn’t like thinking I had to ‘censor myself’ so as not to offend or make anyone reading feel uncomfortable. To watch my word count because some say I am too long winded and write too much…. As you may have noticed, this resulted in me writing a heck of a lot less. My heart just wasn’t in it anymore. In talking with my boys on New Years Eve I realized that I have been wrong. I should not feel the need to censor myself. It’s my blog and I want to write. I need to write. But I need to do it my way, including how long I want. So, my ‘resolution’ of sorts is to go back to writing. My way. If it makes a reader feel uncomfortable then so be it. I am uncomfortable almost every day of my life and I don’t think its necessarily a bad thing. I think its through those moments we learn and grow as human beings.

So… I am back…. And I’m going to take a bit of time to tell you about my year. One of the best, but most difficult. Please be advised that after telling you of the good, I am going to cover some of the bad… if you want to stop reading I will understand…..

First, the good…..

We had the privilege of meeting and making some amazing new friends this past year. God brings people into our lives it seems when we most need them. We are thankful… always…..

We also had the privilege of building 2 new schools this year… One in “our” village of El Salitrillo and one in the lower village of Moran. El Salitrillo school is grades 1-6 and is such a huge blessing upon all. The school in Moran is a pre-school and will be opening in just a few short weeks!!! Exciting for us and a HUGE blessing for the people, especially the children. Guatemala has cut funding for most pre-schools and we are doing a study that plans to follow these kids through to grade 6. We hope to have solid data that can prove to the government here that pre-school (our kindergarten) is necessary and helps children prep for later school life. The alternative here is to have these little ones work… and so often the families get used to them working so much so that they don’t end up putting them in school at all. Potential doctors etc. never have a shot…. Elias is one such child. He is 14 now and is absolutely hands down one of the most brilliant kids I have ever met…. But his family needed him to work so he has never attended school. I swear this boy might have the key to something huge locked inside his head on that lonely mountain….. makes me sad.

Our Community Empowerment Program thrived in 2015. So many families received education, nutritious plants and seeds, solar lights and water filtration systems. We are seeing the benefits of this every day…. The people are healthier and that is what we came here for!   Many of the people in our Community Empowerment also received Solar Powered Audio Bibles thanks to Galcom. We look forward to their return this year to hand out more. The people here consider these audio Bibles to be one of their most prized possessions and now, every time we go to a village we are greeted with people walking around listening to them. Its such an amazing thing to have helped not only the people’s physical state but their Spiritual as well.

Dental Clinics thanks to Dr Laszlo and his team…. What more can I say…. Years of hard work has truly made a difference…. STIMMA the medical team…. I can’t say anything more about that either. All this hard work in both medical and dental have truly saved lives.   Priceless…..

Various individuals and teams like Ridley College have also helped us make huge strides in 2015.   Individuals and teams working selflessly to help us reach our goals… and more importantly help the people have hope.

Our “School of Hope” began in 2015 and has now become a huge focus of our mission. A school for special needs kids…. But also, a centre for people to come who have need… whatever that need is…. There will be an office there… with a middle aged housewife sitting in it (me)…. And from there my family and the people that believe in us and what we do, will try to help them.   It’s a dream come true for us…. And we truly believe this place will help change lives for the better.

If I have neglected to mention something or someone I am sorry. It is not my intention to leave anyone or anything out. I want to say that without each and every one of you we could not do one thing…. We love you and we are thankful for you… So many good things have come this year, they are just too numerous to mention each and every one….

But…………

Through all of this joy…. And so much more than I could ever write about…. There has been pain. Pain enough for me to literally want to throw in the towel.

A very young girl… and one I am very close to in one of our villages was raped.   As I drove up the mountain in the night with a friend from the medical field and my husband, I was shaking so hard I could barely function. Geoff waited outside as myself and my female friend went into the home to chat with the girl… things I never thought I would have to ask anyone, ever, swirled through my head. As my dear young one threw herself into my arms and sobbed uncontrollably I could actually feel my heart not only break, but shatter almost completely. She is so young… so small… so fragile…..   Her father had told Zack about the rape earlier that day, and asked him to tell me…. Zack talked with the dad…. Making sure that he was not going to kill the man that raped his little daughter…. Retribution is common here since there is no formal law help.   The dad admitted he and his brothers had discussed killing the man but decided that God wouldn’t want that…. The man who raped this poor girl has no idea how close he came to death…. I thank my son for taking the time to talk to his friend and make sure that no more pain would come of this horrific event.

Apparently it had happened a week before and this young, tiny girl had already tried to commit suicide. So the father who was trying his best to keep this secret had turned to me for help with her. I decided to go up the mountain that very night with my female medical friend to examine her and see what we could do to help her mental state.

I remember travelling up the mountain praying… praying for the right words to come… praying for strength to help this poor little girl…. When I was young I went through something very similar to her and it was from that experience I was able to draw strength and try to help her feel not so alone. The culture here is very specific on this…. She is damaged now… she feels it deep into her bones and knows that if this ever came to light she would have trouble ever getting a husband. So sad…. There is no help… there is no calling the police… there is no therapy for her to help her…. There was only me. A white woman from a foreign country dragging along a virtual stranger to examine her and try to console her….. I knew this poor girl was so fragile and if I screwed this up she could once again try to take her own life and I would never forgive myself….. No pressure…..

While holding her tiny sobbing body and trying my best to soothe her…. Something awful happened… I froze…. My medical friend was asking me questions to translate….. every bit of Spanish I had vanished. It was nerves but I couldn’t for the life of me put together a coherent sentence in Spanish. It was simply gone. My dear friend sat me down with the girl on my lap… and very calmly talked me down… encouraging me and looking straight into my eyes telling me I was “doing great”.   I don’t know who my friend was there for more… me or this poor young girl.   It helped and I was able to pull myself together and calm enough to ask the tough questions…. I will never forget that dark, late night up the mountain…. I will never forget my dear friend from Canada who was there for me and for the girl. You know who you are and I love you so much for how you got me and her through that awful night. The tiny wide eyes of the little girl still haunt me when I sleep.

I prayed all the way down the mountain that I had done some good…. That I had helped somewhat…. A mere hour of my life…. Forever changed me.   I remember thinking, “I can’t do this”… “it hurts too much”…. “I cant really help”…. “I want to go home”…. In the space of an hour, my “home” went from being the newly adoptive Guatemala back to Canada. In my head I was already booking plane tickets……. But in the meantime I had work to do. We had a team and I had to get myself through it and then speak to Geoff about going ‘home’.

Fast forward 2 days….. the doorbell rang…. Geoff answered….. the young girl was in my garage with her mom. As soon as she saw me come down the stairs she ran and flung herself into my arms…. Her eyes filled with tears as she held me tight. She looked up at me and smiled the tiniest of smiles….. She was ok. Somehow, in my ridiculous attempt at talking with her that night, I had done some good.   I was shocked. Floored actually….. I had some antibiotics I needed her to take and so I broke the hug and got them…. She took them without question…. (Im talking like 7 different pills here)…. Complete trust in me and no question about what or why she was taking all these different pills.

In that moment, she hugged me again and I realized something…. I am here for a reason…. And I, despite my inability to see my own talents, I am good at what I do.   I always feel a bit inferior here… a bit lost.  I watch Geoff and Zack thrive with the people and the construction and everything they touch…. I am watching Luke and Gabe grow and thrive also…. Learning from their father and older brother… prepping themselves to take over someday. They are male… they have a place…. They are loved and trusted and do amazingly well at whatever they tackle. I cannot lift heavy things… I am not good at construction…. I cannot really be a part of meetings between men because women here just aren’t respected in that way…. At times I feel lost and confused as to my place here. Relegated to not much more than a housewife again…. Don’t get me wrong, taking care of my family and being a Stay at home wife and mom has always been my career of choice and I love it…. But having worked my behind off going back to University to learn about Holistic Nutrition etc I always wondered what my place was. Sure I do education seminars and work with the women here teaching them about health and nutrition but that’s a few times a year.   I guess I always wondered if there was ever going to be ‘more’ for me.

It was the plight of a little girl that now, every time I go up that mountain is one of the first out of her house and hugs me with such force it literally knocks the wind out of me, that taught me so much…. I am valued… I am needed…. I am good at what I do…. I AM making a difference.   In my head I have gotten a refund for those plane tickets and it is so worth it…… I am in tears even as I write this and re-read it now….. But they are good tears… the kind that only come when you are remembering deep pain from a very different place… a good place….

(** update note: Geoff and Zack have worked with this family, finally convincing them to seek help from the police. The man who raped this young girl is being charged and will have to go to court and face his crime. The likelihood that he will spend time in jail is actually very good. Guatemala is not really changing in this regard but because of our presence here things like this for the Mayan people are beginning, slowly to be taken seriously. Thank God.)

Suffice it to say 2015 is gone…. It was a good year…. Filled with very high highs…. And desperately low lows…. But worth every minute. I look back upon 2015 with bright fresh eyes now…. I can see my value again…. I know why I am here and I know that despite my not being able to help at times, it is the times I CAN help that I need to focus on. I absolutely cannot wait to see what 2016 brings for me, my family, the people that visit and of course the people of my “HOME” …. Guatemala….

Me doing what I love... <3

Me doing what I love… ❤

 

DIG deep

Greetings from Guatemala dear friends…. Its been a long time…… So much to update and that will come later…. but first, we interrupt updates for something special…. something VERY important!


Every so often we have something very special put before us.  A couple of weeks ago, in organizing a group trip that is to happen this coming October for a very large group of doctors and construction workers, we were faced with some choices of our next project.  One of those choices was the DIG school # 4.   As most of you know we have to date been blessed with donors with hearts for much needed education in our region and have fully completed 2 schools here in our region and have a third nearing completion.   We now have schools in the remote village of El Silencio…. in the remote village of El Salitrillo and the almost completed pre-school in the village of Moran.

We had the Director of Education over to our home last week for a meeting and put forward the question of whether a fourth school is feasible in our region right now and if so where.  Then something incredible happened…… but first let me tell you a teeny story….

In the past 6 years here we have been listening and learning.  Really trying to pay attention to the needs of the people here.  Little by little a theme keeps coming up….. we have had many ‘coincidences’ happen here and have found ourselves working more and more with Special Needs children.  We have many here who have no options…. blindness, downs syndrome, physical disabilities etc seem to find these children often abandoned or put into back rooms and hidden.  The choices for parents do not exist here.  If there is no money and there is no school, there is no help.  Those parents are often faced with horrific choices and while they love their children as much as we do they are often prayed over and left in the hands of God.   Imagine trying to raise a blind child, like our precious Marquito, for example, in a mud hut, on a Cliffside with no idea how and no programs to help.  Bryan is also blind and his parents are doing everything in their power to raise this precious little boy…. but there just isn’t any way to help him learn.  Many of you may also remember Tanya, a beautiful young lady abandoned in our malnutrition centre because her parents had zero options.  Today Tanya wastes away in an orphanage somewhere in Guatemala…. we cannot find her… she has been moved several times as no one has the facilities nor training to deal with this lovely young mentally challenged lady.  She may not even be alive anymore.   This theme has been heavy on us for years and seems to pop up into our mission almost weekly.  This disturbs us to our core and we simply cannot let this keep happening.  We NEED to give these families and these children options, hope and a future!

Fast forward back to our meeting with the Director of Education.  He was present at our last school opening in El Salitrillo, that was built by Ben Morales our amazing 15 year old friend from Florida.  In his speech the Director said:   “This school brings hope… but I am quite sure it will also bring a Doctor or a Lawyer out of it someday”.    I believe him.  These children here are brilliant.  They simply do not have choices.  In his chat with us at our dining room table he said “We need many schools here.… but to be honest, what we need most is a school for Special Needs Children”.  He seemed almost apologetic for saying it…. like he was embarrassed to even mention it.  The collective hearts of all us Doppenbergs nearly leapt out of our chests and a dream was born.  He assured us there are no others like this in ALL of Jutiapa province…. and if we build this, he has the teachers and will provide them.  There are teachers here trained in special needs education but no schools for them to teach in.  As of now they act as tutors and will come live in your home and work with your child…. this is so very expensive though and none but the super rich can afford it.

So dear friends…. we need your help.  The medical/construction team we have coming in October has already raised over 1/3 of the money we need to build this school.   The total cost of this school is:  $46,000 USD. and we are 1/3 there already!!!   We KNOW in our hearts this is the right thing…. we KNOW we absolutely need to make this dream a reality.  We need to secure and buy the land and get this school built before more children die from lack of options.  It’s funny how coincidences work…. Marquito has been waiting to go to ‘blind school’ for years but we found out there isn’t one anywhere close to here…. The Morales family had a donation of every expensive braillers (machines to type braille) to help blind kids learn braille but no one and no where to teach them.  Another organization came here and gave away wheelchairs to kids with need….. and now we see these kids all over, just sitting by the roadside in their chairs, just sitting.…..  These children are all brilliant minds, trapped in bodies that simply do not work the same way ours do.  Who knows what brilliance is being wasted in these precious children.   Things like this have been a theme in our lives for years and now we feel it is time to make this dream a reality but need your help.    Help us to help these kids who have no options…. no choices…. Its our dream to take these precious children out of the back rooms here where they are sometimes left to die and get them into society as productive members.  Teach them how to live…. teach them how to learn…. teach them skills they can use for the generations to come.  But we cannot do it alone.   We absolutely need your help.   PLEASE Donate, forward this email to friends you think might have a heart for this…. lets band together and build this school…. the first of its kind here in our huge region.  Know that if you donate the line will say “Guatemala Childrens Hospital” and that is only because the Governments requires it to.  Please email us at rita@thedoppenbergs.com  and we will know that your donation is for the school.  Remember that your donation is tax deductible!   Together we can DIG deep and make this dream of a Special Needs School for children a reality.   Thank you for all your help and having a heart to help those who cannot help themselves!   God Bless!

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To donate online in the USA::
 
To donate via cheque in the USA – Put a note in with the donation that it is for the Doppenbergs in Guatemala and mail to:
Commission To Every Nation
P.O. Box 291307
Kerrville, TX 78029-1307
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To donate online in Canada:  http://www.ctenc.ca/ritadoppenberg/
 
To donate via cheque in Canada – Put a note in with the donation that it is for the Doppenbergs in Guatemala and mail to:
Commission To Every Nation Canada
PO Box 22017
11500 Tecumseh Rd. E.
Windsor, Ontario N8N 5G6
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A cherished family photo... the first ever....

A cherished family photo… the first ever…. Marquito and his family ❤

Rachel and Marquito

Rachel and Marquito

Tanya <3

Tanya ❤

Ben and Bryan

Ben and Bryan

Special Needs School Plan 1

Special Needs School Plan 1

Special Needs School Plan 2

Special Needs School Plan 2

Special Needs School Plan 3

Special Needs School Plan 3