They say a picture tells a thousand words so you can look at the pictures below and begin to imagine far more than I could say in my limited vocabulary! Moira Cassidy, an amazing teacher from Chicago joined us for a week and developed ideas and plans that brought our education program to a whole new level. Her obvious passion for teaching and her capacity to take an enormous problem and break it down into manageable projects was everything we had been looking for. She helped us with creating legitimate tests that we are now using to really assess where the children are so that we can focus our efforts on the most needed areas. Look at the children's faces as she captivated them with her novel and passionate approach to teaching.
You can also see Edvin Maldonado, the teacher who joined our team last November. The children absolutely love him and they all seem so disappointed when the after-school program comes to an end each day!
While we have had our "not-for-profit" status in the United States for some time, we have now expanded that to Guatemala and our first Board of Directors meeting. The Guatemalan people on our Board are all people who have had years of experience in working toward making great positive changes for the poorest in Guatemala. We are privileged to have them as part of our team. You can see a picture of Fernando Castellanos with Ismael. Fernando is a civil engineer with years of experience with major construction projects in Guatemala. He has offered to donate his work with us as we move forward with the construction of the Community Center. His company will be heading up the building and we expect to start in March with the hope of completion of the clinic by the end of June!!
Of course, our medical work with the women of Guatemala continues. I always hate to talk about "numbers" of patients but I guess it is a testimony to the work that everyone does that so many women want to come to our clinic. Today, we saw over 50 women and with our cytotechnologist, Chetti Smith, here reading the paps, the women were able to receive their results immediately. In a place where the wait is usually 5 months, this is unheard of. While we continue to be devastated by the alarming rate of cervical cancer, we also take comfort in knowing that this work is saving many, many lives.
Some exciting news is that we have found two women who have been working with us on this trip who may be able to ultimately become full time cytotechnologists for us. This would require a big commitment but we finally feel that we have found some women who have shown the capacity to learn this skill and who care deeply about the women we serve.
Carmen, our Guatemalan nurse continues to be invaluable. Today, many of the women spoke only the indigenous language "Quekchi" and so she is able to translate for us. The three-way translation is truly comical at times! I absolutely love the beautiful clothes these Indigenous women wear so it was a great "ice-breaker" when I asked them if we could switch clothes when they came in for their pap!! For all of them, this was a first and so you can imagine how nervous they were!
Lastly, I have to give great thanks to Professor Jim Skon and his team from Mount Vernon University. He and his students came and spent three days making sure that our 80 computers are functioning well and that we have a well fully capable internet system at the clinic. It is practically an Internet Cafe! They worked on making sure that all the computers have the best educational programs on them so that they can be used to the fullest in our after school program.
As we traveled back from the clinic this evening, we saw a full double rainbow! I had never seen anything like it before....it has been an incredible trip and it was hard not to feel that this was a sign from God above that all is well with the world. Somehow things that seemed insurmountable a few short years ago now seem within the realm of reality. As always, we thank God for sending us Ismael and Orfe who truly are leading the way in this effort. I have so much to say about their work that it will have to wait for a special "blog" tomorrow!
We all continue to thank each of you who support us in so many ways. Your generosity is what makes all of this happen!
We've spent many a day in Guatemala but never was there one with more joy than this one! While we have tried to take on big issues like women dying in childbirth, starvation, lack of clean water, education and cervical cancer prevention, I have to say that the work that Randy, our son Russ and Ismael did this week was amongst the most appreciated! There were 2 houses in desperate condition. Can you imagine sleeping on a dirt floor every night. So, the "boys" worked muscles that hadn't been used in a while to put in cement floors. The cement had to be mixed by hand! Then they built a bunk bed which they loaded on top of the van and delivered. Little did they realize that it wouldn't fit through the narrow door. No problem - they just took a wall down and brought in the bed!!! (Yes, the wall was replaced!)
I think of all the things that I have been given in my own life. But I rarely experienced the shear joy that this family so eagerly demonstrated when they received these gifts. I really had nothing to do with the work ( I was just the camera lady!). Yet, one of the aunts eagerly hugged me and cried about how incredibly grateful they were and how they would never forget us. Best of all, their entire attitude about their lives seemed changed. The mom beamed as the work was being done and told us how she now had plans to rearrange the outdoor "kitchen" area to make it a little nicer. Sometimes people just need a little boost!
Why do I share this story? Surely not to tell you how great any of us are! I tell it to let you know that there is really no greater joy than that in working with others to alleviate a little of the injustices that we are surrounded by. At least on this day, the world seems full of hope. We give great thanks to this family for sharing their love with us.