Today I broke a couple of my own rules and, as a result, may have had my "Guatemala moment".
I traveled today with Ishmael, Randy, Sister Pam, Peter and Gracie to the village of Purushila to visit an amazing school for 4, 5 and 6 year olds. I traveled there over gravel roads on the back of an open pick-up (first broken rule). I could never adequately describe what I saw, but hopefully can share what I felt. The teachers were dedicated and welcomed us not only to their school, but also to their home where they shared fresh fruit from the trees and a peek at the new puppies just opening their eyes. Although the school was clean and well maintained in a very simple way, you only needed to turn around and look across the street to see examples of the extreme poverty and sense of hopelessness. Meeting these teachers and the small children with them gave me a sense of hope for this community.
After leaving the school we traveled a short distance to the home of the "health promoter", a local woman who has committed to, among other things, feeding the poorest children and pregnant women of the community twice weekly a healthy meal consisting primarily of the Kids Against Hunger food supplied by SewHope. They invited us to join them with a plate of rice (second broken rule...don't eat local food).
So my "Guatemala moment" today was what Anne mentioned to us this morning...the thing that strikes you and makes you want to know more about these people and to learn more about how we can be a positive influence. It's also the moment you realize that you will likely be coming back.
Tomorrow I have my first day seeing patients in the general medicine clinic. I think there will be more "Guatemala moments".
Written by Annette Collier, MD. Annette is a physician at Hospice of Northwest Ohio. Annette visited the Peten with SewHope for a week in October 2012.
All of us do not need to come to Guatemala to serve others. Some of us are called to stay near home and make home sweeter.
Here are some thoughts on that:
1. If you live in Toledo, visit the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union. You can find it in a small strip mall near the southeast corner of Dorr and Detroit. Go in and tell them that I sent you. Ask to see Suzette. Sit down and ask her to tell you her story. Ask how you can help her. Think about how you might use your specific God-given gifts to help her and the surrounding community. Be prepared to get involved. I am eager to hear about your experience! I triple dog dare you to try it! Guaranteed to be life changing. (No, like, really, I want YOU to do this. Like, really!)
2. Get the book The Prayer of Jabez. Only get it if you BELIEVE in miracles. It is helpful if you reflect on the miracles that have occurred n your life. If you can't think of any miracles that have happened in your life, be really open to the message of the book. If you CAN name some miracles this will only confirm your experience. Ask Suzette (see #1 above) to share some of her miracles with you. DO what the book says. It took two friends giving me the book to understand it. The first person was a young woman whom I met in Chicago at a conference. After exchanging a few words at the conference, we decided that we would go to supper together. We found a simple mall and sat down to a long chat. I think that she believed that God had sent me to hear her story (that's my translation...and take it with humility of God using me) so she was determined to give me the book. I was leaving the next morning on the megabus she chased me to a McDonalds where I was sitting out the wait and eagerly handed me the book. I read it, but I don't think that I GOT it. Suzette gave me the book as I left for Guatemala. I spent my first month in Antigua with the book. I think I GET it better now. What I first understood was that people like Suzette were Jabez and that I was lucky enough to know her and to hang out with her. Then God told me that I was Jabez. Oh......that God would be with me.....AND God is.....and I EXPECT him to be....that is FAITH.
3. Read this. http://altrushare.com/pdf/CDLF_Sept2012.pdf. Do something about it in your community. Where is your local Community Development Credit Union (different from a regular credit union)? Find out how you can help. Just become a member. Open a small or a large account. Contribute to the credit union. Put a secondary capital loan into the credit union. Ask Suzette to put some flesh around the ideas presented in the article. Write to Peter Drasher at AltruShare. Only you really know what you are called to do.
My goal today is to attempt to capture the ministry of SewHope at the clinic in Santa Ana. SewHope rents a five room house (large by standards). The clinics take place here, the medications and supplies are stored here, and Orfe's youth group meets here. It is known in the area as a place where a person can find compassion and love.
We have one gynocologist, two fourth year medical students, an interpreter, Ismael and Orfe who help in multiple areas, Franklin, Anita and me. This is the third day of clinic
The team was able to assist 45 women this day. About half of these women came in various stages of pregnancy for a regular pre-natal visit. Every pregnant woman was assisted to begin to think about a plan if complications occurred during her delivery. A molar pregnancy was discovered in a woman who had no complaints; Dr. Anne and Orfe sent her to the hospital with a letter. Many received consult regarding anemia. Others came for a regular pap smear or dysmenorrhea. A few received medications.
A sad story:
As the rest of the team set up for this, the third day of clinic in Santa Ana for the women, Dr. Anne, Orfe, and Ismael met with a woman and her husband. It was only yesterday that Dr. Anne had discovered an advanced stage of cancer in the 34 year old woman and mother. Little can be done, but HOPE still prevails. The woman was surrounded by care and prayer....and will continue to be in the minds and hearts of us all as she walks her final journey.
I just finished reading the SewHope website. I haven't done so in a long time. Put down your novel, turn off the television and treat yourself to a modern day gospel. Each tab, each picture, each project is a parable or a miracle! Having been associated with SewHope since its founding, I was certainly aware of the activities. However, seeing them all at once is an overwhelming experience of God's goodness and love!!!
How is it that...
...a new non-profit begun in 2007
...just before the economic crash
...whose prominent work takes place in another country
...with HOPE as the most prominent resource...
Has morphed with GOD'S GRACE into all of this.
GOD is the ANSWER.
There is NO OTHER answer.
It speaks BOLDLY of the power of PARTNERSHIP and PASSION in following God's call
If you haven't ever read the website, JUST DO IT. www.sewhope.org .
Clean Air, Clean Water, Light. When was the last time you spent an hour or a day without any one of these resources? Many of our friends in Guatemala do...every day. You can help!
Over the years Ismael and Orfe and SewHope groups have educated the people about the need for outdoor stoves and clean water. Many families have started to use them, but other families are not able to afford these simple devices. Will you help?
Each stove (estufa) costs Q320 ($40). Ismael believes that a fair price for the poor is Q100 ($12.50).
Why the stoves? Many cook with indoor fires. This causes harm to the eyes and respiratory systems, and cancers are more likely to develop. Our stoves are portable and can be placed outdoors. The current stoves also use lots of wood while ours require only small amounts. Wood supplies near some villages may be exhausted causing some, including the elderly, to walk great distances to get firewood. Firewood from a local vendor can also be expensive diverting monies from other necessities.
Each water filter costs Q60 and the bucket doubles the cost to Q120 ($15). Ismael believes that a fair price for the poor is Q60. Ismael would pre-assemble the device.
Why the water filters? I do not think that this needs any explanation.
Each solar light costs Q225 ($28). Ismael believes a fair price is Q200 ($25).
Why the lamps? Many have no access to or are not able to afford electricity. Candles or lanterns are used. The children cannot read or do homework in the evening which is likely the only time to study after walking to and from school and then participating in family chores or jobs. Light also reduces security risks for families. These are solar powered lights.
If a family needed all three items, the total cost would be Q665 ($85). We believe that a family would be able to pay Q360 ($45). We at SewHope are seeking are donors to supplement the difference of $40. Are you able to help?
SewHope has 96 stoves, 100 water filters and 92 solar lights on hand making this a $4,000 project.
If you are someone who...
...wants to and is able to help,
...has passion for the environment,
...wants to move the Millennium Development Goals forward,
...needs a project for your school, classroom or club,
...is looking for service in the Thanksgiving or Christmas season,
...just plain wants to help...
Click here. www.sewhope.com It takes you to the Donate section of the SewHope website. In the comment section, please indicate that your donation is to be used for the Air, Water and Light Project in Santa Ana.
Please share this request with your families and friends.
Two Sunday's ago, I took some time to study and then decided that I would give myself some time. I told the cook not to cook for me as I would find something in the city to eat. This was something that I rarely did. Translated that meant that I would look for some good old greasy American food. I thought I would head to McDonalds which is about a 15 minute walk; I wanted to see how they did McDonalds in Guatemala anyway. I got about half way there and my path led me to a pizza place where the pizza looked American, and when I saw that they had French fries, the deal was sealed. I sat down at a small table facing the street on the slightly rainy evening that was a tad chilly. I ordered 2 slices of pizza, fries and a large Pepsi. I took out my Nook and continued reading a fabulous book that I had downloaded from the Toledo Public Library….The Child Who Never Grew by Pearl S. Buck (did you know that she had a mentally challenged child???) So, I am watching people, listening to the rain, reading a good book by myself in Guatemala. Was this heaven or what????
Then I saw him.
There across the narrow, cobbled and wet street full of people, on a low step just outside the margin of the rain sat a man who was napping and then waking. I looked up and back down at my book several times…trying to ignore the nudge to give him something to eat. First, I thought that I might buy him some pizza and walk it over to him. That just didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel that I should leave the place and walk across the street. So, before my left hand knew what my right hand was doing, I waved him over to me. Sure enough, we had both been looking at one another. He did the “Do you mean ME?” gesture as he slowly looked around. I waved again. On the third wave he got up and began walking across the street. I got up and pulled out the chair across the table and invited him to sit down.
I asked if he was hungry. Of course, he was. I asked the waitress to bring him the exact same meal that I was eating.
I asked his name a few times but never did understand it. He thought that I had said that my name was Familia. How appropriate. He spoke and I could catch little between the noisy street, my poor hearing and my lack of Spanish. I did not feel that my understanding was as important as my listening. I caught the idea that he had headaches and that he could not see out of one eye. I guessed that he had a cataract. He was sixty years old. He had no work. He needed work to eat.
Constantly, he thanked God and thanked me and we reached across the table and held hands many times as he ever so slowly ate his pizza and talked. I believe that he believed that God had literally come down from heaven in the form of me just for him….and I believed that he was God in person.
He wept again.
Mostly he smiled with two front teeth missing. At one point I must have had on my pensive face and that troubled him. He wasn’t happy until I smiled again. THIS WAS EUCHARIST! Plain and simple. Clear and welcoming. It was the first supper. Isn’t that what Eucharist is…Jesus coming down to each one of us, no matter who we are or where we are, or what we did or didn’t do, or if we had a bath or not….in the form of bread. It was a table of welcome and of deep and heart-felt sharing. And our hearts burned within us.
The man finished his pizza and drank the Pepsi. We put the French fries in a paper sack for him to take with him. I wonder who the person was whom he fed.
And he disappeared among the many.
Everyday of life can be an invitation to a deeper relationship we God if
we have the eyes to see.
I am in my last week of formal study of the Spanish language in the lovely city of Antigua, Guatemala. Next week I move to the Peten. I looked through my photos to see if I had anything interesting that I had not shared. The following is what I found.
On another interesting note, during class this morning we experienced a "temblor" (a small earthquake). I would say that the various tremors lasted for about 30 seconds. These are very common in Guatemala.
In my blog of August 14, 2012 entitled Holy Families, I shared pictures of some artwork that I found in a shop in Antigua. For me these are powerful and descriptive images. Recently I visited two museums. I would like to share the experiences.
Brenda, Lucy and I visited Las Capuchins or the Convento de Capuchinas. This is located about two minutes from where I live. The Capuchin nuns arrived in Antigua in 1726 and this convent was built in 1736. It experienced massive damage in the earthquake of 1773. Restoration of the building began in 1943 and continues today. Part of the second floor has been rebuilt in a partnership between the Guatemalans and the Chinese and this space is a museum. Included along with the displays are words in three translations: Spanish, English and Chinese. I found this to be very interesting! The museum holds many large statues and paintings of Jesus, the Holy Family and the saints as do the many churches in Antigua. What struck me most was the statement that one of the main purposes of the statues and paintings was to catechize the masses of people. To see more of the ruins, watch this YouTube video which could have been taken today! It is 3.28 minutes.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBpKMd-Vzfs The segment from 0-0.33 shows pictures of the Cathedral which is located in the Central Park of Antigua. This is a very short walk from where I live. (Groups of musicians often entertain in the park and many people gather there. Yesterday I wandered there at noon. I heard lovely music and made my way toward it. I found two men playing wooden flutes of various types to music from a boom box. Gathered around them were about 30 disabled men and women, young and old, many in wheelchairs. That the
music delighted their hearts was demonstrated by their dancing in their chairs or otherwise and the broad smiles. Incredible! Unfortunately, I did not have my camera.) The segment from 0.34 to 2:12 shows the Convento de Capuchinas. The segment from 2:13 to 3:28 shows the church and convent ruins of La Merced (Our Lady of Mercy). Again, this is located just down the street. I attend Mass at La Merced.
The second place is the Centro de Formacion de la Cooperacion Espanola, an indication of partnership with Spain. The sign outside the building states: AECID Embajada de Espana en Guatemala. This is a new space again built out of ruins. It holds many offices, a library, a children’s library and spaces for exhibits, movies and gatherings. It seems that the exhibits rotate on a monthly basis. So far I have seen two of these exhibits both of which dealt with social justice issues. Powerful exhibits.
The most recent exhibit at this building is entitled “La realidad y otras asuntos”. It is a display of at least 50 photos by photojournalist Rodrigo Abd. I have included a few photos below. At some point I realized that these were photos….that is the actual scene was taking place right there in front of Rodrigo as he took the picture. Many of the photos that were on display can be found at http://rodrigoabd.com. Click on Galleries and Guatemala. There is also a section called Palimpsestos at the bottom which is a series of double-exposed film. I am warning you that most of the photos are gruesome. I do not recommend this site for children. The Midwife Francisca section might be of special interest to some. Also, note the dates of Abd’s
The civil war of Guatemala ended in 1996. Open discussion about the events is just beginning to take place. Books are beginning to be written that tell the stories. Court cases are in process. The time of healing has just begun. I am motivated to continue to learn the Spanish language so that I will be able to read and listen to these stories and better understand.
The known “bad guys” are displayed in the photos of Abd. In my opinion, it is an act of extreme courage to display these faces and to tell the story through this media to the public while these men are still alive and in public office. There are stories daily in the newspaper regarding these past events as well. For example page two of the newspaper dated September 25, 2012, held the story of four women who stepped forward to testify about the violence done to them in the war during the years between 1982 and 1986.
The first photo in the exhibit is the first one below. Janet, my teacher and I spent time talking about this one and what it meant to her. I asked her to summarize her thoughts about this photo in one word. She said: Hypocrisy. I can never fully understand her experience of this double-exposure. Having learned about some of the Guatemalan customs is helping. Janet said, “When I saw the first photograph, I felt much fear because I know many persons in the photograph and I know that they are famous persons with a lot of money. Some are politicians recognized for their evil work in government.” Some background information might be helpful. It is difficult to see, but the men are carrying a platform used on Good Friday. It in some places such as San Filipe, it takes hundreds of men to carry this platform and it is a great and costly honor to participate in this way in the Good Friday procession. For an idea look at this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWCphBTf9cc. The flowers are known as cartuchos; we call them calla-lilies. Note that they are very much alive. Janet described the cartuchos as being very stong, resistant, abundant and cheap flowers in Guatemala. Each person viewing each photograph would have a different interpretation. The photos are genuine works of art and story. The double-exposure is a combination of the current reality: a blend of the past and the present intertwined. I find that Janet and those who work so diligently for their Guatemala, do not wish to look backwards but rather want to look forward. The word HOPE is
What if we used such displays in our churches and gathering places today to catechize about social justice? Perhaps we think that art such as this is way to horrifying. How different is it really from what is viewed on nightly television? Maybe it would take something like this to begin to help us to understand the reality of our One World and our personal and communal role in that world.
I have found in my small travels that many people of other countries believe that everyone in USA is rich. Just as our views of people in other countries is masked with untruths, people in other countries have a false view of USA. It is important to share stories that will enlighten us about the "other".
I attend class at Probigua school in Antigua. Each student in the school has his or her own teacher. Part of my studies includes reading aloud in Spanish. My teacher, Janet, and I found a book about communities that looked interesting. Many of the stories in the book are American history. Janet found these stories interesting, so we made our selection from this book. Janet noted the picture of the Statue of Liberty, which she had never seen before, and we found ourselves reading about immigrants coming to America. We viewed the extreme poverty of that time for the immigrants in the pictures and in the stories. Janet was very surprised at this. We compared it to the current Guatemala where many are just beginning to make a start after years of civil war. We talked about what makes persons rich and poor. Basically we had a great conversation and established a deeper understanding of one another as persons.
In the short visit to the kindergarten in Purcila in September 2012, Ismael and I were talking with the teachers in Spanish. I was asking questions about their school day, and they were asking questions about the school day in America. I was trying to direct the conversation to the idea that what is best for each school in each country may differ in various countries....in other words, it is not necessary to do what the Americans do. We talked about the importance of feeding the children of Purusila during the school day. I told a true story of my experience that surprised them. One day in June 2011, I was coming out of the house to go to the Provincial Center to work. I noticed a boy of about 8 years standing at the bus stop across the street. What struck me was that he seemed to be very well dressed on this particular day. It dawned on me that this might be his last day of school. I struck up a conversation with him. As it was difficult to hear him from across the street with all the traffic, I moved over to his side of the street. When I asked him if this was his last day of school, I found out that it was. I was acting out how exciting this was...the last day of school! He, however, was not excited at all. In fact, he was downright sad. When I asked about this, he summed it up in one question: Who is going to make me breakfast tomorrow? Everyone in America is not rich. Everyone in Guatemala is not poor. There is no everyone. This little one did not share "everyone's" understanding of the last day of school.
To even begin to understand another, I need to set myself aside. I need to let go of everything that I think I know. I need to set aside my feelings, my experiences, my way of thinking. I need to abandon my need to be in control even of the slightest things. I need to move out of the center of the picture. It was only recently that I realized in a new way that I was the center of my picture. It is so natural. I would dare to say that each and every one of us, unconsciously, is the center of our picture. I recommend this exercise, which I sometimes practice while walking in Antigua: I deliberately place the center of the universe somewhere else (other than with me) even just a block or two away. By doing this, I become other than the center and part of the wide world that is not at the center. I become "other". I imagine that the center is in that other place or person, and I tune in to how different the experience is.
I believe that this is also true of my relationship with God, Jesus, Spirit and the call to live the gospel message. If I am going to follow the call of Jesus, I need to set myself aside and deliberately move the center to God and note the experience.
I am once again reading Reflections on Simplicity by Elaine M. Prevallet. This is an extremely simple 28 page pamphlet that I continue to read over and over again. It is a book packed with spiritual wisdom. Yesterday, I was reading the beginning pages and noted words that confirmed what I just described: "I feel a need to be in control of my life and all the factors, situations, and people...to subject them to my agenda....But there's something wrong in the picture. When I imagine--or when I experience--the simple way, everything moves in a rhythm. There is AN AGENDA, and I'm in tune with it, but it's not my creation. I don't need to worry about controlling; I don't need to be anxious that it won't all work out. I'm not in command and don't need to be; I'm not in the foreground and not in the center. I'm only part of a large, moving scene."
Who is "other" in your life experience? Experiment with the exercise and share your experience.
October 1 is the Day of the Child in Guatemala and in other Latin American and South American countries. I was out walking for just a bit today and took these pictures. I saw a troop of little kids going somewhere for a field trip. They were excited!! There are LOTS of children in Guatemala.
All kids are special. There is one special kid that I would like to bring into the spotlight today. His name is Brent Matus. Brent is 10 years old. Brent and his mom, Dr. Coral Matus, visited the Peten in Guatemala during the third week of June 2012. This was Brent's first trip though he has participated in helping the children of Guatemala in many ways from home. It was just the two of them, and they accomplished amazing things! While Dr. Coral was continuing to lay the ground work for the clinic that will begin to be built in the out-of-the-way village of El Chal in November 2012, Brent was busy building tippy taps and teaching the kids how to use them. Here are a few of the creations!!!
Here are Brent's own words about this project:
"Thanks to Randy who gave me the idea to build a tippy tap (hand washing device) and a You Tube video I could get the idea of how to build them and what they looked like. So, my mom helped me get materials. Then I got started and it was hard at first but
then I got a working tippy tap. I made my tippy tap out of four pieces of P.V.C pipe, string, and a milk jug. First, I hammered two
pieces of pipe into the ground. Next, I put a hole in the cap and a hole near the top of the jug. Then I put a piece of pipe through the milk jug. Also I had to tie string to the cap of the jug and secure the pipe from the jug to the two other pipes in the ground.
Finally, I tied a pipe to the string on the cap for the pedal and filled the jug with water. So when I got to the clinic in Guatemala Ismael and Jessi helped me show and explain to the kids how to make a tippy tap. The reason I built this device is because the kids in Guatemala do not have running water and this device solves that problem. Also the kids need to wash their hands before they eat. The kids really enjoyed them. Thank you Mom, Ismael, and Jessi for all the help. By: Brent Matus"
I need to tell you another story. In March 2012 I was with a team of 12 for a visit to the Peten. Eleven of the 12 were working with medical aspects of the trip. I was about other things, one of which was being present to the families who had walked great distances and were now waiting to see the doctors. This included playing with the children. At one point, I approached our team of pediatricians, Dr. Kim Collins, who is a former student of mine, and Dr. Gary Collins, her father, who shared a pediatric office in Ohio with my dad before he retired, have been on many trips to the Peten. I thought that I had a great idea. I asked Dr. Kim and Dr. Gary what they thought about me spending time on the porch teaching the children how to wash their hands. I could tell that they had already entertained this question and were reluctant to give me their response; they did not think that the hand washing lessons were a good idea. They explained that if I taught the children to wash their hands with the soap that we had and the rain water that happened to be present at this location, that the children would be confused when they returned to their homes because such resources might not be present there. It would be better, they suggested, for us to visit each village and find out what they had and then devise a way for the washing of hands that would be effective and sustainable. Wow, and it seemed like such a simple thing.
God knew that Brent at age 10 would come along and begin to make this happen on the very next trip! The soap remains the most difficult resource. There is plenty of soap in Guatemala, but whether or not soap is a priority for purchase by these families is another question. I am thinking that we will use soap as a reward for follow through on one or another project.
Since June 2012, the tippy taps traveled through Ismael and Orfe to other children to the houses of the villagers in Purucila. Ismael and Orfe visit this village three times a week to work with the community. The children here also receive Kids Against Hunger regularly. The kindergarten in Purucila was the first school to receive Dell laptop computers (from a grant from Dell to SewHope). They have had four computers since July 2012 and are making great progress with them. The teachers at this kindergarten are amazing! I could talk about them all day though I have only met them twice for less than an hour total! Anyway, today we are talking about water. Tippy-taps became a project in the kindergarten of Purucila. There are currently two tippy-taps located at the kindergarten in Purcila, one in the front yard and one in the back yard. Better than just being there, I know that these tippy-taps are actually used. Using the tippy-taps at school trains the children to use them at their homes, and the children then train the families to use them as well. Well this became the project: To get the tippy-taps into the homes of the students in the village. Ismael and Orfe and the teachers of the school worked with the children. If a child got a tippy-tap into their yard, the child received a book!
Once again, leave it to the children. Special thanks to the children at Ottawa Hills Elementary School, who for the past three years have shared their book drive with SewHope and the children of the Peten. These children alone have provided hundreds of books for children such as these!
Sr. Pam Buganski
Sr. Pam joined SewHope as our first American Project Coordinator in 2012