Friday was one of those days! You know, one of those where God actually lets you see God at work!!!!
Three significant events occurred.
First, Orfe and I join the women's march in Flores in honor of De Día Internacional Para la Eliminación de Violencia Contra La Mujer (International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women). The actual day is Sunday, November 25. This day was established in 1999 in the General Assembly of the United Nations. On two successive days, Orfe and I participated in events in honor of this day. On Friday, several women’s groups came together to participate as one body under the leadership of Red Department de Organizaciones de Mujeres de Peten. The women were well organized with signs, umbrellas (used as parasols) with logo, and response and information sheets that they passed out along the route of the march. Music and publicity as well as police and radio accompanied the group. In front of a municipal building in the central park of Flores where the march began, the women used their voices in two languages (Spanish and a Mayan language) to express three demands of leadership. Their slogan: Todas Las Mujeres…Todos Los Derechos (All Women, All Rights). They presented a leader with their signed petition. He finally came out of the building and gave some response to the women before they began marching. The march held up a fair amount of traffic especially as the group crossed the bridge connecting Santa Elena and Flores. I frequently see signs with the purpose of raising awareness of the violence against women. There is evidence of much hard work among women to raise awareness and to raise their voices for the violence to end.
(On Thursday, Orfe and I traveled to Nuevo Horizonte. Here a cooperative of women’s groups was established 7 years ago. Each year groups of women from the surrounding villages come for the day to sell their products, to encourage and support one another, to unite forces as a group, and to share ideas and commitments. This day was used as a preparation day for the march in Flores described above.)
Second, in the afternoon, Orfe's Youth Group came to Orfe’s house in Santa Ana and prepared a huge garden to be planted. I have to admit that I had my doubts that this was really going to happen. We had 30 “kids”, only a few tools, and ground that was hardened and full of rocks and well-rooted corn stalk stumps. I only had doubts until I saw the first 10 year old swing the heavy (made for a man) pick ax. Everyone participated by taking turns with the pick axes (one of Ismael’s and one brought by the kids), the three hoes (again some came with the kids), and, of course, their hands. We “tilled” twice as much land as we had anticipated in less than two hours. There was no whining. I saw nothing but complete joy and participation as well as lots of initiation from the children themselves. At the end of two hours, Ismael gave those children from needy families a bag of Kids Against Hunger food to take home. Ismael, Orfe and I were all participants in the work.
But this is not all. Before the kids started, Ismael talked with the group about what they were doing, how they were going to do it, and why they were doing it. This garden is very different from the corn and beans type of garden which some have. With corn and beans, you plant, wait, and pick. All depends on the rain. With this garden there is preparation of the soil, pulling of weeds, removing animals, watering when God does not send rain, etc. The children were so attentive. After the plowing, the group gathered in a circle and Orfe shared a bible study with the kids. Next, I was asked to teach a bit of English. Since the prior day had been Thanksgiving, I did my best to speak in Spanish about Thanksgiving Day and then we sang together in English one verse of the song Thank You, Lord. We ended with our hands joined in prayer. (Now you have to understand. We are in the village in Guatemala. Everything is done by hand. On Monday of this same week, the land that we tilled with the children on Friday was a corn field. On Wednesday and Thursday, Ismael hired a man to come and clear the corn and to chop down two trees…with a machete…)
Third, we all traveled to El Chal for a meeting with the men and women regarding the progress of the building of the Birthing Center. All of the past week, Ismael and two young boys had been the only ones on hand at the Birthing Center. Ismael completed the work of the water and sewer pipes while the two boys continued with spreading cement over the cement blocks on the inside and now outside of the building. While Ismael was working, a group of the women came to see him. They were discouraged that the men were not helping. So, a meeting was negotiated. On Friday evening at 5:00 a group of about 7 women including Catelina who is the midwife, and another woman who is a health promoter of the area, and four men, including the local elected leader Carlos who lives across the street, joined Ismael, Orfe and me in a circle where we stood for over an hour. Ismael led the group. He was a master teacher!! He began by thanking God for all that had been accomplished, mentioning many specific things and people. He then mentioned his concerns and the women’s concerns and he did his best to save face for the leader and the men. He reminded the group of the promises that they had made at the beginning of the project. Then he asked if anyone else wanted to speak. Three of the men spoke as did two of the women. All spoke peacefully. Ismael encouraged the women to participate in the building, something that the women of this community do not do, and he cited my work on the ditch for the water pipes as an example of participating which the leader had witnessed. Next Ismael cited the gospel. Then he brought up the fact that Dr. Coral, the person who organized the payments for this building, is coming next week with a team and that before they arrived to work on the electricity, both the floor and the roof needed to be completed. By the end of the meeting, the group was making plans for how they were going to invite people to participate starting on the next day. Everyone shook hands and we parted. It was a wonderful meeting. Let’s hope that lots of folks showed up on the weekend to participate!
(On the following day, Ismael and I traveled 45 minutes to La Libertad to meet with the metal worker (whose wife had come to the clinic while the SewHope team was there) who will be contracted to do the windows and the roof of the Birthing Center. This man is supposed to begin working on Wednesday of this week. Again, you have to remember that we are in Guatemala. We are not purchasing already-made windows. We are purchasing the rods of metal that will be cut with a saw by hand and welded together by hand by this man and his
All in all, this was one magnificent day! I am once again convinced and testify that God accomplished it all!!! It is so clearly way beyond anything that we were capable of!!!
Sr. Pam Buganski
Sr. Pam joined SewHope as our first American Project Coordinator in 2012