Sr. Pamela Marie Buganski
“God is always talking to me when I am in Guatemala.”
It has been three months since SewHope kicked off the Air, Water and Light Project. (Visit www.sewhope.org and my blog dated October 25, 2012 to refresh yourself on the meaning and purpose). Thank you to each of you who have made a contribution to this work!!
Today we took a giant leap forward. With the start of a new school year, Peter and I will be working in the kindergarten in Purushila. The school purchased a water filter for Q120 (subsidized by Q680 from donations to this project). Today Peter, and Lady, the director, as well as the respective teacher for the 4, 5 and 6 year olds talked with the students about the water filter.
Our goal is comprehensive. The team members of SewHope continue to educate families, teachers, women and children about the need for and correct usage of the water filters. With Peter in the village, there will be the opportunity for continued instruction on using and cleaning the filters in the village homes.
Our hope is to start with the mothers and children of the school and through them to educate the families and to work toward full usage. Two mothers of the children in the school cook the noon meal for the children each day. The plan is that the cleaning of the buckets, fllter and individualized cups will be done on a daily basis by these mothers who will then know how to clean and use the filters in their own homes. Already we sold an addtional filter to a family.
As I watched the instruction today and then witnessed one of the children take a cup of clean water, I reflected on the parable of the lost sheep. I rejoiced that this one little one had a cup of cl
Today Peter accompanied me to the kindergarten in Purushila. Peter and the teachers talked about starting gardens with the children with the hope of expanding them to the houses in the community. The school also purchased a water filter.
Lady, Livi, Rosa and Erelia are full of ideas and very open to our ideas as well.
Yesterday, I asked many questions about how they thought the computers were going to work in the school, and they made adjustments to make it work. For example, since the five-year olds have flat desks and the six-year olds who will be using the computers have singleslant- topped desks, the two teachers agreed to switch desks for the year. When I asked a question about security, they showed me the extent to which the computers will be protected each night...in a locked file cabinet inside of a windowless locked closet, inside of a locked classroom. When they suggested that we do computers with the entire class rather than pulling out students for individual practice in small groups, I asked how we would supervise 20 children. They came up with four adults. It was like they were waiting for my next question with eagerness to answer it. They are so ready, so willing and so excited!
Here are some pictures from today's observations:
Today I spent the morning in the six-year old classroom of the kindergarten in Purushila. What FUN! Livi is a wonderful teacher!! She has 20 students who are delighted to be in her class. For the first six months of the school year, Marlene, a college student studyig to be a teacher will also be in the classroom.
School is just getting back into full swing here in Guatemala. I felt that it was important for me to befriend the students and to understand the school better before coming in with the computers.
I am not an expert of kindergartens, but I know excellence when I see it! What a blessing this entire school is to this tiny village!
The children started their day with a greeting to their teacher in their very loud voices. Then they knelt down by their desk for the prayer that they recited aloud with Livi. There was no way that God could have refused the prayers of these little ones!
They did the usual kindergarten things:
...a child drew the sun on the board to describe the day...
...they stood several times to sing songs with actions and one of the songs was about brushing teeth and combing hair...
...Livi told the bible story about Joseph and his many colored coat while holding the bible and walking among the children and showing the picture...
...Livi showed the class examples of minerals while talking about them and having the children echo responses, then they colored some minerals...
...the children practiced working with the vowels in several ways with multiple activities...then they reviewed the letters...
...all of the children had a 30-minute play period....
...mothers prepared food for the children to eat before they left for the day.
Livi's classroom is bright and very organized! She has a day-by-day plan for the entire year following a course of study. I was amazed when I saw it! The children have their names on their seats and on the materials that Livi has prepared. The room is clean. Livi calls the children "Mi amor". She truly represents the love of God to these children. I can hardly wait to see what happens tomorrow!!!
Every three months I need to renew my visa in Guatemala. This proves to be a challenge. For the October renewal, Gloria, an employee of Isabel, spent many hours with me to get through the renewal process in Guatemala City. A rule is that you are not allowed to renew the visa two times in a row. Therefore, this time I had to leave the country. Belize was close and it seemed the logical choice. It was especially nice that I was able to be with a group from Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Gambier, Ohio.
I am certainly not an expert on Belize, but I thought I would mention a few of the things that I noticed in my three day, 72 hour, mandatory visit.
Beliize has many RC (Roman Catholic) schools. I had the opportunity to visit a few of them and we passed by many others on the road. In contrast, I have not yet found one Catholic School in Guatemala. I know they are here somewhere. I did not meet any Sisters in the schools, but I heard from a teacher that the Sisters come after school to help prepare the students for First Communion and Confirmation.
I was thrilled to find the presence of the same Sawyer filters that we are promoting in Guatemala are present in the schools in Belize as well. It seems that the Rotary Club of Belize purchased these filters with the water buckets for all of classrooms of each school. How cool is that?
I was also able to view some of the computer labs that Jim and Doug have up and running in some of the schools. It gives me greater confidence that our goals can be realized in Guatemala.
There appears to be even more open space in Belize. In traveling across the country from west to east on main roads, we rarely came across a town or establishment.
The roads in Belize, in general, appear to be in much poorer condition than those in Guatemala.
The inhabited land in Belize appears to be more "tamed" than the land in Guatemala. By that I mean that I saw lots of grass in open areas. Grass is not so common in our area of Guatemala. We tend to have dirt or weeds.
Belize is an English speaking country, though many on the border between Belize and Guatemala speak both Spanish and English.
Dr. Jim Skon, Ph.D., is a Professor at Mount Vernon Nazarene University located in Gambier, OH. He is also the Chairperson of the Computer Science department. In addition to being with MVNU for 30 years, Dr. Skon has been a software company business owner and has written several books. He has taken teams of youth from the MVNU to work with computer installation and education in Belize, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. Dr. Skon helped to install the computer system in the Kujip Hospital in the Western Highlands of PNG. Dr. Skon has assisted SewHope in acquiring Dell computer laptops for the schools in Guatemala. He and his team were kind enough to spend five days with our team in the schools in Guatemala helping us to get started. With their assistance, we were able to jump by leaps and bounds. We hope to continue the collaboration with MVNU.
Doug Karl, an entrepreneur and electrical engineer, has worked in various capacities with Dr. Skon for over 30 years. They make a great team. Doug invented the first access point as well as the first security system for computers. He sold his company to Google. He and Dr. Skon have been working on another internet project for seven years and are eager to roll it out.
I would like to extend my special thanks to Dr. Skon, Doug and their team of five students, who were incrediibly generous with their time and knowledge for the advancement of the mission and work of SewHope. Thank you!
Today was such an incredible day! I am still smiling at God in total disbelief! As I told our group, "This was beyond my wildest dreams of what might happen here in 100 years!"
What was so incredible?
In the course of 5 days
...with the grace of God...
...the help of an incredible set of friends from Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Gambier, Ohio, who have done mission work in Belize for 25 years, whom we met about a year ago when one of them gave a mission talk in his church where a member of SewHope's Education Committee just happened to attend as she had just moved to Gambier...
...who have since helped us to acquire 60 Dell computer laptops, have refurbished them with free software in the Spanish language, taught us how to repair them, have been working on a solar powered system to run them, have assisted us in getting internet where no internet has been before...
....who took a week from their own mission trip to Belize to join us in Guatemala...
...bringing with them five students from the University, a computer entrepreneur and electrical engineer, and a college professor...
...and with the relationship SewHope has built with the inspired teachers of the kindergarten in Purushila....
...Ismael, on less than a day of notice, was able to gather on Tuesday morning at the kindergarten in Purushila...
...four leaders of the community of Purushila, the directors of all three government schools in Purushila as well as all of their teachers, and one of the health promoters of the village.....
....where Ismael and I led a meeting that had great participation from this group that does not generally work tremendously well together...
...with the focus of the meeting on the need for the community of Purushila to work together as one for the sake of the children...and the stated desire on the part of SewHope to listen to what it is that the community would like to do with computers in their village, we agreed to meet again in two days at the kindergarten for continued discussion...
...Jim, the professor from MVNU, with Rudy, the director of Living to Serve, whom we began workiing with about three months ago, and I...led a hands-on computer demonstration of the free software that is available through the Dell computers (Ismael was in Guatemala City trying to get a Visa for his son)....in which this group was fully engaged for three hours working on programs geared for kindergarden through high school students and curriculum....
...with the help of Doug, the electrical engineer/entrepreneur and the five students....with only Rudy speaking Spanish well and me working as a partial translator....
...had such a fantastic day of teaching teachers!!!!!!!!!
....agreed to meet again today at the kindergarten on their first official day of school....to work with the 6-year-olds for the morning with the computer programs....
....AND I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE WHAT GOD HAS PLANNED FOR OUR WORK WITH THE CHILDREN.....AND BEYOND WITH THE SCHOOLS AS WE CONTINUE TO MOVE FORWARD.....
Doug's response to my original statement was that maybe God wants me to dream bigger!
We have a great new team here led by Dr. Anne! In our van rides to and from our various locations of ministry for the day, we have time to chat. I find myself introducing new individuals to the work of SewHope at these times.
Yesterday the topic of Dr. Anne's last trip here came up. At that time, our team traveled 5 hours to San Cristobal to a hospital where Dr. Anne and other team members had planned to perform surgeries on women. In the course of the description of this trip, I said: "It was just a building." And in saying those words aloud, it struck me.
We often talk about a church building being just a building. That is, that the People of God are the important part and the real part of Church. But, do we act that way? Just as the hospital in San Cristobal, which had no medical supplies with which to perform surgeries, was just a building (Dr. Anne had to bring every last item that would be needed down to the tiniest thing), so, our church buildings are really not the heart and soul of Church.
However, do we spend as much time, effort and money in literally dressing the People of God as we do dressing up our church buildings? How can we better put our words into real action?
In the course of that conversation, we noted that even here, the churches are some of the most well constructed and decorated buildings. There is a new church being built almost in the middle of the huge market area (which is an awesome idea!), but the design is incredible for this place. There is a fifth church building being built in Purushila. It is exceedingly extravagant compared to the houses in the area. Really, has anyone thought about this? Does this small village really need another church...and one that looks like this?
The faith of the people is so deep in the heart of the people here. No building is needed for Church, for God, for Jesus (by whatever name) to be present. When I get to the pearly gates and meet Saint Peter, I am sure that he is not going to ask me the proverbial "mathematical train question". I am not so sure, however, that he will not ask "the Church question".
Tomorrow the first members of a new team arrive in the Peten: Dr. Anne and companions. Orfe is beginning to try to prepare her ears. "Is she/he speaking Spanish or English?", she finds herself asking. And our non-proficient-in-Spanish team members will find themselves asking the same question.
For example: As a medical student asked a Spanish-speaking patient preliminary questions, she kept hearing mixed in with the responses from the patient: "Gracias, adios!" She could not figure out why the patient was saying "Thank you, good-bye" when the appointment hadn't even started and the patient did not appear to be leaving. It was only later that she realized that the patient was using the very common phrase: "Gracias a Dios!" or "Thanks be to God!"
Two other common short Spanish responses are: "Ay, Si!" or an emphasized "Yes!" and "Ay, No!" an emphasized "No!" Wouldn't you know it "Ay, Si!" sounds exactly like "I see!" and "Ay, no!" sounds exactly like "I know!" And the phrases are not exactly interchangable! Think about it!
Franklin, the third son of Ismael and Orfe, is preparing to go to the USA to join his older brother, Jesse, at St. John Jesuit High School in Toledo. His scheduled departure is about 12 days away. After a 6-week visit just before Christmas, he has been invited to return not only to an education in the USA, but also to join a very loving family with his brother. As you can imagine, he is very excited! So, while I am trying to learn and practice Spanish, he is trying to learn and practice English. This is a house of strange languages including the babbling of 1-year old Anita!
Each evening, Franklin and I spend some time together reading in English. I am surprised by how well he does, including the pronunciation of very complicated words. His comprehension is lacking, but he is working on it. He will adapt quickly once surrounded by English speaking friends and family.
As Anita grows older, it is our hope that while she is learning Spanish, I will learn it with her. Our hope is that Anita will be bi-lingual (and will understand the difference between Ay, Si! and I see!) from an early age. At the same time, it is our hope that Orfe will learn English. All of us learning along the way.
I found the book The Island of the Colorblind for my Nook at the Toledo Public Library and it looked interesting. It is written by Oliver Sacks, the man who wrote the book Awakenings (movie of the same title). The book is a description of the author's travel to islands with an above average occurance of colorblindness.
I never expected to find such similarities between Oliver's experience on islands in the Pacific and my experience in the Peten in Guatemala. For those of you who have been on a mission trip, see if any of this sounds familiar:
"If seeing patients, vising archaelological sites, wandering in rain forests....at first seemed to bear no relation to each other, they then fused into a single unpartitionable experience, a total immersion..." (p13)
"We had gone a couple of hundred yards when we were overtaken by a twelve-year-old boy running at top speed, fearlessly, looking like a young knight with his new sun visor. He had been squinting, looking down, avoiding the light when we saw him earlier, but now he was running in broad daylight, confidently making his way down the steep trail. He pointed to the dark visor and gave a big smile. 'I can see, I can see!' and then he added, 'Come back soon!'..." (p 74) ( When has one of us done something exceedingly simple and found that it made all the difference?)
"He had gone to Palau as a young man in the Peace Corps, and had been shocked at what he saw--fearful incidence of treatable diseases, combined with a drastic shortage of doctors--and this decided him on a career in medicine, so that he could return to Micronesia as a doctor..." (p. 75) (Perhaps this is our future Jesse.)
"Even though there are half a dozen papers in the scientific literature on the maskum (colorblindness) here in the capital of achromatopsia there was almost no local medical awareness of the problem..." (p. 76)
"There is no time for an existential medicine which enquires into what it might mean to be blind or colorblind or deaf, how those affected might react and adapt, how they might be helped--technologically, psychologically, culturally--to lead fuller lives." (p. 77) (SewHope is looking for persons willing to come to adapt houses of the disabled and diseased to help them live fuller lives. Interested?)
"And yet here and there, rising incongruously above tin-roofed shanties, were the bulky cinderblock buildings of the government and the hospital, and a satellite dish...I was amazed to see this...The explanation...was still in its way rather astonishing. The satellite dish is part of a modern telecommunications system: the mountainous terrain and bad roads had prevented the installation of a telephone system until a few years ago; now the satellite system allows instant, crystal-clear conversations between the most isolated parts of the island, and gives...access to the Internet as well... In this sense, Kolonia has skipped the twentieth century and moved direct, without the usual intermediate stages, to the twenty-first." (p. 78) (So true! except that some parts of Guatemala are still isolated from signals for technology.)
"Having come to teach, he found himself instead listening and learning, and after a while started to form fraternal or collegial relationships...so that their complementary knowledge and skills and attitudes could be joined...." (p. 82) (Exactly what SewHope is attempting to do!)
"The drizzling rain in which we had started had steadily mounted in intensity, and our path was rapidly becoming a stream of mud...." (p. 85)
"If he was to work with the Chamorros and their disease, he wished to be among them, surrounded by Chamorro food, Chamorro customs, Chamorro lives." (p. 97)
"John feels strongly that Micronesia has been far too dominated by America and American doctors, imposing their own attitudes and values, and that it is crucial to train indigenous people--doctors, nurses, paramedics, technicians--to have an autonomous healthcare system." (p. 110)
"The Chamorros have given their stories, their time, their blood... (and) often feel that they themselves are not more than specimens...and that the doctors who visit and test them are not concerned with them. 'For people to admit that their family has this disease is a big step...And then to let medical people come into their homes is another big thing. Yet in terms of treatment or care, health care, home care, they're really not given enough assistance.....John and I go into people's houses regularly, and we come to know the families, their histories, and how they've come to this point in their lives. John has known many of his patients for ten or twelve years....They have come to trust us..." (p. 119)
"This acceptance of the sick person as a person, a living part of the community, extends to those with chronic and incurable illness...who may have years of invalidism." (p. 121)
Last week, Orfe and I visited a mother with three boys who are in various stages of muscular dystrophy. The youngest had come to the clinic while Dr. Coral's team was here in December. It was then that Miguel's disease was diagnosed and a name was given to the disease shared by all of his brothers. We drove part way there and then walked the remaining distance led by a five-year-old neighbor who knew the location of the house. Orfe visited with the mother and the sons. She then gave them with some food staples that she had brought with her. Before leaving we gathered in prayer. I love that Orfe follows up with so many of the people that we meet in the clinic. Cntinued friendship and care mean so much.
Today we cut down the lovely birch-like tree in the center of this photo. The tree was located at Ismael's house in Santa Ana. Unfortunately, Ismael feared the tree would fall on the house (not in this photo; this is the chicken coop) and it was in the space needed to enclose the chickens, turkeys and ducks.
Ismael hired a man who came with is machete. He climbed the tree (with no security line; the line you see attaches the machete to the tree) and soon the large brances began to fall. Only those thin brances at the very top remained.
Meanwhile, on the ground below, Ismael is using his machete to cut down to size the branches that fall.
After lunch, the man returned carrying his large power saw as well as a container of gasoline. Note that his vehicle was a bicycle! I was relieved to know that the three main trunks of the tree would not be cut down with a machete!
This is one tall tree! There was a very small window where the tree could fall without doing damage. To guide the fall, Ismael has taken a rope tied around the trunk of the tree, has wrapped it around the trunk of a second tree and is pulling with all his might while the man with the power saw cuts at the base of the tree.
Perfect landing! The only thing damaged was a wire fence!
Once again the machetes are out. Here Franklin and Hanssel are at work. My machete is the one at the base of the picture.
Each part of this tree is used. In the background you see stacked firewood from the tree. I am hoping that the large leaf pile can be used to make charcoal (whether that happens will be a timing issue).
Here the man with the saw meticulously cuts planks of wood from the lenthy parts of the trunk. I am eager to see how Ismael uses these. Other flat pieces were cut to make seats for chairs. The whole process was a work of art!
Even the saw dust was collected and used in the chicken coop! Gracias, Hanssel!
As in the story of The Giving Tree, all that remains is the stump. Every part of the tree will be lovingly used. We will sorely miss the shade that this tree gave, especially in this very hot country.
Sr. Pam Buganski
Sr. Pam joined SewHope as our first American Project Coordinator in 2012