Tuesday, April 27, 2010

House Blessing - 1

We piled in the truck and drove the mile or so to the house site, for the event we'd been working for all week - the blessing of the house we'd built. We sang "May Nothing Evil Cross This Door" for the family (and Krista read a Spanish translation of the words), then clapped and sang "Enter, Rejoice and Come In!" as we followed the family into the house (which had had its roof installed just a few hours earlier). We presented the blanket we'd made from shirts off our backs, and enjoyed a yummy carrot cake.

House Blessing - 2

Our Kerry and the family's middle daughter Carolina both want to be teachers; Kerry's favorite subject is Spanish and Carolina's is English. Turns out musical tastes transcend borders too -- lots of fun connections.

It was a lovely celebration!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Meeting Carlos

Anne and Jim decided to sponsor a child, after being here and being so impressed with both the need, and with the competent organization, Common Hope. Happily, the social worker was able to arrange for a visit with our child before we left -- Jim had to leave Guatemala early, but Anne visited Carlos and his brother, two sisters and mother. Carlos is a very sweet boy, with a smile that reminded her of Jim's. Anne and Carlos' mother talked a lot about cooking - always a good point of connection! (Yes, red beans are more traditional but her kids like black beans...)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Meeting Sergio and going to his school

My nephew Glen and I are sponsoring Sergio. This was our first meeting with him at his home. Sergio ran about the yard showing us his pet turtle, puppy, and the family baby pig. We played catch with the nerf football Glen brought from his childhood toy supplies. We also visited the village school where Sergio attends First Grade. He will be 7 years old May 10 and has 5 siblings.

At the local school in rural San Rafael, 45 min from Antigua, we had spontaneous clay animal making, with shouts of each child´s favorite animal. This evolved to writing names with sidewalk chalk, the children directing us how to spell their names. They were mesmerized at Glen´s height!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Meeting Allan

Linda and I met the family of the 7 year old boy that our son and daughter in laws family sponsors.
Allan seems a very bright child and is doing well in school. He loved the etch a sketch that we brought him from our sons family. He immediately started writing on the board and did so the entire time we were there.
His mother is very pleasant and outgoing, even animated. She seems very dedicated to keeping her kids in school and has a son, Alejandro, who has passed the 6th grade level which is a significant achievement in Guate and one that common Hope is focussing on.
The social worker with whom we traveled and who is the social worker assigned to this family is the same one I traveled with when we were here three years ago. He personifies the people of Common Hope in general and the band of social workers in particular who provide support to families while makng sure the families are taking the agreed steps to a better life.
We left with hug and kisses from a smiling Allan and his mother, promising a fire truck book from our grandson. ( Alex -hope you can spare one.)

Construction Continues, even more photos

We etched "FPB" (First Parish Brookline) in the almost-hard cement, in the back right corner. No one will see it, but we'll know it's there!

Construction Continues, more photos

More photos from today's construction - read blog below.

Construction Continues

These photos were all taken today - we hope you're impressed! We installed the 14 panels that we'd made earlier in the week, working from one corner in the back to the front corner. There was a fair amount of re-work (note the use of the pick ax, the boot, the hammer, and various other bodies of force) but in the end, we finished everything except the roof.

The family for whom we're building the house currently lives on the property already - we're basically doubling their living space. Mid-morning we heard 'clip clap clip clap' and realized it was daughter Sonya making tortillas - we enjoyed a hot one, and some delicious watermelon, served by her mother, as a siesta snack. The family father, Don Lorenzo, also joined in in making his own house.

Tomorrow is the big day when we have a House Blessing on the finished [presumably with a roof] home!

Meeting Dulce!

Wednesday was the day we were all waiting for, when we would meet Dulce, the 8-year-old our church has been sponsoring through Common Hope. (By being affiliated with Common Hope, she and her family become eligible for medical care at the excellent clinic here, food and housing assistance, and a lot of social services, as long as Dulce stays in school - education being their target objective.)

We were expecting Dulce and her mother to arrive at our project at 1:30 but as we left lunch at 1pm, there she was, sitting expectantly with her mother. We recognized each other from photos and, smiles all around, communicated our excitement without words. Six of the 12 of us met with her, and our translator Louise (to Dulce's left in the photos) - we had decided that all 12 of us would be overwhelming so the 6 who did not have their own sponsored child got to meet with Dulce.

As you can see in these photos, she is a treasure and we all fell instantly in love with this thoughtful, poised, lovely, bright, polite young woman. She told us that she loves to read, and showed us her report card -- all 99s and 98s (except a bit lower in physical education, winning her instantly to my heart...). We've learned through our social work visits just how remarkable this is -- we've seen many report cards full of 40s and 50s, and a full third of children don't pass first grade the first time through. Only 50% graduate from sixth grade - so the fact that her two older brothers are still in high school tells us that this is a remarkable family that values education. She said she'd like to be a doctor (and Louise says that this, too, is rare).

We had brought some school supplies, and a Spanish version of a few books -- see her receiving Make Way for Ducklings in the photo. (I wonder how you pronounce Jack, Kack, Lack, etc in Spanish??) Then the doll and doll's doggy, wrapped up in the blanket we'd made from the Shirts Off our Back project. And we gave the larger version of the blanket to her mother.

It's one thing to read about children in need, and quite another to begin to build a connection with one another, and to see just how our support can make a difference. We're smitten!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Preschool Fun

Wednesday we gathered with 20+ vivacious preschool kids 3-6 yrs of age. They loved swamp monster madness with the parachute. The swamp monster grabbed there legs and they screamed with glee as they joined the monster under the chute. Later we rocked out to Michael Jackson´s Thriller, who knew! Nothing better then hugs and giggles with los chicitos...

And the house building begins!

Today Karen, Keith, Jim, Jack, Kerry, Lindsey, Pablo, and Felix (Common Hope staff) went to the site where the house is being built. We dug holes, put in the supports, and finally put down the cement tiles that will be the floor. This has left us all tired and very sore. The walls go up tomorrow!

Meeting Jennedy

Yesterday, Jack and I got to meet Jennedy Jazmin, who we had know from yearly photos for the last three years but now we are a real presence for each other. Our hearts were touched when she brought out the photo of us that we had sent three years ago, then brought out an envelope with all the letters and photos we had sent. Our hearts were totally captured when, at the end of the visit, when asked if she had anything else to say to us, said shyly, "te quiero mucho" (I love you a lot.) It was hard to leave and our letters will have more meaning from now on.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Meeting Cesar

I believe I can safely say on behalf of both my father and I that meeting Cesar, a six year boy we starting sponsoring just a few months ago, was one of the most powerful, rewarding, and heart filling experiences we have ever had. Upon arriving in San Rafael, I was struck not by the narrow dirt road, hundreds of acres of land, 45+ stray dogs, and one room, run down, tin roof homes. I was instead struck by the love. It seemed as if every person knew every other person and the eye contact and greetings were unlike anything that we would ever encounter in Boston. Everyone wished each other a good day, and to me, that simple gesture was extremely heartwarming. My dad and I are clearly different -labeled as "griegos" and laughed at when we mixed huge, tin pots with wooden rods of protein supplimented leche for the school children, which we later learned may be the only meal many of them recieve all day. But we were too accepted by all.
We sat in the home of Cesar with his loving mother who started the nutrion program at the school, his hard working father who is planning on planting more beans soon, and his four other siblings. A shy yet amazingly beautiful little boy who slowly warmed up to us as we presented him with some books, a quilt made out of tshirt from members of our church, and pencils complete with sharpener. My spanish is limited, but I was able to communicate with him, and his small smile and wide eyes explained it all. I am not sure if he knew what we were doing there or that we were paying for his schooling, family's healthcare, social work visits, and his two room home - to him, we were just new friends.
After we left, we turned around to look at their humble home and saw Cesar, smiling widing with a yellow tshirt, running down the dirt path after me. He stopped and hugged me tightly. Thinking of this moment fills my heart with more than love. Josefina, Cesar's mother, spent the whole visit thanking us for the gifts we were giving her, and all I wanted to do was thank her for giving us the gift of this special little boy who became real today after just being a picture on our refridgerator.
Needless to say, it has been marvelous. It is only day 2, but if we were to leave tomorrow, this trip would of been more than worth it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Guatemalan Donuts

Linda, Charles and I spent the afternoon cooking with 4 Guatemalan women. We taught them chile right from Senora Betty Crocker which took about 20 minutes. They countered with molettas or what became known as Guate donuts.

They were incredibly complicated and took almost two hours to make. The two older abuelas, reluctantly at first, allowed us to participate in the process, kind of amazed at the idea of two men working in the kitchen. They left with big hugs for all of us.

Home Visits

Social workers with the program make unannounced visits to affiliated families, to keep up to date with their needs. We have been asked to go along on these visits. I went on one this afternoon. Domingo and I were dropped off the minibus in a village outside Antigua, and started to walk up a cobblestone street. Off in the distance a group of children spied us and shouted, happily, "Domingo!!" Clearly he's a Friend. We chatted with the kids for a while, and they loved making silly faces for the camera.

In one home, as Domingo chatted with an older girl, her younger sister was playing with some scissors. On the table was a roll of toilet paper. I unrolled a foot of paper, asked her for the scissors, and made her a paper doll chain. She'd clearly never seen such magic and was delighted.

We went next door to another home visit, and who should follow us but my friend with the scissors, with 4 friends, calling, "Gringa! Gringa! Un autre" (sorry - my French is better than my Spanish, but I knew they wanted another!). I made a half dozen chains from toilet paper, including several with 8 dolls in a row. As we left the homes, walking down the path, through the trees, along the side of a steep hillside, my scissors friend and a 9-year-old boy each took my hand and we walked together for a while, till our paths separated. No photos except on that permanent hard drive in my mind.


We're building a house for a particular family, whom we'll meet on Friday. Here's a photo of Krista, our project host, describing two models of the home. Ours will be made up of 14 panels (4 panels by 3 panels), constructed from two by fours, with a kind of pre-fab cement siding. This morning, one group began making these panels, right at our project site. We approached timidly and awkwardly - here's my first nail :( -- But by the end of the morning, hammers were singing merrily and we'd completed 6 panels. Later, another group delivered the panels to the site, to begin construction.