Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Guatemala.


Building a home for a Guatemalan family

Posted in Guatemala on April 19, 2017

April 29

It is hard to imagine how much delight three rooms can give to a family, but this is what the Developing World Connections team in Duenas, Guatemala, experienced when they built a home for a family there. The main room is 15’ x 15’, the kitchen 8’ x 12’, and the toilet 4’ x 4’. There is sink set on a concrete pad for washing clothes and dishes.

The home is of roofing steel (laminas) built on a wooden post (poste de madera) frame with a cement floor. An eco-stove was installed in the kitchen; this great invention reduces the wood consumption by 70 per cent providing not only economic relief to the family, but also a cleaner (soot-free) environment in the home as the stove has a flue.

Juan, 28, had been in great financial difficulties recently as his wife Leticia, 27, had undergone major surgery. Juan had to pay for the operations as well as paying for friends to travel to Guatemala to donate blood for her operation. Not only the cost of the trip, but also recompense them for their time away from work.

He approached Teresa Quinonez, the founder of the Open Windows Foundation, who works closely with DWC, for help in providing a home for himself and his family. They had been living with Telma, Juan’s Mother, who cared for the family as Leticia recovered.

The DWC team worked with two brothers, Aneebal and Obeth, who provided the building expertise, working meticulously on every aspect of the project.

The family visited the site on several occasions, increasingly delighted as their home progressed. Jaimee, eight, did a happy dance in the kitchen!

Juan, after his day’s work in a local coffee plantation, would cycle to the site to help Aneebal and Obeth after the DWC team had finished for the day.

On our final day with the whole family, we were humbled by Juan’s heartfelt gratitude as he blessed us and DWC for our gift to him and his family, they would never forget what we had done for them. Developing World Connections, through the generosity of it’s donors has brought new hope to this struggling Guatemalan family. Gracias.

Chris Hill,

DWC volunteer, Guatemala, April 2017

 

April 28

As the volunteer work wraps up, here are some photos and comments from two weeks spent in rural Guatemala:

The restaurant at my hotel has a HUGE world map made from a 6,000 to 8,000 piece puzzle. Owner doesn't watch TV. 15 more puzzles on the walls; great art, actually! Can hardly tell they're puzzles.



An 85-year-old man lives in a Developing World Connections (DWC) home. He's still working the fields! Inside of his home, there's a second bed outside photo to the left. The newer homes have cement floors. His machete hanging on the right. He used it once to defend himself from death threats (he won the fight) and spent 10 years in jail because of it.



Most of the house posts are up. Left to right: Gail and Chris Hills (Ontario), Anibal (24-year-old old lead hand, carpenter for 16 years), Dennis Zeller (Albany, New York), Teresa Quinonez, Open Windows Foundation


A Guatemalan re-bar bending machine!


Our family! The two daughters, eight years and 10 months, mom and grandma. Dad has a congenital birth defect - only a thumb on left hand. He works hard at supporting his family. We're trying to get him a prosthetic.


A five-plus-pound block of chocolate made in a shop 10 feet away. Who needs toast when there's this for breakfast?



Inside Open Windows Foundation. Gives the kids some perspective!



An irrefutable universal truth. Kids like to ham for cameras!



There always has to be a kitten pic. This critter started purring when my hand went under its chest and didn't stop until its feet hit the ground. This kitten came from the 85-year-old man's house.



Tom Rankin,

Team leader, Guatemala, April 2017

 

April 25

Some things are meant to be. I debated getting a haircut before I left. Nah, you’ll be fine. Two weeks later, scruffy. Had to leave the job site yesterday morning to walk to the hardware store for plastic pipe. Passing the barber shop, noticed all three chairs empty, haven’t had time to work up a sweat. How bad could the haircut be? Electric clippers, scissors, straight razor, some slimy goop when using the latter, and we’re got one sharp-looking head of hair. Want to guess the price? At home, no straight razor, including tip, $20. Here? $3! Including tip, three bucks! At that price, it’s worth flying back every three months. And next haircut, when my usual barber says, "Haven't seen you in a while," I can say "Yeah, my last haircut was in Guatemala!"

Tom Rankin,

Team leader, Guatemala, April 2017

 

April 23

Sorry for the delay; been kind of distracted with DWC work, exploring, reading, more exploring, some eating, and more exploring. Oh – and more eating!

In no particular order:

(1) Smoking. Anybody who has traveled the Far East knows what smoking rates look like there. So far, here, I can count on one hand the number of Guatemalans I’ve seen smoking. Wonderful! Apparently cigarettes are very expensive. I was in a big grocery store tonight. Will post a pic of their cigarette table later; it’s about the size of an apartment freezer! Not very many Westerners smoking either, actually but certainly way more than locals

(2). Nursing a baby. Well, aren’t we backwards up there. I walk lots after work. About every second day I’ve seen a mom walking down the street nursing a baby, breast fully exposed except for what the baby’s head covers. How healthy is that? The mom we’re building for let her baby latch on during our groups first meeting and the baby let go/reattached four to five times during a five to 10 minute visit. Nobody batted an eye and why would they?

(3) Meds are cheap (roughly half price) with lots of prescription stuff available over-the-counter. Name brands in sealed boxes. Posted price for Viagara is half of what it is in Canada, which may explain why there is such a high birth rate down here!


(4) Traffic. Just as crazy as any Third World country, but we’ve only seen one accident in the first week, and it was minor. Picture pedestrian traffic at the mall on a busy Saturday; turn them all into vehicles and motorcycles! Lots of horn honking but it’s informative, not angry. No angry gestures. Tons of vehicles, buses especially, with tons of those intense LED lights on the front.

(5) Cobblestone streets in Antigua. Great for pedestrians and it slows the cars! Tough on the two people in wheelchairs but it didn’t seem to slow the one scooter we’ve seen!


The Developing World Connections project is going well. The house is up and we met the family last Friday. Dad’s right arm only has the thumb; birth defect and obvious job challenges. Mom just had a serious heart-related medical issue but with support from her Mom she’s ok. Daughter about six and one under a year. The house will be rent-free for two years so they can save for their own property, take the house apart, move and reassemble.

On Monday, we install the bathroom and pour the cement floor. After that, we’ll install an ecostove so they burn less wood and don’t fill their home with smoke. Then we may spend a day or two teaching English to children in our host partner’s school.

That’s enough for today.


Tom Rankin,

Team leader, Guatemala, April 2017

 

April 21

It’s been a good week. Weather warm but not too hot for work, great crew, lots of new experiences. The build started on Tuesday but progress was a bit slow as we laid the groundwork.



 

 

 

 

In Canada, we’d see a variety of high-tech devices used to establish a starting point and run some level lines. Here? A long piece of clear plastic hose filled with water. Tells you where level is every time and for just pennies!

Day one was also slow as some of the digging was in hard ground. We were supplied with machetes to loosen the soil; slow work and only six posts installed. At the end of the day, we decided that DWC wanted us to spend some money on an iron bar, to be left with Open Windows. The next day, production doubled! Give that crew a bonus! 😊



The first two photos (1, 2) show the crew laying the baselines. The next two show our progress with posts and give the initial look of a house. In photos 5 and 6, the walls start going up. Nailing on galvanized steel on the tops of the curves resulted in a few bruised thumbs but nothing serious. Photo 6 and the roof is almost finished. We had some scares with wind gusts but it all worked out fine.

Photo 7 celebrates the first visit of the family, with grandma, mom, and two daughters coming by. We met dad the day before and he came by again at the end of the day. He was born with a congenital birth defect resulting in only a thumb on his right hand, thus limiting work opportunities but not slowing his positive attitude.

 



Mom has had some serious heart issues recently and has been receiving help from her mom. The baby was a bit intimidated to meet our exuberant crew, but soon settled. Photo 8 shows Dennis Zeller getting a farewell hug from their six-year- old daughter, right after she did a happy dance in the new kitchen! Chris was the only one lucky enough to witness her dance, but it was so terrific to see that he brought it up a number of times, grinning every time.

The final photo shows how simple life could be. Early in the week our tender skin felt the effect of the tropical sun. Teresa from Open Windows took one look, walked to her aloe plant, cut off a piece, sliced it open and spread the cooling innards on our red patches. Worked like a charm, without any fancy Western packaging!

Our weekend has arrived. Saturday will see us tour Lake Atitlan by boat, including visits to three villages. We’re really looking forward to seeing new country and learning more history.

Sunday, we’ll go our own ways, with conversation including possibly tasting craft beer or perhaps making chocolate from start to finish, maybe a hike up a volcano. So many options!

Monday, we’ll continue working on setting up the toilet and wash basin and pouring the floor.

Tom Rankin,

Team leader, Guatemala, April 2017



April 18

Tiny but mighty! Our illustrious group met up on Easter Sunday in this strongly Catholic country. Chris and Gail Hills arrived on Friday so were able to enjoy the best Easter parade of the weekend, including a 3.5-ton float carried by a rotating pool of 80 men (about 90 lbs. each to carry)!

Sunday was our day to get oriented so we all wandered various places, including Antigua's busy central square. There is much history in this UNESCO World Heritage site, including structures built by the Spaniards 300-plus years ago and damaged by the frequent earthquakes.

Today (Monday) we travelled to San Miguel Duenas. As you will see in the attached photo, the team had to take over as our team leader was too worn out.

We met Teresa at Open Windows, had a nice tour of her facility followed by a good lunch. We then went for a long walk to see our site for tomorrow's build, followed by visits to three previous builds, including meeting all the happy families. It’s great to see how much they have each done with their new home since the teams left.

Our team leader finally revived after receiving a blessing, so we were able to get a photo of our group plus our excellent host Teresa.

We’re looking forward to getting our hands dirty starting Tuesday!

Tom, Dennis, Chris, Gail

DWC volunteers, Guatemala, April 2017

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