Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A School for Guacachipol

The school with the decorations.

The bottle school in Guacachipol is officially done. Thank you to all of you that helped out. Thank you to those you donated money, your time and support during the process.  It was a really exciting day to be able to go to the community and not really have any work to do. I was there to have fun and celebrate they can here in Guatemala!

An inside view.  All used with recycled bottles.

Chatting with the NGO Hug It Forward and a community member
 As we pulled up in the car with my program manager and the country director of Peace Corps, we saw the new school, freshly painted with the whole community putting on finishing touches, chopping up some chicken, or just checking out the school. I think there may have even been people from other communities there as well, maybe to see the school, to see the construction, or maybe/probably to join in the celebration.
Bottle everywhere.
There was a small ceremony where each respective part involved in the project had an opportunity to talk about the school, their roles, and how fun it was, but everyone touched on the theme of relief of the project being done. I was asked to address the gathering of people and tried to keep it short.  I made a point of how important it was that everyone worked together, that collaboration and teamwork not only provides projects that benefit children and the future, but, ultimately a stronger sense of community. This sense of community provides so much more in the long run; more collaboration leads to more teamwork and hopefully projects and future successes, and let the school be a testament to their work and collaboration.  Also, it was a great opportunity to bring everyone together that was involved in the project. There was the municipality, Peace Corps, the NGO, ‘Hug It Forward’, the community and for the first time, we were all together, finally putting faces to the voices on the other end of the phone and seeing the benefit of all the hard work the we all did. 
I am grateful at the opportunity, the faith that the municipality, Peace Corps the NGO and especially the community instilled in me during the process. There was many times where I did not know the answer.  I was upfront with the community and other parties from the get go. I had an idea to collaborate with a community to build a school out of recycled bottles. Note that I said, ‘an idea.’ I did not know how to do any of it at the beginning stages. So how was it possible to build this school? This was the importance and the main point of the project.  Despite not knowing the exact details, by placing a good team around you of people that do know something about a possible way, anything is possible.  It’s all about team work, coming together and collaborating, celebrating the successes and failures, together.
Outside view.  Note:look at the previous blog post to see it before the cement covering.

In the end, the construction used over 6,500 eco-bricks.  Each of those bricks weigh around 1lb each.  So about 3.25 TONS of what used to be unusable garbage became a main part in the construction of the school for the community.  Cool. By using the technology incorporating the eco-bricks and community help, we reduced costs by about 55% of what a normal two room school would cost if it was privately contracted out to be built. 
Cutting the ribbon with the mayor, a representative from the NGO and the president of the parent association.

It was a great learning experience.  So much of one, we broke ground yesterday on another school due for completion in the upcoming months as well! More to come!

School children dancing.

Much love, and always, many thanks for all the support!
With the team!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Early morning in my site.

Hopefully this picture (below) will leave a smile on your face as we are in full swing with holiday activities here in Guatemala.  It is crazy to think that it has been now three Christmases since I have been here in Guatemala. Time is a funny concept to think of in the past, the present and the future. I think there are ghosts like that in the some famous carol? Not the one below though, I can assure you that. 
Merry Christmas!
I have been getting emails from people asking what I will be doing for the holidays, for the New Year, if I am ok to spend it here, will it be tough etc. To shed some light on the situation there was an article written by a fellow PCV in Botswana. One of my favorite quote from the article is as follows: ‘Those images tend to be different in the reality of Peace Corps service. I am close to South Africa and can find a turkey, but I don't have an oven that can cook it within a day! The sounds of wrapping paper are replaced by 2 donkeys mating, 3 roosters crowing, 4 dogs a barking and 5 sc-a-ry buuuuggggs. Deep sleeping becomes a little harder with the African summer heat, but the smiles are universal.
The main park in front of my house
Addressing the questions about how I feel spending the holidays in Guatemala. I feel great, I am happy, excited and ready to celebrate. I am going to be spending a night in Malacatancito with some friends, then going to spend Christmas Eve with my host family where I stayed during training, and then to Belize for a few days for some sun and fun. I can remember being in the states and always wishing I was somewhere tropical, somewhere different, and now I have that opportunity to do so. I am going to be with good friends, enjoying different traditions and enjoying my time and seeing what there is to do.  Sure it might be tough, but how many people can say they can eat all the tamales and paches the want?  I can.  I do miss family and friend in the states, the traditions, the food, the Ellisons the NYE traditions etc.  If I spend my time thinking about them, what I am missing, I will be missing the traditions and the good times I could have here.  While not too far off in thoughts and heart, I will be enjoying the time here in Guatemala wishing that everyone could be experiencing what I am, and how lucky I truly am!

Well I can tell you that in my current site, located at about 7,700 feet above sea level is DAMN IT GETS COLD HERE! It has fallen to 26F a few times. When I was in Malacatancito, my old site, I had grown accustomed to sleeping with a sheet and a little blanket.  Here in my current site, there is a sheet, a comforter, 2 blankets, socks, sweatpants, shirt, sweatshirt and a winter hat. There are even times I can see my breath at times. Just like the holiday’s right? Most mornings a nice frost freezes to the ground making me remember early mornings in the states growing up and walking through the crunchy grassy fields leaving little footprints.   
Cold, eh?
On the school front, we are almost done. We are planning for a January 15th inauguration date which is 10000% flexible obviously but the end is near. We just have to finish with the pouring of the floors, a paint job and then any last minute fixes. 
The school in October.  Now we have the roof up, and the walls with their cement covering.
I hope that everyone has a great holiday season and New Year!  I wish I could be there and here and with everyone at the same time but that technology is still not here.  I hope that everyone is well and in good health, surrounded by their loved ones with good times to be had!
And please excuse my attmpt to be festive with the color scheme.  
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!