It’s good to be back in Guatemala. If I’m counting right, this is my 17th trip in the last eleven years, and it has come to feel like another home. For ten days, Sarah Robinson Bryan, PEG’s Director, and I will be traveling to visit a few projects and connect with possible new partners here, and after that, Sarah will be going home and Deanna and Mason will be coming to join me for a few days of vacation, and Mason’s first trip to Guatemala.
Sarah and I hit the ground running on Wednesday night, picked up at the Guatemala airport by Kelly Sanders, who has been volunteering for the last two years at UPAVIM, an extraordinary community center and women’s organization in Zone 12 of Guatemala City. Kelly asked that we visit while we are in Guatemala in order to consider PEG’s support of UPAVIM’s work. UPAVIM is in La Esperanza, a tough part of town with heavy gang activity, but the work they are doing is having a huge positive impact on the community.
It’s a multifaceted organization, including a women’s cooperative that makes fair trade crafts (which helps to support sustainable livelihood and work with dignity for women nearby as well as supporting the other work of UPAVIM), a school, academic assistance for children from other nearby schools, a Montessori preschool program, childcare, a library, a bakery and soy milk production facility, and a clinic staffed by a doctor and nurse at affordable prices, serving anyone in the community who comes for assistance.
They are currently back at work building a newer building next door to their current location. The lower floors are already being used for classrooms, and the upper floors are being converted to more classroom space and a large rooftop playground, with high walls for safety. The building has been under construction for some time, progressing when there was money to move forward and waiting idly when there was not. Completion of that building will allow for expansion of the library as well as room for classrooms, which are currently sharing space with temporary walls and no sound isolation. Right now they are about $28,000 short of the funding needed to complete the building.
Over the 25 years that UPAVIM has existed, it has grown steadily to serve the community by addressing needs that the women who run it have perceived. It was a privilege to get a glimpse of the work they are doing, and we are grateful to Kelly for the invitation to visit and the great hospitality.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that UPAVIM hosts volunteers who come to teach English and fill other roles. Most of those stay for an academic year, which runs from January to October. The night we arrived we got to share homemade pizza with the dozen or so who are currently serving there. If you would like to look into volunteering (which I think all of the current volunteers would recommend), visit UPAVIM’s web site. In particular, they are currently interested in recruiting a nutritionist to work with the kitchen crew on healthy food preparation for the school children.
After only about 24 hours in Guatemala City, Sarah and I traveled to Antigua, where we are this morning. We had a dinner meeting last night with Ewa Niewozewska from Child Aid, an organization we have worked with for years. This was our first time meeting, Ewa, who is new with Child Aid. She is helping to move things forward at the CEDIN school, where the music program is based. We enjoyed getting to know her and discussing the importance and power of this music program, which LEAF International and PEG have been partnering on since 2007.
Sarah and I plan to update you often on this trip, so stay tuned at pegpartners.org for the next ten days. If you would like to support this work, we welcome your partnership. Donations can be made here. If you would like to keep informed about our work here, please sign the mailing list here. Thanks for caring, and for taking the time to catch up on our adventure.
The pictures below and their captions tell a bit more of the story…
Que le vaya bien,