Ready to Roll Up My Sleeves

Trip Start Mar 21, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Guatemala  , Western Highlands,
Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday morning

I am showered up and am familiar with the hotel grounds. I have figured out the wireless internet. I will leave soon to get breakfast and locate the meeting place. I am very sleepy as the first night in any new surrounding can be interesting. The hotel is very clean with spacious rooms and not too loud, but I can tell once I open the big brown double doors the traffic and noise will be heard.

A tour by Louise proved to be emotional and wonderful. She first took me to a town called San Pedro. A cathedral lies directly to the east and a municipal building to the north. There is extreme and widespread poverty.

Louise said her heart is in education, empowering women and children. She takes me to a school. She says most of the kids here do not finish 6th grade. Instead, they turn to work. The average family has 6 kids. I saw some of the kids working today in the Central Park when they should have been at school. They were shining shoes. They all have a sort of determined look - almost as if they were 50 years old.

Then, we visit a family who had her home built by volunteers through Common Hope. The home consisted of 2 small bedrooms, no water, and an outdoor kitchen area. This mother of 6 makes bread and sells it in the neighborhood. Louise tells me she is lucky because her home is not mobile and she has paid off her home by doing work at Common Hope to equal the value of the home which to me, is incredible. People are working to receive. That's how it should be.
It was difficult to see but powerful beyond words.

Common Hope has created an interesting method for constructing homes. Because most people do not own the land they live on, the homes need to be mobile. Many times, a landowner
will reclaim his land only after the squatters have built some kind of housing of value. Common Hope`s homes are made of pre-fab panels, concrete slabs that create a floor and a simple roof. Families qualify for the homes by working at Common Hope for the required number of hours (200, I think) and having a child in the program. They offer so many other services but again setting an agreement with the families that they will work for what they will receive. 

Our next stop is to Common Hope. It's a big facility with a unique and beautiful design and decor, modern and well kept. We have an informational meeting where I meet others who have traveled from California and Maine who are here to do the same thing. They ask me all sorts of questions like why I wanted to volunteer. I quickly blend in. A lady then speaks about how Common Hope has helped her family and now she's in college along with her brother. She cries throughout her talk.

Monday afternoon

I will be assigned to construction all week! We carry heavy supplies into a truck and travel to the site where a home will be built. I meet the lady (Maria Thelma) who will have us in her space for some time. She doesn't have water. Her current space is small - maybe the size of my master bathroom. 

The team works hard, bonds, and sweats. At 5 p.m. the van picks us up and we are wisked away to our own private hotels, etc. 

Tomorrow is another day. I will try to get plenty of sleep!


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