Monday, November 30, 2015

Guatemala: San Miguel Dueñas: November 27 2015

Friday: Last day in Guatemala!

Well here it is our last day and it has been a great experience spending our time in Guatemala in Antigua with our board members. Today was a busy day, starting with an early departure to the Open Windows project and working on concreting the new kitchen bringing it to near completion. We finished up all we could do by lunchtime.

For lunch, we went to a bakery restaurant owned by one of the Open Windows board members. It was quite hot today, at least 25C and humid. We did a little shopping to take home souvenirs for our families then got an hour's rest. Then we met up for dinner with Rick Kurzac and Lisa Wiesner, two of 14 volunteers from the next DWC group working in Guatemala. We went to an amazing lookout up on a hill overlooking the city and three volcanoes. Back to the hotel, we packed and readied ourselves for the 2 a.m. flight back to Kamloops.
This has been a great trip and we feel very privileged to be able to come here to really make a difference in the lives of the people we have helped.

Theresa, Open Windows organizer

Bonnie still shoveling gravel.

More concrete for the wall.

Steady teamwork on the last day.

Developing World Connections board.

Janet reading with some students.
Bonnie Flanagan (photos) 
Bonnie and Neville (blog) DWC board members
Guatemala: November 2015

Friday, November 27, 2015

Guatemala: San Miguel Dueñas: November 26 2015


Well it's Thursday and our second-to-last day on the job - so to speak - in Guatemala. But before I start for today, I just want to say how impressed I am with what we do as an organization. This trip has been great so far and as our leader Joshua Trudeau er, I mean Molsberry, said yesterday "Sunny ways, Dan, sunny ways" in preparation for today. (Some people think he resembles our new prime minister...)

Anyway, today is stove day where we are going to install up to five new eco-stoves in homes as part of the Light Up Guatemala project. We hit the road right after breakfast, stopping at Open Windows to pick up Theresa along with a representative from the stove company named Ventura, but I'll just call him Ace from here.

We travelled the same bumpy, winding dirt road up to the village. We met up with Angel and headed for our first job to do an install/demonstration. The home we visited clearly had been been prepared for us to attend as they had removed their old stove and painted and prepared the site for us. Ace took us through the installation process. It seemed like Richard said, "Putting Lego together," but with knife and a hammer. We finished this job and the woman was ecstatic, she had a very young child and having the stove would aid in the entire family's health.

At this point we broke into two separate teams to do the other four stoves, with Kym and Richard as leaders. Another team documented the stories of the people receiving the stoves.

Off we went, heading to our first home - and they weren't home! We're all thinking "What's with that?" and headed off to our second home, where we begin to install the stove and quickly realized Ace, with his tools, was with Richard's team. We had to wait for Ace to finish the other install and head to our location.

In the meantime, we got to spend time within the family compound, watching the kids play (and argue). It was fun watching the kids. Ace showed up, helped us with carving the cinder block assembly so it would fit and we finished the stove. Once again the mother was very, very happy and very gracious. We headed for lunch and met up with the rest of the crew

After lunch, we went back to the first home and found them still away. Lo and behold, we check with the neighbour and find out we were supposed to be at their home. Like duh!

This family was an elderly couple who had their grandson living with them. It was pretty evident that they were not financially well off, even in this community. So we got to work in their kitchen area which was encased in creosote from their on-the-ground stove. Fortunately, we had Ace with us and we were able to install the stove in short order. I was also able to employ the services of the grandson to take over the role of climbing onto the roof to finish the stack. Once again, the family was very happy.

On a side note, it was impressive what this work hardened grandfather was able to do, chopping wood, carting bricks, etc., and the grandmother, who had work on the floor to cook. They had been together for 56 years.

We headed off to where the other team was and couldn't find them. Ace thought he knew where they were. Well, they weren't where he thought they were. But there was a stove there and before we could say anything, the equipment was coming, so we installed another stove. At first, the mother was very pessimistic. She couldn't believe this contraption could do what she needed it to. Once Ace showed her, she was impressed. By the way, this place had so much creosote on the walls and ceiling I'm surprised it had not caught fire. It was a delight watching the mother's face as she saw how it all worked. At this family compound, there was another young family that still had the old-style stove burning; hanging the centre of their kitchen was a bassinet with a child in it listening to music on a cell phone and drifting off to smokey dreams. Ugh! The family was very happy and we were rewarded with fresh bottled water - but somehow Ace managed to score a beer, which he downed in about 20 seconds.

We then went off to catch up with the rest of the group and head back to Dueñas and of course had the record for most installs.

I will end by saying once again that we are having a profound effect on people's lives and we should be very proud of what we do. And, I'm just saying, "this is the best directors' team ever." 

Richard and Joshua installing a new stove.

New stoves, ready to be installed

Neville and Kym installing a new stove

Up onto the roof to finish the chimney.

Happy mom with newly installed stove.

Less wood, less smoke and more cooking surface!

Rubia with her family and new stove.

Saturnina also had a stove installed.
Dan Miller (blog)
DWC board chairperson
Guatemala: November 2015

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Guatemala: San Miguel Dueñas: November 25 2015


Today is our fourth day in Guatemala and what a day it was. After our typical great coffee and breakfast start at Fernando's Cafe next door, we made a quick stop to pick up tables at Open Windows before we drove, it seemed straight up, on a pretty rough gravel road, to the village of Calderas

This is the day we do vision testing and providing of readers and sun glasses donated by our partner Clearly, to the residents of this mountain village of about 400 farming families. As we arrive at the community center at 9 a.m., there are about 40 people lined up outside waiting with anticipation of being able to read and sew again. Within minutes we are set up with an intake table, three vision testing tables and an inventory table - all according to the previous day's plan.

I am fortunate, because I speak a little Spanish, to be at the intake table where I will meet all of the recipients of the glasses.

From the very first lady to arrive at intake, it is abundantly clear that they're not here just because there is something free, but rather because their lives are severely hampered because they cannot see well enough to easily conduct daily tasks that most of us take for granted. Their ages range from 35 to 85, there is roughly an equal number of men and women and with the exception of a pastor and a handicraft worker, all are farmers or housewives. Typical of Mayan people, a few do not speak Spanish and have younger family members to translate for them, and then I have 18 year old Fransesca to assist with the Spanish conversation, so I can then complete the intake form in English.

Although I don't really know what is going on behind me at the vision-testing tables, I do know that lives are being improved. After most of the 50-plus who've come with the hope of being able to read or sew again have gone through to the testing tables, I watch the last few who are trying to either read, thread a needle or use testing hand signals to determine the strength of glasses required.

It's a moving experience to see the smiles when they've received glasses that will literally change their lives and I ponder what it would mean to me if I had been unable to read for many years and suddenly, a book or a magazine, or the ability to mend is again an option. A delightfully impactful experience.

We didn't have as many people come out for glasses as we had hoped, but two people from our partner Open Windows are fully capable of administering the reader and sunglasses program and have an inventory of several hundred pair that will make a great difference in the lives of another several hundred very poor Guatemalan recipients. I feel so much gratitude for our partners Open Windows Foundation and Clearly and, of course, all of the board of directors of DWC, that they continue to make such a difference in the lives of the worlds' less fortunate.

Wayne McRann (photos)
DWC board member
Wayne McRann (blog) 
DWC board treasurer
Guatemala: November 2015

Guatemala: San Miguel Dueñas: November 24 2015


I wasn't sure what to expect, leading a team of board members who have extensive travel and team-leading experience. They were either going to be easy going, able to role with the inevitable hiccups while working in the developing world, or an absolute pain in the butt.

Luckily, they have been great. No hand holding required. When I go on trips, I have to try to squeeze in so many meetings while not working with the group. What that has meant on this trip is that I drop in on the gang periodically, between meetings. I give them a hard time, taunting them that nothing has been accomplished since I was there last. They, inevitably, make jokes about me being a young punk and looking like Justin Trudeau. Jerks!

The cloud cover finally broke up today and we were able to see the top of the volcano that San Miguel Duenas sits under. It is absolutely stunning.

Progress on the kitchen is coming along, slow but sure. When Teresa and I first talked about DWC building a kitchen, I asked her the value of it. More than 200 kids are attending Open Windows Foundation each day. Many of them come from underprivileged families and struggle with challenges like malnutrition, undereducation, etc. Teresa wants to be able to provide the kids with a hardy, healthy meal each day and teach the kids' mothers how to cook nutritious meals. In Guatemala, poor families' diets consist primarily of tortillas and beans, with very little fruit or vegetables. And Teresa tells me that for some reason, many are under the impression that drinks with high sugar content, such as Coca Cola, are healthy. As a result, rates of diabetes are also high.

Tomorrow we are running a glasses clinic up in the mountains. I can't wait.

Clear skies and view of the mountain.

Family life.

Farmer selling his produce.

Open burning "old style" stove - a wood fire between two bricks.

The view.

A farmer trying to raise a family on his meagre income.

A Guatemalan mom.

Another mom with child.

Joshua Molsberry and Hagan Ainsworth (photos)
DWC board member
Joshua Molsberry (blog) 
DWC executive director and team leader
Guatemala: November 2015