The last night…Antigua is a great place to spend the last day in Guatemala. It is so different than the villages we visit in the highlands. It's colonial…it's a UNESCO heritage site……it also has great restaurants and shopping and some awesome chocolate, margaritas and bloody Mary's. There are lots of beautiful ruins from a massive earthquake in the late 1700's.
As we sat at La Fonda restaurant we were able to see a procession go by with lots of people and a float of Christ, the cross and Mary. It was a very long float carried by hand along the cobbled street. Throughout we could smell the incense that accompany the procession. Quite lovely!!
On Sunday morning those that didn't have an early shuttle to the airport got to see a volcano, that frequently puffs, send out a big puff of smoke and steam.
Antigua is always well worth a visit.
On Friday we once again hopped into the back of a pickup truck and went to San Antonio Palopo to visit the site of the preschool and community garden that MF has launched. We are hoping to be able to do more of these gardens in communities and at family homes. This is all on property MF is desperately trying to raise the funds to purchase so it can be a permanent site. This preschool has had to move at least 4 times because of not owning their own space. Donations can be made on the Mayan Families website.
You can't go to San Antonio without visiting the pottery. Lots of fun purchases were made there. We then returned to Pana and visited the carpentry trade school which has been funded by the Upper Arlington Rotary in Columbus Ohio. My friend Michael manages the school. Young men are able to learn a trade that can help them make a living in order to support their families.
After lunch we returned to the MF offices to have a tour of the facility. Besides all the offices they house a preschool, an elderly feeding program and a sewing trade school where women can learn to sew then have the opportunity to purchase a sewing machine at low cost and payment plan. With this training they can start their own cottage industry.
After the tour we proceeded to pack food bags. Dave, who comes with G of G every year and for the last two yrs. has brought his oldest son, Michael, has a very generous mom who so enjoyed packing food bags when she was hear with us last yr. that she donated $500 to purchase food for us to pack. Fifteen families in desperate need were selected to receive these bags of food. They consisted of corn, beans, rice and packages of a high nutrition mix of protein.
A side note on Dave. He is a most generous man himself. He has set up families in business,paid for medical aid and transportation to doctor for critically ill children and adults and he sponsors children in school. He also provides the MF offices with a great many electronics. His family lives by the verse..to those who are given much, much will be expected. So often in the photos you will not see Dave and Michael since they are off visiting their families which are spread all over the region. He has a lot of visits to get in in a short time. This yr. among other things he brought energy efficient LED bulbs for all their homes and some for me too!! He also treated the MF staff to a pizza party for lunch at the office. Thanks Dave for all you do.
That evening we had our farewell dinner at the home of Sharon and Dwight who run MF. They showed a video of the weeks activities and the girls got to dress in traditional clothing. We also made Liam who is part of the MF staff dress in traditional fashion. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TJ1RDbt8MA&feature=youtu.be
Thursday was a free day so everyone had a chance to roam on their own. Some took a shuttle to the market at Chichicastanego which is world famous. It's chaos in technicolor. Quite a site to see. Others relaxed and did a little shopping along the main street in Panajachel. Then it was fiesta time. Dinner party for the group and some of the Mayan Families staff. Lots of good food and fun.
Day four of the trip is always a very big day and full of emotions when new sponsors visit the homes of their sponsored children. Sponsoring a child to be able to attend school instead of having to go to work without an education can change their lives forever. As Miguel from Penguinos says…"it gives them the seed of hope".
Each of the new sponsors also brought gifts and food to the families. Often these baskets of food contain the only protein these families will have for some time. Each basket contains a chicken, fruits and vegetable plus some staples. You can be sure all three of those families enjoyed a hearty chicken soup that night.
We also delivered a food basket to the sponsored student of Dan and Beth who would have been with us but had to cancel because of a family tragedy. We were happy to be able to take Daniel and his family a food basket.
After the home visits we installed two fuel efficient Onil stoves to tow different families who were in great need as they were cooking on open fires in very cramped spaces. These stoves will help them prepare meals without all the smoke and will consume 70% less firewood.
Also on our way to El Barranco and the home visits we stopped in Solola to visit another women's co-op where they use low impact dyes and use mostly bamboo to make incredibly beautiful textiles.
Day three consisted of a boat ride on Lake Atitlan to the pueblo of San Juan la Laguna where you can find several women's co-ops producing beautiful textiles hand made with natural dyes. Francesca shows us how the dyes are made and then the process of producing backstrap woven scarves, table runners and more.
We visited many shops and everyone found treasures they thoroughly enjoyed.
In the evening we were entertained by Miguel who is the owner of Pinguinos restaurant telling the history of his people and everyone tried their hand at making tortillas. We had quite a few expert tortilla makers.
Dave was the winner and I guess it must run in the family since the last time his sister Beth was here she won.
On Monday we gathered at the MF Office and sorted the donations that everyone brought with them.
Then headed up to El Barranco to visit the preschool and be entertained by the children performing their traditional dances after which we handed out sticker, balloons, small toys and the donations.
The highlight for everyone was sassy miss Pamela who is sponsored by my friend Amanda Ball. First she didn't want the blue tennis shoes because she decided they were for boys then she got a cute little poncho but couldn't figure out why it didn't have arms.
We got to visit the construction site of the new preschool. The one they are in now is rented and the landlord will not renew after Jan.
And three very happy children met their new sponsors so they can continue their education. These are children who have lost their sponsors.
The day they arrived in Panajachel and got checked into their hotel they were welcomed with a trip to the cemetery. Now don't you wish you would have come too!! It was dark by the time we got there so candles were lit on many of the graves to celebrate All Saints Day. This was also their first of many rides in the back of a pickup. Then it was their welcome dinner at the home of Sharon and Dwight, two of the founders of Mayan Families.
All photos from each day can be found on the Picasa site located on the right side of this blog.