EXPLORING - Members of Friends of Guatemala stood behind local Guatemalan women on a recent trip to Central America to explore project achievements. From left in the back row

Friends of Guatemala return from trip with stories of success

Lacombe-based group spent time with several frontline organizations

  • Thu Nov 17th, 2016 1:00pm
  • News

BY KALISHA MENDONSA

Lacombe Express

A group of Lacombians recently returned from a trip to Central America where they were able to touch base with some locally-supported organizations that are doing good on the ground of Guatemala.

Through Friends of Guatemala a St. Andrew’s United Church affiliated organization six community members were able to spend nearly two weeks in Central America, visiting various projects in Guatemala, and checking in on a school project in Honduras.

Friends of Guatemala (FroG) committee chair Donna Pierson said the trip was a great success and that it was impactful to be able to see the far-reaching efforts of Lacombians. Pierson was joined by locals Carol and Barry Brouwer, Phyllis Obst, Bob Settle and Pierson’s daughter, Sonya Beauclair.

“When you go on a trip like this, you really want to help everybody but you just can’t,” Pierson said.

“If you can help one person, that’s great. I believe the biggest challenge with projects or trips in third-world countries is realizing that you simply can’t help everyone. You can help one or two people or even a small group and that is a big help in their communities, and projects can always grow later.”

The group began their trip by flying into Guatemala City and travelling the next day into Copan, Honduras for four nights. In Honduras, the focus was a school inauguration to witness the efforts of Carol Brouwer, who has a passion for encouraging development of schools in third-world countries.

Pierson explained the group checked in on Carol’s project and were happy to see the results of her hard work and effort in completing that project. Following the inauguration, FRoG made the trip to another school that is set up as a sort of daycare where children may go to learn and be looked after while their parents are working or gone.

After the stint in Honduras, FRoG travelled back into Guatemala to a city called Quetzaltenango where they met up with several important partner groups.

The primary connection was the Fraternidad de Presbiteriales Mayas, who operate a Food and Nutrition Security project that FRoG went to check in on and a medical team known as Clinica Maya, led by a local named Rosario, whose team provides free or low-cost medical care to those in need.

“This trip was specifically about a project in a place called Toj Alic a Food Security and Nutrition Project. That is a project we as a group have been helping to support for a few years now, and we wanted to see how it was progressing,” Pierson explained.

She said members of FRoG including fellow trip attendee Obst had travelled to Toj Alic a few years ago to plan out the project and that it was great to be able to return to the site and see the progression and development of the project managers.

“With the food security project, the group who is running that is looking to be self-sufficient within three years from now. They want to be able to sell enough food to purchase their own seeds for the next year. Right now, they do sell some food and have the basic project infrastructure in place, such as chicken coops and the garden areas,” Pierson said.

She added it was a very moving experience to be encapsulated into these communities and to see the strength and resilience of the women who run the food project, schools and other initiatives in Toj Alic.

“It was amazing to connect with the women of these projects. They are very welcoming and very friendly women. They don’t have much, but still welcomed us in and fed us and told us their stories. Many of them have had a very hard life, as it’s not easy to be a woman, especially a Mayan woman, in Guatemala,” she said.

“With the Food and Nutrition Security Project, we got to see some of the various places people are growing their gardens. I was amazed by one in particular where a woman was farming on an incredibly steep hill. Some people had better spaces to work on but this one house was working almost straight down into a ravine but they make it work, and it’s amazing how well people can make do with what they have,” Pierson said.

In addition to exploring the food and nutrition-based project, FRoG also explored a school that was set up for children from families who actually lived in<span class="Apple-conver