Our last service trip was in May, 2010. We had a group of 15 people who paid their own expenses to work in Los Robles in the Guatemalan highlands. A few years ago Casa de Sion, an orphanage with whom we have worked since 2008, bought 17 acres near Los Robles. Since then we have helped them raise funds and build a dormitory, a small tutoring facility and a small health clinic. In May, 2010 our group provided several services for Casa de Sion. One of the young men who went with us, Jarom Longhurst, collected approximately 400 pairs of shoes as his Eagle Scout project. We helped him distribute these shoes to a school and in Mayan communities. We helped with the children from the school next to the orphanage, helping to provide food and tutoring for them. We also built a chicken coop like has never been seen before! The coop is to house 100 chickens. It is 30 ft long by 8 ft wide by 9 ft high, the floor being 4 ft off the ground. It was truly a wonder! On our last day in Pana, there was a workers’ strike which closed down the road from the orphanage to our hotel in Panajachel. The next day we started to Guatemala City for our return trip. But nature treated us to some unexpected excitement. Picaya, a volcano near Guatemala City, erupted spewing thick, black ash over all of Guatemala City. Because of the ash no planes could take off so the people who went to Tikal took a bus – and got caught in a tropical storm which washed out several roads. After two or three days of delay in flights, we decided to drive to San Salvador, El Salvador, where we were able to get a plan to return to the U.S.
On our previous work trip we went to Santiago Atitlan. We took a group of fifteen volunteers to work on three different projects. At our first stop, in Solola near Lake Atitlan, we provided the materials and built a plant nursery and four work tables for a group of Mayan women. The women plan to use the nursery for their coop business to raise money for their families and to reforest the sides of the local mountains that were being eroded by seasonal rains. We also handed out many blankets and children's hats made by a church group and donated clothes.
Our next project was in Santiago Atitlan, where we mixed cement by hand and laid a cement floor for an elderly couple's one-room house. Down the street, we put in cement floors in the kitchen and a bedroom for a family of six. We also replaced the lamina roof (corrugated metal) over the bedroom. This family of six all slept in the same room in one bed of several long boards placed over two supports.
Chichicastenango was the site of our final project where we put in four cement floors and donated materials for a new brick stove and oven. Two of the cement floors were laid in bedrooms, one in an outdoor bathroom and the other in an outdoor laundry area. The stop was particularly memorable because the children in the family gave some of their handmade stitchery to our volunteers as thank you gifts.