Tag Archives: Guatemala

Guatemala Volunteer Trip August 2015

VOLUNTEER INTERVIEWS | A Warm Touch of Humanity

Meet Jacob (pictured above on right.) High school student, musician, and life-changer. After consistently offering his small income to support a child through our sponsorship program, Jacob made the bold decision to take his involvement a step further. In 2015 he signed up for our volunteer trip to Guatemala with his musical ensemble of 18 students from Irvine, CA. Little did he know that this courageous decision would set him up for an encounter that would impact his life forever.


Hello Jacob, introduce yourself to our readers!

Hello, my name is Jacob, I’m a music dork who plays the viola and is obsessed with classical music.

Awesome, wish we could hear some of it! Tell us a little about the trip you took with Good Neighbors.

Guatemala Volunteer Trip August 2015

After five hours of flight, our ensemble arrived in Guatemala and headed for our target city: Patzicia. Led by Good Neighbors Guatemala staff member Maribel, we immediately started building cookstoves for families in rural areas. After short greetings with overjoyed residents, we dirtied our hands with bricks, and mud, and started to build our first cookstove.

Traditional cookstoves in kitchens are very toxic: smoke from cooking fills the room, the family member’s eyes would burn, and it is difficult to breathe. I had assumed that cookstoves weren’t as crucial as other projects, such as building houses, but I was wrong. Cookstoves are pivotal to the health of the whole family. The process wasn’t as laborious as I had expected; we had teams of 7-8 volunteers  per cookstove which made the work enjoyable and relatively quick. Each day, we built two cookstoves, and vastly improved the lives of each of those families! We shed blood and sweat, but reaped the residents’ heartwarming thanks that motivated us to keep on serving the community.

Guatemala Volunteer Trip August 2015

 

That’s so amazing! Were there any challenges you had to overcome through this experience?

On the fourth day of our trip, we hosted a concert for a high school run by Good Neighbors. The violins, clarinets, and violas set up on the stage, and as the time of the performance approached, the seats in the gym started to fill with friendly faces. I took out a little speech I had prepared, introduced our ensemble, and started our repertoire of five pieces.

Disappointingly, most of the audience seemed uninterested. In desperate need to entertain them, after the fifth song, I asked the audience, “Quien sabes Mario?” I was met with silence and I was shocked that they didn’t know who Mario was. I asked once again, “Super Mario?” The crowd suddenly became boisterous, showing unprecedented excitement.Guatemala Volunteer Trip August 2015

I started to play the Super Mario theme song, and their faces remained astounded and excited. I continued with Titanic, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Frozen. Surprisingly, most of them knew these movies; especially during my playing of ‘Let It Go’ and ‘Do You Want To Build A Snowman?’ the crowd became wild.

This had to have been one of the most climactic moments of my music life: I was able to excite the whole crowd with the goofy musical pieces that I’ve often played for fun. My competitive side of music has been mostly in my view, but this was an opportunity to show my goofy side.

So fun!! Now, we heard that you had a really special encounter on this trip? Can you tell us what happened?

A few days before my departure to Guatemala, my mom told me that Good Neighbors had set up a meeting with Bryan, a boy I’ve been sponsoring through the Good Neighbors sponsorship program. My feelings were mixed: nervous, yet excited. I hadn’t considered that I might ever have the fortune to meet Bryan face-to-face, and now that this opportunity was so close, my eagerness grew.

After the concert, the rest of the group left to continue building more cookstoves, but I stayed with a Good Neighbors leader to meet Bryan. We walked down an underground path to the Good Neighbor local office. I slowed down, realizing how tremendous and significant this meeting would be.

When we reached the office, there was a young boy with short, spiky hair, waiting there. I reached out to him and hugged him tightly. He had grown so much since that picture Good Neighbors first sent me. Guatemala Volunteer Trip August 2015

We couldn’t communicate fluently, but with my limited knowledge of Spanish and with some translation help, we started to talk about all kinds of random things: favorite colors, hobbies, subjects, foods, and every other possible thing that came across my mind.

Guatemala Volunteer Trip August 2015

We walked around the neighborhood that Bryan lives in, and each step that I took with him seemed so unrealistically marvelous that I couldn’t help grinning. Bryan’s mother also came along, and gave me a hug and kept thanking me for coming.

Guatemala Volunteer Trip August 2015

I’ve never felt so accomplished, satisfied, thankful, and proud. Our awkward conversation continued on, but each word we spoke touched me; everything seemed so unreal and too good to be true.

They kept on thanking me, but I should’ve been the one thanking them for being a source of encouragement and motivation every day. Meeting Bryan was probably one of the best moments in my life, and I will always treasure it.

These were the biggest highlights from my Guatemala trip that made it so meaningful and worthwhile. What I gained from this trip highly outweighed the laborious aspect; we exchanged our hard work for a warm touch of humanity. This trip was indeed an unforgettable journey, and I am very thankful to Good Neighbors that I’ve been given the opportunity to participate.


Incredible. Thank you Jacob for making choices that position you to make real, consistent change in people’s lives! We’re inspired by your story.

If you want to experience a warm touch of humanity like Jacob did, email us at volunteer@goodneighbors.org for information on our upcoming trips! You never know, you might just end up with your own miraculous encounter.

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COFFEE MEETS WATER SPOTLIGHT: LA Coffee Club

We’re so excited to have several coffee companies partner with us for Coffee Meets Water! We’ll be highlighting one each week during the campaign, so stay tuned to see what they have to say about coffee, water, and life!

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First up is LA Coffee Club! Founded in 2011 by Adam Scott Paul and Antone Hall, the goal of LA Coffee Club is to introduce a wider audience to local roasters in Los Angeles by offering an affordable monthly coffee subscription. We got Adam to answer a few of our questions – even though he’s currently on a trip in Amsterdam! Read below to see what he had to say!

Adam @ TEDxUSC - photo by Rios Enriquez via lacoffeeclub.com

Adam @ TEDxUSC – photo by Rios Enriquez via lacoffeeclub.com

Q: Hi Adam! Tell us a little bit about LA Coffee Club.

A: LA Coffee Club is a subscription service that delivers unbelievably fresh, locally roasted coffee – directly to your door. Every week, we feature a different local roaster – highlighting the best brews LA has to offer.

Q: How do you choose the coffee roasters you work with?

A: Since January 2012, we’ve been rotating through a list of about 40 roasters and have been letting each roaster pick the coffee they like most to feature, though that’s all about to change. I’m happy to announce a new program we are rolling out this fall called Roaster In Residence, along with our brand new space in Culver City called The Subscription Room – it’s pretty much a members only Club House!

We will be hosting quarterly reviews of all our roasters offerings and cupping each coffee out in order to find only the best of the best coffees & roasters.

Photo via lacoffeeclub.c

Photo via lacoffeeclub.com

Q: Have you done any coffee- specific travel? If so, what are some of your favorite destinations and why? 

A: I’ve yet to travel to origin, but I’ve gone on a few adventures across the US and abroad in search of other local roasters. At the time of this writing, I’m in Amsterdam – which is going through a similar transformation around specialty coffee. Coffee shops all around the city are either buying or have bought roasters and have begun roasting their own coffee – it’s really an exciting time to be a coffee lover!!

Q: What’s your favorite type of coffee?

A: Freshly roasted coffee is my favorite. The flavor begins to dissipate after about 2 weeks and all that goodness fades away. I’m usually a fan of Naturally processed Ethiopian Coffee – they are fruit forward and quite unique.

Q: How important is access to clean water in regards to coffee?

A: It is said that coffee passes through the hands of about 32 people before arriving at your door or in your cup. Every one of those people along the supply chain rely on access to clean water in order to survive.

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Q: Why did you decide to partner with us for Coffee Meets Water (for 2 years in a row!)?

A: Providing access to clean water in coffee producing countries won’t just help improve the quality of their coffee – it will provide opportunities for those people to grow and thrive. And that feels pretty great! We feel so honored to be even just a small part of such a driven organization!

Thanks so much Adam! Learn more about LA Coffee Club here and Coffee Meets Water here

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COFFEE MEETS WATER: Guatemala

We so excited to launch Coffee Meets Water for the second year in a row! Last year we fixed broken water wells in Ethiopia; this year we’re focusing on another coffee-producing community… in Guatemala!

The majority of homes and schools in the coffee-producing community of Acatenango lack clean and safe drinking water. We all know how important water is for great tasting coffee and for LIFE, so our goal for this year is to provide clean drinking water in Acatenango, starting with 7 schools that educate over 1,700 students (the children of the hardworking coffee farmers!).

We’re kicking things off with our own take on Shark Tank — with younger, cuter judges! Watch below to see what the judges of Guppy Tank think about how to get clean water!

So, what can YOU do?

  • Read all about our campaign on Indiegogo, then share! Use #CoffeeMeetsWater and tag us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!
  • Donate! Just $5 covers the cost of clean water for one child – YES, you read that right. Then refer 3 friends and we’ll add a surprise perk for you as a thank you!

So, you heard it: the guppies are all in! Are YOU?  Let’s get clean water flowing. 

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#GuatSquad & Ladrillos: My Week in Guatemala

Last month, we sent a group of high school volunteers to Guatemala to support Project Cookstoves,  an initiative that builds new, energy-efficient cookstoves for families and allows us to promote education, health, and environmental protection! Read below for Joy’s account on this amazing, eye-opening trip. 

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By Joy Gursky

A couple weeks ago, I found myself in Guatemala City with a group of twelve other volunteers from different high schools scattered throughout the United States. Waiting for our ride to the hotel from the airport, all of us were exhausted and hoping we had made the right decision in deciding to travel to a foreign country with a group of people we had never met before. We were strangers with one common goal: we wanted to improve the lives of the less fortunate, and we were going to accomplish this by building energy-efficient cookstoves for families in rural Guatemalan villages with Good Neighbors. So, after resting in the hotel, we were off to our first volunteer site. The drive to Patzicía was long (a few hours!), and we were all excited, nervous, and unsure of what to expect.

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Building stoves is, as one might imagine, very difficult work, and there are many preliminary steps. First, all the bricks (or “ladrillos” as they’re called in Spanish) need to be soaked in water for at least a minute to ensure that they don’t just break apart when you lay them down. Dirt, water, and cement need to be mixed separately to put in between the bricks and ensure everything sticks together and the smoke and flames won’t escape. The terrain where the stove will reside needs to be evened out; in some cases the stoves were built in the kitchen, but in others they were built outside under some sort of pavilion.

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Once all these steps have been taken, it is finally time to start laying down the bricks: cinder blocks at the bottom, and the traditional red bricks at the top. After laying them down, the chimney (a cylindrical, hollow, and very, very heavy block made out of cement) needs to be installed. Thankfully, since our team was so large, we were each able to work on the different steps simultaneously to make sure that everything was completed on time.

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Constructing the stoves wasn’t the most fun part of the trip, though. The best part was getting to know the native Guatemalans and the rest of the high school group (we eventually very cleverly named ourselves the “#GuatSquad). The families in the homes we visited didn’t speak any English, but on that first day, all of us so desperately wanted to interact with them that we were willing to walk right up to them and introduce ourselves in the bits and pieces of Spanish that we had learned  forgotten in school years before… even if our American accents were awful. Nevertheless, we tried our best, and by the end of each day we had learned the names of the family, their ages, and where they had been born – all while working together to build the cookstoves. And by the end of the trip, we were having basic conversations with local families and children.

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One thing that I’ve taken away from our journey is that at home, we really have it easy. In the U.S, we’re fortunate to have microwaves and ovens that heat up our food, pipes that deliver hot water straight into our sinks and bathtubs, and heaters installed into our homes to keep us warm in the winter. For many people in the U.S, it’s difficult to even comprehend not having any of that, since it’s literally in every home; but for people in developing countries it’s a reality. Many Guatemalans who don’t live in the city rely on fire for everything from heating their bath water to cooking their food. This dependency doesn’t come without consequences. Smoke inhaled by families who use fire as a means to survive regularly leads to several health risks including emphysema, cardiovascular disease, and lung cancer–and claims 4 million lives each year, according to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

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If you’re considering volunteering abroad but are having qualms about doing so, my advice to you would be to just do it. Volunteering in a foreign country is a life-changing experience, and your perspective on just about everything will be altered forever. Take some time to read up on the country and culture you’re visiting before you leave. Bring your own hygienic products because you never know when you’ll need them. And most importantly, have fun!       

Thanks for joining our summer volunteer  trip to Guatemala, Joy! Learn more about our Project Cookstoves here, and how to volunteer with us here

 

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Meet Sweet Paty

In our new Child Sponsorship series, we will be introducing you to the children around the world in our Child Sponsorship Program who have amazing sponsors to help them with education, food, medicine, and more! First, we’d like to introduce you to Paty from Guatemala!

Paty

Hi! My name is Juana Patricia Miculax Martin, but I like to be called “Paty.” I am 9 years old and I live with my parents and 7 siblings. We live in the village of Caman, which is located in the community of Patzicia, Guatemala.  Here are a some pictures of my community that I’d like to share with you!

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A beautiful view of Patzicia

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Patzicia Daily Market

In my free time, I like playing with my toy dishes, listening to music, reading stories, and painting. I also love helping my mom at home. When I grow up, I want to become an Elementary school teacher. I want to teach other children that dreams do come true.

Paty and mom

Patty soccer

The Good Neighbors Sponsorship program has been an awesome opportunity that I love being a part of. It has tremendously helped my family and me by providing everything I need to fulfill my education. For example, Good Neighbors provides me with school supplies, food, shoes and clothing, among many other things. With the help of my sponsor, I have realized that my dreams can come true! I’m really thankful to have a sponsor that cares for my education.

Patty and letter

I just wrote this letter to my sponsor!

Hello Friend,

How are you? I am very happy.

I would like to let you know that I would like to meet you very soon. I would love to go out, play, walk, and have fun with you until we get tired.

I say goodbye with infinite thanks to you for all the love and support that you have given me.

Thank you and never forget that I love you so much. Kisses!

Sincerely yours,
Juana Patricia Miculax Martin “Paty”

What a sweet letter from Paty to her sponsor! If YOU are interested in being  a part of the life of a child like her, visit us here to get more information!

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