Letter to the editor: Guatemala, Jan 7-14

I have said for years that it is a shame that everyone could not have been exposed to the farming community. I think that adds something special to our character. Similarly, others have suggested that serving in our military would add to their character. I just returned from a service trip to Guatemala and would suggest that serving in one of these expeditions would also be of value in our appreciation for life. There is a multitude of avenues to serve those who are not as fortunate as we are. Try it.

I signed up with a veteran group of 27 volunteers from MorningStar Church who have been going to Hope of Life in Guatemala. We were housed in a lovely facility started by Carlos Vargas next to his native village of Llano Verde. The first view of the thatched pavilion which measured about 150’ x 150’ was astounding; just very well done. This housed a kitchen counter whereby we were served buffet style and seating for perhaps 200 people. We had the largest group for this week, but there were numerous other groups. Each group was assigned a time for each meal to facilitate easy service by the kitchen staff. There was also a store of shirts, hats, belts, collectibles, and soda and ice cream bars; good at the end of each day. There was

also an office within this level. Bedrooms were in the floor below. Our eleven men were in one room with bunk beds (Kenny, 20, let me have the bottom bunk; thank you). Another hallway housed a multitude of rooms for the ladies; the rooms varied in size and number housed but I wouldn’t know anything more about that!

Our goal was to visit the village of Quebrada Honda adopted by MorningStar about seven years ago. Previous volunteers had built a school, a church, sunk a well and installed a pump for clean water, and built a unit with four toilets (they were plumbed to an existing town sewer system). Some of these volunteers have been here numerous times, so the townspeople knew and loved them, especially the children who have been “adopted” and/or supported by MorningStar members. One of our members, Shawn, was assisted in extending the water supply to the street so that all community members would have clean water available. A person, Sol, who was there separately as an individual brought a wonderful system of a water filter which was attached to a five gallon bucket to supply clean water for each home. Another group grabbed at this program and assisted him; members of our group did likewise and many of these filtering buckets now are housed in homes who were drinking only contaminated water. This project should be very valuable to improving the health and happiness of many in the area.

Advertisement

I was recruited because one of the pastor’s children mentioned that none of the children in his photographs had eyeglasses; she wore glasses. The pastor was surprised at this revelation and asked whether I would be an adjunct to their trip. I was glad to do so, and was again rewarded with being able to improve the vision of many who needed assistance and would never be able to get help. Members of the team became wonderful assistants in the process of evaluating existing vision and supplying appropriate eyeglasses when needed.

315 were screened and eyeglasses supplied to 154 provided by the Lions Club of Boyertown.

Twenty-one people had cataracts to the extent that only surgery can help them; their names will be supplied to Hope of Life for further help.

The major focus of the trip was to provide love, support and spiritual guidance for the village. Working with the children and separately with the ladies of the village was a continuing process which involved most of our group.

There is a system involving “rescue babies”. Those who may be suffering malnutrition,

abuse, or just very poor care are rescued from their circumstances and placed in a child care facility at the top of the mountain. After restoring their health and condition, they may be placed in one of several homes adjoining the day care. Recruited Guatemalan parents live in a house with a number of these children and raise them as their own with love, respect, and reverence. We visited one home, which happened to be the home of one of our interpreters,

and it was very modern, clean, one dinner table for 11 people; just very nice.

The weather was very moderate while we were there; repeat visitors said that it had never been this comfortable on previous trips. This area has suffered less rain than normal for about four years, but the location of Hope of Life at the base of a mountain permitted a constant stream of water for us. Other areas were irrigated for crops of tobacco, corn, melons,

watermelons, and trees bearing mangos. Moderate mountains were always around us but we were generally on rolling or flat land in the valley. We visited “the dump” which was

self-described. The people live in very makeshift huts and garner money by gathering recyclables from the trash. This was very humbling. Our group served up food in an assembly line to these folks; this is provided by Hope of Life three times each week.

Our location was about four hours east of Guatemala City where we arrived and departed. Guatemala City was generally modern with lots of traffic, too much! The roads were very nice, similar to ours.

Jim Tribbett Boyertown, Berks County