Reflections of an Intern

Becky ZornMiracles in Action sponsored a recent college graduate to intern for some of our partners this summer.  This begins a short series of posts by Becky Zorn, about her experiences.

In early June, I returned to the United States after teaching English in Turkey and traveling around Eastern Europe for 6 months. I was planning on staying in Washington, DC for the summer before commencing graduate school at the University of Copenhagen in September– that was until I received a call from Christie Brown asking if I could intern in Guatemala for the summer. Without hesitation, I accepted the opportunity and flew from Washington, DC to Guatemala City 4 days later.

Miracles in Action has provided me with many excellent opportunities to assist those in Guatemala who lack the opportunities available to those in the United States. I have been thrilled to jump in wherever my assistance is needed, and I have been helping with various projects which I will continue to blog about in the future.

Two weeks ago, I had the great opportunity to attend the opening of school #30 in Palo Blanco outside San Martin. This school opening was delightful and well-attended by the community who supported the project, just as much as Miracles, our NGO partners, and donors supported the construction. This school was sponsored by several families — Jason and Karen Leupen, Angie and Rick McKenzie, Ray and Polly Sund, Jerry and Sandy Leupen (all from Cincinnati, OH) — and Moorings Presbyterian Church in Naples, FL. Here are a few photos from the opening:

Dedication Plaque

Representatives of the donor group and Miracles in Action uncover the plaque on the school.

Student performance at school opening fiesta

Some of the students in the older grades perform a dance at the school opening.

School #30 opening

The kids were all so happy and excited to have a new school and more educational opportunities.

Becky with students

A picture of me with some of the girls who will attend the school. I have interned for women’s rights organizations in the past and love that Miracles highlights the importance of education for women and girls in Guatemala.

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Preserving Lake Atitlan: Pennies for Potties

Preserving Lake Atitlan: Pennies for Potties

By Magdalena Battles

In my opinion, one of the most breathtaking places on this planet is Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. I have had thevprivilege of staying in Panajachel (Pana) several times during my trips to Guatemala. Pana is one of the larger communities located on the lake.  Going by boat out to Casa del Mundo (I recommend that everyone stay here at some point in their lives, it is a peaceful retreat from the rest of the world) from Pana during my past trip I noticed that the water was  looking darker than I had remembered it being previously. As a matter of fact, on my first trip to Guatemala, I stayed at the Lake area for several days and while out on the lake I commented that I could see the bottom of the lake through about 8-10 feet of water. Growing up in northern WI, our lakes were never this crystal clear. It was astonishing to me.  

Unfortunately, it wasn’t just my imagination that the water was darker. It seems that communities located around the lake have been dumping their sewage into the lake. I am not a scientist, but even I can see this in not a great idea. Several groups have stepped forward to help with this problem. The goal is to have these communities build and use eco-banos. 

Eco-banos are dry latrines where waste is turned into compost. In this situation they are used to improve sanitation and eliminate waste water and feces from running or being discharged into Lake
Attitlan. There is a project in Santa Cruz on the Lake where they are promoting dry latrines for the whole community. There was a pledge to fund 10 eco-banos (the pledge was made by Miracles in Action and several Rotary groups) and they are in the testing phase now. The Pennies for Potties was an idea to fund-raise, with people putting their donation into little wooden outhouse potties as a fun idea for raising money. If you want to help preserve the Lake please by contributing to “Pennies for Potties” please go to the donation page on our website: http://www.miraclesinaction.org/donate/contribute/

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Celebrating Graduations and Connections

Kayleigh Alexander, a recent graduate from Wittenberg University in Ohio, decided to direct her family and friends to donate to Miracles in Action in honor of her graduation. Kayleigh visited Guatemala in 2008 and loved the people, sights, and experiences. Kayleigh-with-Guatemalan-kids

This is such an awesome way for someone to celebrate their graduation and we commend Kayleigh for this selfless act. It is also an example of how past experiences and connections in Guatemala are so long-lasting. Many people have stated that a visit to one of the impoverished communities has changed their lives forever. This is obviously true for Kayleigh.

Kayleigh graduated with a triple major in Spanish, Education and International Relations. She will be teaching Spanish as a high school teacher in the fall. We wish her the best of luck and hope her concern for the Guatemalan people continues for a lifetime!

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One Family Making a Difference

The primary school children in the village of Valle de Oro got a wonderful surprise.  They received readers that were donated by Linda Morales. Linda and her 5 children have collected 990 books, 437 warm knit hats, scarves, and mittens for the poor children of Guatemala. Her oldest son, Nico, did a drive at school where he collected school supplies and new toothbrushes. Linda and her family have a wonderful connection to Guatemala. They adopted a baby girl from Guatemala!   Linda has been a wonderful supporter of helping the poor in Guatemala. She had a handicraft party at her home in December and raised lots of money for Miracles in Action. What a great example she is,  not only for her 5 kids, but for others as well. Way to go Linda!

The Morales Family
Student at Valle de Oro with New Books
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Malnutrition worse in Guatemala than in Africa

A recent article, from the Prensa Libre newspaper (translated below into English), states that malnutrition in Guatemala is worse than Africa. Pretty hard to look away. Miracles in Action supports numerous nutrition programs in Guatemala. This article reinforces our need to continue and increase these efforts.

http://www.prensalibre.com/noticias/Titulo-articulo-edicion-impresa_0_476952318.html

Translated article:

Suffering from chronic hunger are Guatemalans, but especially children from various regions of the country. This is the result of the interaction of a series of political, economic and social issues affecting negatively the availability, access, consumption and biological utilization of food. And the most important factor is political. According to the comparison made by UNICEF in the “State of the World’s Children 2010,” Guatemala is held in third place for global chronic malnutrition. This competes with another country called East Timor, in Southeast Asia, both reported that for their national average, 54 out of every hundred children suffer from stunting. In the world only Afghanistan and Yemen are worse than Guatelmala. Not even Africa is worse. Guatemala is Africa, or worse. And so at national level.  If we get the percentages in rural areas or in many municipalities, the figure rises to eight out of 10 children with chronic hunger.

Silent killer: Chronic malnutrition is the second largest problem in this country, behind the violence and drug trafficking. Hunger kills more than bullets, but silently. The reason for these figures has historical roots. Chronic malnutrition, considered as a low height for age is the result of many factors, but its root causes are the unequal opportunities, exclusion and discrimination based on sex, race or political belief. A child at 36 months of age should be measured 88 centimeters, otherwise, it is a chronically malnourished, and lost centimeter never recovered. His IQ has also suffered a permanent impairment. The intellect of an entire country is riddled with malnutrition. The other malnutrition, acute malnutrition is caused by a recent lack of food or a disease that has caused a rapid loss of weight. This type of malnutrition is recoverable, however,not be served on time, puts you at high risk for one’s life.

DISCONTINUED EFFORT: A historic milestone for the comprehensive approach improves the country’s food situation occurred with the adoption of the Law of the National Food and Nutrition Security (Sinasos) in 2005. But a law alone can not eradicate hunger by decree; we need people who operationalize. This development policy scenarios required interagency coordination and participation, that after six years could even get to work as expected. Worse,in the last four years the current government has been a marked weakening. Presidential programs generated parallel Sinasos bodies, almost disappear at the end of their terms. And is that despite the enormous scourge of hunger in Guatemala has not yet set an agenda with state vision. Governments do not want good technical ministries, political operators prefer to follow orders. Every four years the incoming government with treachery delete previous actions. With no clear plan to improve the situation. The worst thing is that the problem of hunger is even invisible to the families affected by malnutrition. It’s so big, so common that it seems part of daily life. The human right to food is grossly violated, and society does not require a change. If politicians do not get the social pressure to generate a fight against malnutrition, the policy will continue as at present, almost nonexistent.

Relegated PRIORITY: In the next electoral contest already thrown the cards, the popular clamor calls security, food security is not listed in priority actions. The issue will again be marginal, the agenda that will score points generated elsewhere. There will be more deaths from hunger this election year and will be named human dramas. Between sidewalks and bushes will drown the last gasp of a country that is corrupt in his intellect and spirit, because malnutrition corroded the most precious of their future: their children, and therefore hope. Therefore it is necessary that political parties in contention frame their programs of government in the structure, organs and mechanisms already established in the Sinasos, as it should be a specific program designed at various stages of at least 20 years, with progressive measurable goals, focused on the causes and effects simultaneously. This course requires a champion, a man or a woman willing to go down in history. The significance awaits him or her. It must secure financing plans and programs, establishing a monitoring and implementation of public spending program in food safety. It should strengthen or create a coaching staff that not only implement, but will manage the process in the life of the food programs. Food security of this country should not be subject to the sway of political spoils. At the municipal level should allocate funds to invest in food and nutrition security, should clearly know the vulnerable areas and know what they are as they are, to raise from local solutions. The Government is talking about tax reform, but does not include nutritional food item as an argument. That is, the current government and political parties in the elections of 2011 seem to have forgotten that we are the land of the hungry. Guatemala is worse than Africa.

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Thank You for the Help on Facebook!

Thanks to the help of many people, we hit our mark and surpassed it! We needed 500 “likes” on our Miracles in Action facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/miracles.in.action) in order to get a donation of $1000. We had to do it within the month of May, and with your help we did it! Thank you to everyone who went to our page and “liked” us. Many thanks to those who posted us on their page to help even further. $1000 can go a long way to help the poor in Guatemala.  Thank you for caring about the less fortunate.

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Vocational School Graduates

A little over year ago Miracles in Action participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony opening the new vocational school in Santa Cruz, Guatemala. The construction of the vocational school was the biggest project Miracles in Action has participated in. This spring we celebrated the first round of graduates coming out of the vocational school. What is amazing about this project is that their education cost lest per student than tuition for a US university and that includes cost of the building! Thank you to all the donors who supported and believed in this project. It is yielding returns we could never have dreamed possible.

The photos of food are of the student's practical exam for this bi-mester .
Each student makes a meal and presents it.
The carpentry kids are Middle-School students. Students just finished a 7 week class.
The last photos are of students in our new beading class. We have placed an order for the bracelets in the photo. 
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Easy Money for Miracles in Action: We Need Your Help

We need 106 more people to “like” Miracles In Action in order for us to earn $1000 from a donor. This donor has pledged $2 for every “like” we get.  Please go to our page at: http://www.facebook.com/miracles.in.action and then”like” the page, simply by clicking on the like button, on the top center of the page. Each “like” is worth $2 (up to $1000 total). How much easier can it be to raise money for a great cause?

If you liked us on facebook already, then please pass the word to your friends and family.  Consider it your good deed for the day by posting it on your facebook wall.

You may wonder, what can $1000 do in Guatemala? It can buy 8 sewing machines so 8 women can have a sewing machine upon completion of vocational school. This will enable a woman to stay at home and earn an income while being able to care for her children. For some of these women it means the difference between being able to provide their children with food or having them go hungry. $1000 could also buy 20 pigs for a village so that they can raise the pigs, breed them, and then sell the offspring for income. Pigs also mean valuable food for the village, as meat is a rare commodity in most villages. $1000 can also buy 25 water filters for 25 families, which will prevent serious illness from drinking dirty water. With many villages getting water from dirty ponds and streams (the woman carrying jugs on their heads to get the water), it is so important that they have some way to filter out diseases and parasites. These are just a few of the ways we can stretch $1000 in Guatemala to make a difference in the world.

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Why YOU should “Like” Us

By Dr. E. Magdalena Battles

We have been working hard this past week to get more people to follow us on Facebook. We have a donor who has pledged $1 for each person we can get to follow us on Facebook, up to $500. All a person needs to do to follow us is to go to our Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/miracles.in.action and then”like” the page, simply by clicking on the like button, on the top center of the page. How much easier can it be to raise money for a great cause?

WAIT! It gets better. We now have someone matching the money.  That means for every follower we get, it is now valued at $2. That $500 just became $1000, as long as we reach our goal of 500 followers. We are on our way. We have over 200 followers (“likes”) now. Please help simply by going to our page and “liking” it.

You may wonder why you should you “like” us. Well, we are helping the poorest of the poor. We help people that are living in extreme poverty which is defined as living on less than $1.50 a day. The villages we help are typically people living in one or two room huts with dirt floor, no running water, and little or no educational opportunities available, to learn even the basics of reading and writing. Our goal is to help these people to help themselves through sustainable development projects. In the past 6.5 years here is what we have accomplished helping the poor in rural Guatemala:

-Over 20 water systems have been built (providing clean, safe, running water into villages)

-Over 1600 safe wood burning stoves have been installed (these save lives, lungs, and trees)

-School #35 is now underway!

Why are we different than other organizations you may wonder? Well, we have no paid employees running our organizations. Miracles in Action is run entirely by volunteers! How many organizations do you know that can say that? We are also proud to say that 100% of donor money goes directly to the project. If you donate $125 to buy a sewing machine then ALL of that money goes toward the purchase. None of the money donated for a project goes toward overhead. Our overhead is covered by the sale of Mayan handicrafts that we bring back to the states. We have a team of wonderful volunteers who have devoted a great deal of time and effort to selling the handicrafts, to cover any overhead and extra projects that we want to do, but don’t quite have enough donor money.

I can personally attest to the work of Miracles in Action. I am on the Board of directors, but I began as a donor wanting to make a difference in the world. Back in 2007, I donated the funds for school #15 located in Canton San Antonio, which is in the mountains of the Huehuetenango in northern Guatemala.  What is amazing to me is that the money went to buy the supplies and the villagers built the
school! Yes, you read that correctly, the villagers did all of the work under the direction of a mason. I visited the school after it was completed and words cannot describe the experience. The villagers (almost 600) were kind, grateful, loving, caring, giving, Christian people. I had prayed for the school and the people, and when I met the people, they said that they had been praying for me!
They were so grateful and happy to now have a primary school in their village. Their children will now be able to learn to read and write. Guatemala has a shortage of schools, but not a shortage of teachers. Once the school was built the government hired and paid for 5 teachers to teach in that remote village (something their government actually does right).

School #15 in Canton San Antonio.

Magdalena inside a typical home in Canton San Antonio, where school #15 was built.

I know I have made a difference in the world though that school.  How have you made a difference lately? Perhaps you can’t build a school, but you can help simply by following on facebook. If you haven’t yet, plese help us raise money for a wonderful cause: helping the poorest of the poor. No need to make a donation, just click “like” on the Miracles in Action PAGE and for each “like” the Miracles in Action Page gets, donors have promised to donate $2, up to $1000 total. This offer only lasts for the month of May, so please help raise the funds simply by “liking”! http://www.facebook.com/miracles.in.action

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Helping Malnourished Children

Miracles in Action is Working with Naru to Help Malnourished Children in Guatemala

Miracles in Action has partnered with Yvonne Sinclair of Naru, a non-profit charity working in Guatemala with focus on treating severely malnourished infants. Yvonne works with the local health clinics and small hospitals where the staff assesses the children and identifies the level of malnutrition. They obtain lists from the hospitals of children’s names, weights, heights, and the type of malnutrition for each child. Naru provides incaparina (a highly nutritional beverage) to families of the children who are severely malnourished. Naru monitors weights during the program to assure each child is getting the food and making progress. Many village women walk for miles to receive the powered Incaparina for their children.

Yvonne developed three educational videos in their local indigenous language and Spanish. The videos are viewed in the waiting room at the hospital, so that mothers can learn about how to prepare Incaparina (the nutritious beverage they will receive), what foods to give children at different ages, and basic health and hygiene information. Since the videos play continuously, anyone sitting in the waiting room will view and hear the videos.

Penny (Miracles in Action’s President and Founder) met Yvonne three times on visits to Guatemala, and she was impressed by Yvonne’s strong drive to help these children who would die or suffer developmental problems without her intervention.

Yvonne is a remarkable person. The World Link Partners (see their link below) had this to say: “Yvonne – who is from the U.K. – first came to Guatemala six years ago at the request of a friend who sought her help to save his coffee project. Yvonne realized that it was too late to rescue his project, but was so impressed with what she saw and the villages needs that she resigned her lucrative position in London and has dedicated her life for the past six years to serving the people in the Senahu area. We have worked closely with Yvonne for the past 5 years, and have witnessed up close the tremendous personal sacrifice she has made including her own financial resources (selling her flat in London to have income for the projects), countless hours of work, disappointment and frustration, and her own personal safety (hitch hiking isolated village roads alone at night).”

Currently, Naru does not have a website. It is in development. You can view some of Yvonne’s photos of children in the program “before” and “after”. http://www.flickr.com/photos/33625367@N08/

Yvonne does not have paid staff. She and a handful of volunteers/supporters donated their time and funds to this worthwhile program. World Link Partners introduced Penny to Yvonne, and they have a good intro to the work of Naru on their website http://www.worldlinkpartners.org/index.cfm/our-projects/nutrition-health/

If you are interested in helping Miracles in Action with this life saving cause please feel free to contact us at info@MiraclesInAction.org or at the below contact information. You can also donate now by clicking on the “donate” button on the upper left-hand of this page.

Miracles In Action, a 501(c)(3) non-profit

Helping poor families to help themselves…

Building our 32nd school in rural Guatemala. Established 19 vocational workshops and libraries. Installed 20 water systems for remote villages. Join us, and support a sustainable development project, where 100% of donation dollars go directly to the project.

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