I won’t lie … yesterday was a long, hard day. We left Xela (Quetzaltenango) at about 10 am and didn’t get to Satakna until after 3 in the afternoon. Fallen bridges, detours, bumpy dirt roads, winding mountain passes high in the clouds with lots of fog … a difficult trip. But Pedro was fantastic with safe driving and positive attitude and our contact in Satakna, Magdy Pedro, met us in the nearest big city and directed us to her village.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon. The stoves arrived here the previous Monday. Upon our arrival we were greeted by Julio Mateo, the local coordinator for a stove project which was jointly funded by the Estero Rotary Club and Miracles in Action. Julio escorted us to several homes to see the stoves being installed and others already installed. We followed narrow slippery paths to these homes, and I envisioned the difficulty in carrying the heavy cement blocks, sand and other stove parts along these same paths that I was having difficulty navigating with no extra burden. We met a group of men and women working on an installation. Shaking many calloused hands and with many “mucho gustos” (please to meet you), I was in awe of the amount of hard work this community was putting toward improving their lives with these safe, fuel-efficient stoves. And I knew that their hands were calloused from work much more difficult than even this project. I asked if some of the women could share their thoughts on the stoves. They didn’t yet have much experience, but two of the women were confident enough to speak. One stood proudly and with all her front teeth missing, spoke of her deep gratitude for this help. Another shared that besides being safer and venting smoke outside the home, the families would also save a lot on the amount of firewood needed for cooking and boiling water.
Later today we will meet with Magdy to discuss a new scholarship program here. It is sometimes difficult to begin something like this from the bottom-up. We are supporting her with a scholarship to weekend classes at the university, and also training her to be the local scholarship coordinator. In preparation for today’s meting, I reviewed some of the scholarship applications again last night. Uniforms, school supplies, textbook, money to complete homework assignments – the total request is for about $87 per year per basico student (middle school). The application for Bertinia showed her family’s average monthly income was Q1400 (approx.. $180). Counting parents and some cousins living with them, that income is supporting 11 people. Bertinia may not be able to continue to 7th grade without our help.
During these visits I’ve noticed the beautiful children and their smiles and shy giggles, the pride of the people, their warmth and friendliness. Despite the poverty and tough conditions, this is a beautiful place with beautiful and joyful people. I am happy to be able to represent Miracles in Action and honored to be welcomed in this community. And reflecting on my initial observation that it was a long, hard day getting here …. well, let’s just say I’ve reevaluated what a long and hard day is, after seeing the hard work of this community.