Wednesday, April 21, 2010

El Progreso for the Weekend

Alright, I'm finally sitting down to blog about this past weekend. First, however, you need a little background info.

Back in March, I went with NPH's student leadership group on a day trip to the department of El Progreso, located about three hours away from us. If you missed it the first time, here's that blog. Basically, a -- let's just say sizeable --- donation came to NPH Guatemala from Germany. The donor wanted the money to go towards an NPH-organized project involving Guatemala's Corredor Seco -- a rural region of the country suffering from serious drought and crop shortages.

In an interesting but exciting move, the NPHG house gave the donation money to the 12 students of our leadership goup -- for them to organize and execute the project. They've been planning for the past month, and last weekend, I was lucky enough to tag along and watch these teenagers put their plans into action.

For starters, it was a full weekend. We left NPH on Friday morning and didn't come back until Sunday night. Each day we were there, we were up at 4 or 5 a.m., outside all day, and not in bed until late. Sleeping on concrete floors; cold outdoor showers. It was busy, and exhausting, but awesome.

Here's the run-down of the project. Last Thursday night, the kids spent hours assembling 150 bags of food. Each bag weighed probably 30 pounds and contained rice, beans, powdered milk, oil, salt, soy protein, oatmeal, cooking oil, and atol (a traditional Guatemalan milk). They also gathered bags of toiletries donated by the NPH house, and they hand-made and decorated a dozen piñatas.

On each day, Saturday and Sunday, we woke up early, filled trucks with the supplies, and headed off to a community of El Progreso. Saturday was to Los Aritos, a village of about 220 people, and Sunday we visited Santa Bárbara, a village of about 200. In each community, the 12 of our kids passed out a bag of food and several toiletries to each family, organized piñatas, soccer, and frisbee with the kids, and spent the afternoon talking to community members.

It was not an easy project, by any means. Los Aritos and Santa Bárbara are only accessible by truck. The trip to Santa Bárbara was especially interesting. Imagine 18 people in one pick-up truck, driving for a full hour on a narrow dirt road through the Guatemalan jungle, parking on the edge of a cliff, and then having to walk 20 more minutes down a hill to the town of Santa Bárbara -- only accessible by foot. Definitely thought were going to die at some point.

I talked about this project in my first blog too, so I'll try not to repeat too much. But, I guess for lack of more eloquent words, it was just an awesome weekend. Projects like this are something I expect to find from adults, or from privileged private school kids trying to complete their service hours (I know, I was once one of those). It's not something I expect from 12 teenagers who live in an "orphanage" and who come from more disadvantaged situations than most of us can even fathom.

Watching the kids this weekend, I saw them organize chaotic piñata sessions with much more patience and I ever could have, speak frankly with adults in the community with much more confidence than I ever could have, and reflect on the whole experience during late-night conversations that were not only wise beyond their years, but also wise beyond mine.

So, I've said it before, but I'll say it again. On paper, these 12 kids are "orphaned, abandoned, and abused children" who 5 years ago didn't even have basic food, clothing and education. Today, they are organizing a several thousand dollar service project, and doing it with passion, maturity, and incredible humility. I'd be pretty willing to bet that they had no idea how much their lives would change when they first stepped into NPH.

Packing up the bags of food.

They filled the ENTIRE house!

Loading up to leave.

Loved their piñatas!

Day 1: Off to Los Aritos!

Los Aritos

Viktor playing soccer with the kids.

Introductions at Los Aritos.

Alex passes out bags of food.

Pedro and Jaime pass out toiletries.

Viktor makes a friend while setting up the piñatas.


Ever and Israel keep the piñatas going.

Vicky climbing trees to bring us lots of...


Day 2: 18 people, 1 hour, 1 pick-up truck, and this incredibly narrow bridge.

As close as you can get to Santa Bárbara by car.

Deic, Vicky, and me arriving at Santa Bárbara.

Viktor speaks to the Santa Bárbara community.

Pedro and Huinter pass out food.

Toiletries distributed at Santa Bárbara.

Starting our walk down to the actual village.

View from Santa Bárbara.

The Santa Bárbara school.

Chatting with the kiddos.

Ever helps with piñatas.

Everyone dives for candy!

Piñatas get a little crazy.

And on Sunday afternoon, after a long weekend, some relaxing in the river. :)

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