Friday, August 28, 2015

Day 1, Part 3, The "Backyard School" and evening

"Build it and they will come..."
The "Backyard School" was founded by Iris Santander and her family in San Bartolome, Guatemala. It has literally started as a simple classroom built in the families yard. Iris is a strong community leader, as is her whole family! Iris wanted a safe place for local children to gather after public school, after 1 PM during the school year as well as weekends, school breaks and for community events. Along with bible study, English and music classes, when volunteers are available the students also receive tutoring. Plans are in the works for other courses as well as a program for mothers on parenting and nutrition! Iris reaches out to the poorest of the poor in her small town. OUR Guatemala's connection and support began after hearing the story of how Iris's mother "Abuela" (a "grandmother" to all!) literally saved OUR Alexander/Chus's life by giving him a safe haven when he was kicked to the streets from his former orphanage at age 17. Abuela gave him shelter, a bed and food until he was on his feet. Alex promised to return and reconnected in January 2014. We were all welcomed with open arms and the family was so pleased to see that Alex was alive, healthy and loved! He found his new family but never forgot the kindness he had received in San Bartolome.
As OUR Guatemala got involved in the El Amor de Patricia Bunk Bed Project, Alex suggested we contact Iris to help identify families and children in the most need of a bed. Iris started a long waiting list! OUR Guatemala started delivering beds to the children of San Bartolome in March 2014...first recipient was Abuela's 28 year old son Marvin who suffers from Down's Syndrome. Marvin had been sharing a bed with his mother for years. Marvin ran up and down the streets of his town announcing he now had a bed!!!! We haven't stopped since!
We quickly learned about the school and decided to introduce the grassroots project to our teams. Everyone who enters is impressed. In July team leader of Families for Humanity came up with an idea to sponsor projects in the school in the future and came up with the name "SMART START" as a "twinning" with her local Smart Start school in California. In December of 2014 Valerie Edwards led a team to the school who immediately pledged $30,000 to complete construction! Support and encouragement continues to grow! Join us as we love and support the people that make San Bartolome feel like "home" to not just the residents but those of us who have the honor to welcomed into the community, the homes, school and town hall! Not to mention the soccer fields!

Here are pictures from our visit to the Backyard School. I am very impressed by Jefferson who is only 15 and has been teaching English to the kids since he was 11. He is an inspiration and a role model to the kids who attend. 
As we were preparing to leave a beautiful rainbow appeared. 

As we were leaving the last house we delivered beds to Nico nabbed a few large leaves off the tree thinking he would cover his head from the rain since we left our ponchos.

Instead he used them to catch water

Inside the original building used for the backyard school. It is about 16x20 (comparing it to our school house at home). 

As you can see several kids sit inside. I am finding it hard to fit all of our school supplies and things we need in our building the same size for just 2 kids.

The new construction of the BackYard School.

The ceilings are beautiful!!!

Two beautiful girls.

Two beautiful kids.

Nico squeezing into a desk 

Luca not wanting to hear about school. He did get into their presentation though and enjoyed hearing how it all came about.

This is Jefferson and Iris is to the left. What an inspiration

Alexander tells his story and how he met Abuela and Iris. Alex is another inspiration.

Jennifer Demar and her family raised a lot of money and donated the Marimba to the Backyard School. While Jefferson and others were telling us their stories and what they do, the men were setting it up. Jefferson was surprised when he walked out. He can now play and teach the kids.

Beauty in the yard

The kids liked climbing up the hill but the electrical wires were right at the level of their heads.

The view of the school and property from above

Driving home I tried to snap a few pictures. There is a lot of political unrest in Guatemala right now. Elections are coming up. This is a political presentation.

People selling wares. I wish I had bought more after I got home.

Crazy kids after a busy day. They wanted to swim, but dinner was next on the agenda.

Don't do it Luca!

Viewed from our balcony, the ruins of the cathedral.

Mini Nico size doors around the hotel. He was trying to convince me this is the sauna.

But, no this is it.

Nico and Matthew relaxing after an emotional and rewarding day.


The open laundry area. 

Day 1 was our busiest day but one of the most rewarding days I have ever had. Honestly I was not tired at all by the end of it. A day at Disney is not near as rewarding and fun as this day was. My kids will also remember this day before they remember a Disney day.

If you want to donate to the Backyard School they are working to complete the new building and add additional classes. Valerie Edwards an adoptive mom in the US started For the Love of Mateo  after spending 3.5 years struggling to get him home. When you place your donation specify for the Backyard School and Team Inspire.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

August 16, Day 1, Part 2, Delivering Bunk Beds

I am elated we spent the morning at the orphanage with the kids because after lunch they said everyone had to pack up and deliver the last sets of beds as they were not coming back to the orphanage. We were able to experience both. 

Several months ago Nico auctioned off 6 of his meat birds to raise money for bunk beds. Our beds were actually delivered back in May to boys in the shoeshine homes. However, this time we were able to experience the delivery of bunk beds ourselves even those these weren't from our donations. The Demar family we traveled with raised a tremendous amount of money for this trip. It was an honor to join them and help.

The mattresses are made locally. We donated sheets and comforters as to buy sheets there costs about $10. We brought several of our matching twin bunk bed sets and had donations of others. There is a need for comforters and blankets because these homes are high up in the highland mountains.

They were stacked in pick up trucks and off we went

Our first stop was deliver beds up a very tall hill. The family anxiously waited for us as we arrived. They helped carry the beds up as did Nico, Sam, Mike, and others. I believe us moms were just trying to watch where we were walking. I failed to take pictures of us walking up and down the steep hill so I could watch my step. The trail was dirt and a little slippery from moisture. The families travel up and down with no problem. 

There really are no words for this picture but a passing of sharing and caring. Smiles and appreciation a true sense of what our world should be.

Beautiful colors everywhere.

This sweet girl got a stuffed animal. Her brother got a new package of hot wheels. I think the photo is on my other camera (which I left at the hotel, but is on its way to me due to an awesome group member who claimed it for me. Thanks Christina). I don't think his smile could have gotten any bigger. He was ELATED!

Team Inspire (my kiddos) first bunk bed delivery. Luca commented often that no one should be without a bed and he was so glad he could help.

For us Americans it was very hard seeing the dogs in Guatemala. They are everywhere and are so skinny. They don't bother you and run if you try to touch them as they are used to being shooed away. I was told that they do protect the home when the families are away.

Riding Guatemalan style to the next delivery site

Our next 3 beds were all in the same area and a group of kids were excitedly waiting for us. 

Sam, Nico and Matthew wasted no time in handing out stuffed animals. 

Luca didn't hesitate to step in and help out with the set up. What I didn't snap here is the actual interior of the house. Basically we walked into a small area, approximately 10x6 where there was a dresser and then this walkway opened to a larger area where there is the bunk bed on the left and another old bed on the right. That is all there is to the kitchen table, no couch or lounge chair. Luca did point out that some had TV and dvd players. I am sure these were only operational when they could afford electric. A church service was going on in one of the houses. Music, singing, and community could be seen and heard.

I walked around a little to snap some pictures of the area. This is another home which was located behind the other. 

Laundry hung to dry.

Mike was one who was very skeptical about going on this trip. I was thrilled he got so much out of it too. I think his skepticism came from not knowing the group we were going with, how we would be getting around, and no idea what to expect. He truly felt the needs for the families here and helped out. He really enjoyed watching the kids. 

Luca helps tuck in the sheets.

The beautiful kids of the village with their stuffed animals.

Two boys that were receiving a new bed.

The parents are happy as their children can now sleep in their own beds. Families are not all sleeping in one bed. Children and parents get a better nights sleep.

Material things are not what makes these children happy, but the love and care from a family unit. Do material things help? Yes, to an extent. Beds are one of those material things. Our family has quickly learned we don't need all the gizmos and gadgets, they just take away from the family being together. 

I wish I could have seen the boys snuggled in their new beds that night.

 One of the families getting a new bunk bed actually had a bed prior to us that was outside. It was swarming with flies. You couldn't give it away in the U.S., yet they said another family would likely still use it after we left.
All the homes had some way to catch the rain water run off. This is one of them.

Our last bed and the only time it rained, though it was looking like it for awhile. But it was a good excuse to get the rain ponchos out and leave them for the family to use. The family questioned the rain ponchos we were wearing. When someone asked where we got them I told the group we should leave them. $1 rain ponchos from the dollar store mean so much more when you have nothing. Luca was quite upset to leave his poncho as he would get wet walking back to the bus. I explained to him these kids had to walk miles to and from school without rain gear. This is the last house we went to. As we walked in there is the small room with a stove which was hot as we walked by. There was a short hallway leading back to the bedroom.

This is the bedroom. There are two large 'beds' to the right and the new bunk bed we set up. You can see the one bed is set on cinder blocks with cardboard and pallets.

A police escort up the hills.

Truly a day to remember. Pictures hang in my house as a constant reminder not to complain about the bad night sleep we got or how we couldn't get comfortable. I personally started complaining later in the week about the extremely hard bed in the hotel and I only had one pillow. I quickly stopped myself and said, "Thank goodness I had a bed, a pillow, a clean room, and a fan." There won't be any complaining about beds anymore.

To make your tax deductible donation towards a new bed, sheets, pillows, or to purchase a new bed for $180 US visit The Bunk Bed Project and post your name and donation with Team Inspire.