Category Archives: Guatemala

“We will remember you…when we use our toilets”

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Some of the recipients of the new latrines (toilets).

On my last day in San Antonio, we had a big ceremony to celebrate the new water tower, electric that has been installed in two homes (the rest of the homes should be on-grid within 6 months) and the new latrines!

It was a lovely sunny day with music and food and small speeches by the community and the organizations that helped them over the years.

The day before the ceremony, I was given a skirt and shirt from the ladies in San Antonio. It was a sweet and unexpected gift. It was also quite funny to me that I was given a typical Guatemaltecan outfit to wear when the ladies themselves wore jeans just like I usually do. When I showed up the morning of the ceremony, I wasn’t surprised that I was the only one in a typical outfit. I had to laugh at myself and smile for them. The ladies were so happy to see me wearing the outfit that they had given to me and even though I felt extremely out of place (I was the only “gringa” in attendance), I knew it meant a lot to them (or it was an elaborate prank that they will finally share with me next time I visit 😉 ).  Continue reading

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Open the Faucets!

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Our first water tower in San Antonio (on the left) was concrete and about 4m high. The new one is metal and the platform is about 9.5m high.

Water is running in San Antonio!

The new community water tower is complete!

Four years ago, the government provided plans and laid pipe alongside the dirt roads of the community so each household would be able to access the waterline. Unfortunately, the plans and piping were all the government had provided at the time. The community needed a water tower and tank in order to actually get water to each house. Continue reading

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A Day in the Life…

(or as my Guatemalteco friends say, “The Adventures of Cait” – Stick with me for this…it’s good)

I live in a house surrounded by walls.
It is a typical house here in Chiquimulilla, Guatemala.
Simple. Concrete. With steel doors.  And iron bars.
The house has a small courtyard in the front and back.  Separated by the house.
In the back is where I do all the washing (dishes, clothes, etc).
My days begin simple here.
I wake up at 5:30am.
Study.
Make breakfast.
Wash dishes.
Kill mosquitoes.
For every one I kill, 5 bite me.
Prepare Lunch for the day.
Shower.
And leave for San Antonio by 8am.
This particular morning, I was washing dishes when the steel door slammed shut.
Augh. The wind.
I looked around. No key. No phone.

First thought: This is not good.

Second thought: Thank you, Lord, I’m not in my PJs. Continue reading

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Like Father, Like Son

Construction is going really well in San Antonio!

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The home of Marco and his family

I really love being back with this particular community – they feel more like family to me then any other place I have worked.  I first arrived in San Antonio in July ’08. I instantly loved the remote community. It was a homestead at the very early stages of development in the dry coastal plains of Southern Guatemala. I played soccer with the kids and helped distribute food packages to families. It was the first place I experienced families living without access to safe drinking water. It changed the course of my life. I am doing what I do today because of what I saw in San Antonio 8 years ago. I returned to San Antonio in February ‘09 to manage my first water/sanitation project. Continue reading

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I should be in Haiti right now, but I’m in chilly NJ!

I bet if I looked back at all my blog posts, a high percentage would start out with some variation of “sorry it has taken me so long to write…” 🙂

I did not intend to be Stateside so long after the holidays, but our project to Haiti, originally slated for January, was postponed to February and finally cancelled last week.

It feels odd to be home right now because my schedule (which I had been working on for months) was to be in Haiti with a team of animal science and agriculture trainers. Our team of 6 women was supposed to arrive in Port Au Prince on Saturday, but due to political unrest and riots, we had to cancel our trip. The goats have already been purchased and will be distributed to the students in Marbial by our local contacts in Haiti this week.

Last year, I wrote a blog post about how much research and planning goes into my projects before I leave the States. It can take up to a year from when we get the project application until we have a team in the community. One of the hardest events to follow/predict are elections. I generally try to avoid countries during elections, but sometimes it is inevitable. In the case of Haiti, a new president should have been selected months ago, but votes were cancelled indefinitely after allegations of fraud and distrust led to protests and riots.

I wrote a 2-page letter that donors to the Goat project received last week. It details what is going on in Haiti and how our program will continue even though we are not there physically. If interested, read it here: Letter about the Gift a Goat program.

Special thanks to Oregon Girl Scout Troop 10143 and Saint Mary’s CCD students. Troop 10143 sent me an awesome care package with supplies for the students in Haiti. The package included important hygiene items like toothpaste, toothbrushes and soaps. Saint Mary’s CCD students raised enough money for a little over 3 goats and each student made a card for me to bring to the kids in Haiti. I am keeping all those items packed and ready to go as soon as we reschedule our flights to Haiti 🙂

In addition to raising funds for Haiti, the “Gift a Goat & More!” campaign also raised enough money to build a water tower and latrines in San Antonio, Guatemala and latrines in La Cumbre, El Salvador. I am heading to Guatemala on February 23rd to work in San Antonio. I am excited to be working with the same community I worked with back in 2009 (see post “Then and Now” to read about San Antonio).

Lastly, I will take a couple weeks to study Spanish while I am in Guatemala to improve my communication skills (wahoo!.. maybe I will learn how to say “wahoo!” in Spanish 😉 )

Thank you for your support of these projects!

p.s. There are some pros to being home in February – the last time I was home for my birthday was back in 2012. Now I can take advantage of all those coupons that come in only for your “birthday month” 😉

Building a snowman for Schmitty is another plus to being home for some extra time this winter :)

Building a snowman for Schmitty is another plus to being home for some extra time this winter 🙂

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Filed under El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti

2015 Review

I am so excited to announce that WE REACHED OUR FUNDING GOAL for the “Gift a Goat & More” campaign! Thank you all for supporting and sharing the fundraiser with your friends and family!

As I am preparing for my 2016 projects, I realized that I almost forgot to highlight what we have accomplished together in 2015!

See the video below for a recap of some of my main projects.

Thank you all so much for your ongoing support of these water, sanitation, hygiene and livestock programs.

I consider you all part of my team as I would not be able to be working in the field without you all supporting me in many different ways!

Have a very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

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December 24, 2015 · 12:41 pm

Then and Now

February 7th 2009, I boarded a plane for Guatemala and a two-month project that changed the direction of my career from that point forward. I had found my place as an engineer. My first blog – yippeekiyay – documented those months and my first water/sanitation project abroad in San Antonio.

I had returned, briefly, to San Antonio back in 2013, but since it was for about an hour, I did not get to see many of the men I had worked with, the women I had met with or the kids I had played with back in 2009.

Me and the guys on one of our work days (2009)

During this stay in Guatemala, I got to return on multiple occasions and really explore all the changes to San Antonio since I had first visited there in 2008 (about 6 months before I started my project there). The community is so lush and beautiful now. Trees that were planted and cared for many years ago have filled the community with shade and fruit. It was rather barren when I was there and to see all the “fruit” from the labors of Carol Gleeson, the late fonder of Operation Jabez, and the rest of the staff and the churches and the schools that she involved in helping San Antonio was just incredible. Families made a point to tell us stories of Carol’s ministry and how she would pray over trees she planted and those trees are full of fruit and healthy years after Carol has passed. There is even a new little school building and new little church building.

And the kids! So grown up! Here are two (“then and now”) photos.

Marcelo – such a fun little guy who was my favorite teammate for games. You can also see the difference in landscape now, 6 years later.

Chusita is all grown up. I was so happy to see how she developed. I knew her as a toddler and she wasn’t verbal and had bowed legs. Now, she greeted me and laughed and looks very healthy 🙂

I spent a couple different days in San Antonio. The first day, I met up with the former president of the community, Modesto. It was really great catching up with him and seeing the improvements made to the community. I also wandered around with Jen and found some of the other guys that were on my team. All in all, about 20 men worked on the water/sanitation project in 2009. I had been close to a core of about 6 of them.

Modesto with his wife (2015)

I had wanted to meet with the current community president to discuss future projects, but part of me was a bit nervous. I was very comfortable with the guys I had worked with, but who was the new president? Would he want to work with me on new ways to improve San Antonio? Would he be willing to put together teams of community workers like Modesto did? I didn’t find the new president the first couple of times I was in San Antonio, but on the third visit, Jen and I were wandering around and ran into Guadalupe. I was psyched! He was one of the masons for my project and while talking with him, Cruz went by on his motorcycle (Cruz was another mason and another former teammate that I wanted to see). I ran down and shouted to get Cruz’s attention and he came over and we all caught up briefly. I explained to them that I wanted to return to San Antonio to meet with the new president to discuss future projects and hoped that they could take part in the meeting with me.  It was at that point that I met the new president – Guadalupe!  I was so relieved. Here was an old teammate, a friend, and he was the current president. What a sweet blessing 🙂

Guadalupe (left) is the current president and Cruz (right)

A week later, we had our meeting and I was pleased to see that I knew most of the people currently leading San Antonio.  I was interested to know what they thought the community needed. We talked about water and sanitation for the most part. During my project in 2009, we built the first composting toilets (2 of them) in the community. I had worked with the local government and other aid agencies to build an appropriate toilet for that area. Since then, 17 families have built a composting toilet at their own houses! It is really exciting to come into an area 6 years later and see that certain designs have been accepted and replicated.  My desire is to help each family (60 total) to each have a toilet of their own. It will cost about $150 per toilet for materials and each family will help with the construction and labor. We also discussed a new water tower that they would like to construct. This water tower will provide water to each house. It still won’t exactly be indoor plumbing like we are used to here in the States, but the water will be piped to a little basin in the cooking area (typically outside of the house) for use. Many of the houses have hand-dug wells. They understand that the water in those wells in not very healthy for drinking (according to the local government health dept) but it is easier to get water from their well then to walk to the center of town where there is a basin with safe drinking water that is pumped from a deep well.  The water aspect of my project in 2009 was a small elevated water tank for drinking water and it was used for many years, but the community is stretching and growing and the central source isn’t as easy for people to access. Not as easy as water piped to the houses would be 🙂 I did give them recommendations for improvements to make right now and explained that I do not know if I can, in fact, raise the funds for two major projects (toilets and a water tower). The community leaders are very understanding and glad that I am going to advocate on their behalf to try to return and help them improve their infrastructure. San Antonio is looking wonderful from the efforts of Operation Jabez and many others who have helped, however there is some major infrastructure work to be done to increase their health, by improving their sanitation and water facilities.

 

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