Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Holiday Blessing

Niños con Bendición was our first stop on Christmas Eve and I can't think of a better way to start off this holiday. A 

tremendous thank you goes out to friend Anna Ohlrogge who told us about them. We also would like to greatly thank our many friends who helped us by providing donated goods and funds that we were able to pass along to these children and their families. 

We arrived and were the only participants as Lesbi welcomed us with an introduction to who they are and why they do what they do. Niños con Bendición is a growing group now of 23 children. They learn the dances of their region and put on performances to earn money to pay for their food and education. It is possible to sponsor a specific child or donate to the organization. The children we met ranged in age from 5 years to 15.

The children all started out by introducing themselves with their name, age, and the department from which their native outfits came. While all the children are from San Antonio Aguas Calientes and the surrounding villages, they wore a variety of traditional clothes representing the whole country. Following their introductions, they performed 4 dances, each demonstrating an aspect of their culture from farming to a love and rejection story. For their final dance they asked us to join them. The older children played the drums and the marimba to provide the music for all the dances.

From Guatemala 2013

Once we finished dancing we were taken to another area where Lesbi and a couple of the younger girls taught us about making tortilla and the tradition/evolution of the tortilla making process. Without tortilla, Guatemalans can't eat and it isn't uncommon for growing boys to eat up to a dozen or more tortillas per meal. Then we were all given a chance to try smoothing out the masa, making it into balls, and then patting it out into a tortilla. Maia was a bit shy about participating in everything but when it came to actually making tortillas, she was a natural. Perhaps it's genetic. Mine were by far the worst. Not very round at all but they still tasted like tortilla. After we flattened them out they were placed on a big round clay slab over a hot wood fire. Lesbi explained to us how this is the traditional way to cook them and those who try to speed up the process and cook on metal with gas, while it works, the tortillas don't taste as good.

We were then served some tortillas made by us, black beans, and a very tasty spicy sauce. As we ate we learned more about the project. Lesbi is a trained teacher but was never able to secure a position with the government teaching. Her concern however is for the many children who can't attend school because they can't afford the uniforms, supplies and transportation to get there. For that reason she and her husband started Niños con Bendición. (They have a son of their own that turned 10 on the day we were visiting.) 

While Lesbi still doesn't have an official classroom, she has her 23 children of the community and an opportunity to teach. The children come to her almost every day. They learn music, dance, English, and are often fed there as well. Those who teach are volunteering their time to help the children and more and more children are coming all time as the word gets out about the great work they are doing. She dreams of some day having a bigger space to be able to provide a dance room, music room, classroom, and a larger performance space. All in good time with enough sponsors and people helping to support them, we hope she will realize her dream.

We are so thankful that with the help of friends and family we were able to provide toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, pens, pencils, scissors, erasers, paper, crayons, colored pencils, monetary contributions and so much more. For those of you who were kind enough to help us collect for this cause, we will be forever grateful and so are they. We also hope for any of our friends or family that happen to venture to Guatemala, that you take the opportunity to visit this very special place.

As the holidays for us is a time not only for spending with friends and family but to also think about our community and role on this planet, our next stop was Valhalla, a macadamia nut farm that Dean and I visited 13 years ago. It is owned by Lorenzo a retired firefighter from San Francisco and his wife. They farm completely organically and have 2 varieties of macadamia nut trees. They have been running this farm for 35 years. The beauty of these trees in addition to being a source of food and other products is their contribution to the environment and their ability to clean the air. Unfortunately it can be seen as a losing battle in an area with no regulation of vehicle fumes but the hope is for them to eventually plant enough trees worldwide to fight against the impacts of global warming. Not long ago they received a major award in Switzerland for their impact on the world. They have planted over 350,000 trees in Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nigeria.

After learning about their completely organic farming methods and their very low impact methods of processing the tree fruits into a final product for sale and export, we entered their spa/showroom space. We were introduced to macadamia lotion that does wonders for psoriasis and eczema, oils and shampoos, and of course chocolate covered macadamia nuts.

We followed up a few purchases with a lovely conversation as we joined Lorenzo and family during their breakfast. Lorenzo loves to tell stories and the girls thought that he reminded them a lot of their Papa (Lauren's dad).

We returned to the hotel where Dean took a rest as he wasn't felling well, Maia decided to just chill, and Morgan and I took a van in to town to check out a bit of Antigua. More on our impressions of Antigua to come.

I blog with BE Write

No comments:

Post a Comment