April 28-May 6, 2012
Six-thirty a.m. on Saturday, April 28, with the help of volunteer shuttle drivers, 10 of us boarded the plane for Guatemala. The 11th person on our team met us in Guatemala City. Thanks to contributions from West End members and friends, we had with us $5,000 worth of medicines needed in the clinics; $1500 had already been sent to purchase building supplies. With our luggage tied to the top of a van, we drove to Panajachel with a stop for lunch. The last leg of our trip was by boat giving us our first view of beautiful Lake Atitlan.
Our hotel in San Juan La Laguna was close to Petrona’s house where she prepared all of our meals. We immediately began to enjoy the native dress of the people, the view of the lake from the unfinished 3rd floor of our hotel, and the tuk tuks that would take us to our destinations.
We went to Guatemala to support the work of ODIM - Organization for the Development of the Indigenous Maya, an organization founded and coordinated by JoAn Dwyer, an Individual Volunteer in Mission. The organization provides medical and dental clinics in San Juan and San Pablo, a nutrition program, a scholarship program, and a children’s cultural exchange. We were there to staff the clinic in San Juan two days and in San Pablo two days and to work on building a house for a family in San Pablo.
In addition to our work we had the opportunity for some cultural activities. On Sunday we hiked to a cross on a hill overlooking San Juan. There we had a wonderful view of Lake Atitlan. We also visited a beach and toured an organic coffee co-op. During the week we went to a Women’s Weaving Co-op. After our 4 days working, we said goodbye and accompanied by JoAn took the boat to Panajachel and van to Antigua, Guatemala. There we toured the city, viewed historic sites, and enjoyed the regional cuisine. We were thrilled to witness the legacy of West End member Martha Wagner as we toured Unicar Hospital in Guatemala City. When Martha passed away, she left a gift to be invested in Missions & Outreach. In her honor and with her gift, a children’s cardiac operating room is fully equipped to save lives. It was an honor for the team to witness her generosity.
What made this trip so very special?
Setting – Lake Atitlan is a beautiful lake with the mountains and volcanoes surrounding it, the clear aquamarine water, the indigenous villages nestled on the shores.
People – The Mayan women dress in multicolored dresses and aprons, often carry large loads on their heads, and both men and women have ready broad smiles. The construction team worked side by side each day with four local men and boys, two who would be the homeowners. Practicing Spanish and English and perfecting skills in laying blocks, the group became friends. The medical team saw an average of 50 people a day in San Juan and 25 people a day in San Pablo. With translators they heard the stories, played with the children, and provided medical care.
Work – The construction team was outside all day doing manual labor where they could see the results of their work as the walls of the house gradually grew taller and taller. The medical team recorded vital signs, kept records of people’s medical problems, diagnosed problems, planned long term care, and dispensed medications.
Team – The team members became friends as they got to know each other at meals, at work, and on excursions. The members of the team were Harvey Baxter, Casey Reed, John Cowden, Elizabeth Gerlock, Karen Hicks, Christe’ Blackshear, Trey Harrell, Jeff McCormick, Shara Parker, Elisabeth Beale, ans Sarah McCormick.
We are all grateful for the opportunity to be with the people of San Juan and San Pablo, to be in such a beautiful place, and to have worked and traveled together. Thank you West End members and friends for your support.
We have lots of pictures and stories to share and we’d love to come to your Sunday School class, small group, or family gathering. For more information, contact Sarah McCormick at firstname.lastname@example.org.