Wednesday, June 24, 2009

So, I'm off to Guatemala...

So, I think it would be appropriate to begin with a little background information as to what I'll be doing the next few weeks. I leave Sunday, June 28th at 12:55 am (as in, the morning) for El Paso and then onto Guatemala City. I'll eventually get in around 6am and get picked up by Marco Tulio Maldonado, the Field Director for Hands For Peacemaking Foundation (HFPF), an Everett, Wa-based nonprofit started by the late Dr. Aller, who worked at Snohomish Family Practice. From there, we will travel by car/truck/bush plane??? depending on the weather...

HFPF has been in Guatemala for over 20 years and has since established a clinic in Barillas (north of Huehuetenango) in the NW highlands. The foundation is also involved in other development work; building schools, clean water and sanitation projects, and installing clean, wood burning stoves. Most indigenous families cook over open fires in their homes, which is both very dirty and unhealthy. HFPF often brings large, Wa-area (usually Rotary) groups down to work on these development projects with the villagers. All of their work is in collaboration with the indigenous villages, only after a need has been identified by the Guatemalan people and they have organized as a community to support the successful completion of the project does HFPF begin to search for donors and volunteers to come down to Guatemala.

My time in Guatemala will include work with the HFPF development projects, as well as experience in the Bethesda Clinic (where Dr. Allen first initiated his work) with Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez and English instruction with Willy, Marco's assistant. He works with the groups who come down to Guatemala, so his mastery of English is important. The experiences in the clinic will be especially interesting. I remember a family friend who worked for some time in a clinic in Bolivia as a nurse recount stories of all the medical needs she witnessed. Anything and everything could happen...

I have to admit, I am a little anxious. For the first four weeks I will be with HFPF, but then I will travel the country on my own for a week to take in the rest of the country. I may even trek over to Honduras for a few days to see some Mayan ruins as the infamous Tikal ruins are just too far away. This is the first time I have ever traveled abroad on my own, or really just ever. And, I have only ever been out of the country for two weeks at a time. However, I am confident I can get by conversationally with my Spanish and Guatemala is good country to start my travels in; the indigenous people speak slowly as Spanish is also their second language.

If you want to know more about HFPF, check out their website:

And, this link has information about the Donovan Fellowship. I am traveling to Guate as a Donovan Fellow:

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