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You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks!

Garden Class
The bus dropped us in front of an inviting, open gate, two kilometers South of Antigua, Guatemala, amidst the lush green rolling hills and coffee, fincas (plantations) at the base of the Volcan de Agua. Kavitha, Jamila, and I entered the bright compound, rich with flowers and bustling with people, and asked where we could find the classroom of Karina and Renato.

Waiting for us was a class of six students, the talented high school students who receive scholarships from the Godchild Project. On Saturdays, this class gets together to work and study. They, like you, have been following our progress via the internet (after their teachers translate it into Spanish) and were excited to meet us. The day was well planned...a tour of the Godchild project, a trip to a coffee finca, and a drive through a village hit by hurricane Mitch.

The Godchild Project began in Minnesota in 1986 with the goal of helping the poor of Guatemala lift themselves out of poverty, while remaining independent. Many of these students had been "affiliated" with the Godchild project for many years, receiving help with school, housing, and health care. They took us to see the library and meet the administrators of the education program, some Americans, some Guatemalans. Next, we visited a newly built clinic, with about a dozen construction workers waiting for us. It turns out that the construction workers are the fathers and brothers of the children affiliated with the Godchild Project. By working on this and other projects, they earn "sweat equity" hours towards earning a home, a floor, or a latrine.

The class was clearly proud of the next project: concrete stoves with a small space for a fire, three burners and a flu to take the smoke away. The class is learning to make these stoves so that they can build them in people's homes and teach them to use them. Without these stoves, most families cook over a fire on the floor. "This creates a lot of smoke" explains Luis Felipe, "which is very bad to breathe, especially for children. These stoves are safer, because the fire is up off the floor and out of the reach of children. It has a flue that takes the smoke out of the house, and it uses much less firewood." A better stove is a big deal; the new stoves will create better health, less deforestation, less work collecting firewood, and fewer hazards.

Next, we saw the adult learning center, where adults go to learn new skills, like building simple, sturdy houses, raising chickens (and constructing chicken coops), growing and maintaining vegetable gardens. Although Americans currently teach most of these classes, the plan is to replace the American teachers with locals, so that eventually this will be a truly independent community center.

From there, we loaded onto the back of a pickup truck, and bumped down the dusty road to the coffee finca where Luis Felipe lives and works with his mother and father. I was amazed at how beautiful the finca was. The bustling harvest was underway, and people from all over Guatemala had come down to work. The learn more about it, see Kavitha's article this week!

The Becados
Back in the pickup, we rode to Colonia Hermano Pedro, a small village outside of Antigua home to two of Karina and Renato's the students, Otto and Geraldo ("Cheech"). This village is located on either side of a steep ravine; a bridge spans the stream that runs down the ravine. During hurricane Mitch, this stream became a violent, raging river, carrying trees and houses away. "On November first, at one or two in the morning," Cheech told me, "the river started to rise." The day was spent evacuating families from the far side of the ravine to the church. "The Mayor was helping some people cross the river when a huge tree was torn from the ground by the water and fell on him, washing him down the river," Otto remembered. "We searched for him, but it became too dangerous and we decided to wait until the next day." Each family left one person, usually the oldest son, to protect their homes from looters, and everyone else moved into the church for the next week. The Mayor was the only casualty.

To learn more about these students or the Godchild project, contact me at: The class hopes to make contact with Spanish classes in other countries through the Internet. There are also ways to help the Godchild Project in the "Making a Difference" section of this web page, including fund raising at home, or coming down here as a "work group!"


Meeting Rigoberta - 5'2", But Better Than Michael Jordan!
Team - What About the US? - The "Extermination" and "Termination" of a People
Kavitha - Meet the Folks Who Work Hard for Your Cup of Joe
Shawn - Shots in the Night - Life in Todos Santos
Shawn - Close Quarters in Todos Santos
...Kid's Version
Maia - Quetzal - The Flight to Freedom
Meet Abeja | Abeja's Archive
Meet Abeja






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