Hola friends, family, and others reading this! Greetings from Antigua, Guatemala! My time here has been filled with overwhelming love, joy, and extraordinary acts of kindness. I have never seen such a loving community that supports one another like the community of Parramos. My flight here was definitely a journey, I can assure you! All I can say is thank you Aeroplan for your outrageous flight schedules!
My journey started off flying from Toronto at 12 in the afternoon to Columbus. I then had only 50 minutes to find my gate for my next flight to Houston. In Houston I had a few hours to rest and eat but it also gave me an opportunity to shop. I then flew from Houston to Guatemala City. I arrived here late at night but traffic was still very heavy unfortunately but with a driver like Sergio it didn’t feel like there was any traffic. As soon as I entered the home I am staying in I was greeted with warm welcomes and kind words. Alicia, who runs Loving Arms in Guatemala presented me her home to stay in while I came to visit. Alicia and her family have always been well known for their caring hearts and generosity.
My first day started off quite quickly with an early morning travel to Parramos, where The Centre Of Hope is located. The Centre Of Hope is where Loving Arms runs various projects such as a school for children who may not otherwise afford to go to school. They also run various Co-ops which teach the women and men of Parramos basic skills so that they can find jobs or run businesses to help support their families. These Co-ops include sewing, dairy (working with cows), and knitting. Loving Arms also has projects like “sponsor a child” where you can give a little bit of money each month to a family in Parramos to help them afford basic needs. Loving Arms also runs projects like “build a home”, “food distributions”, and “clothing distributions”. As a teenager who cannot speak any Spanish whatsoever I was presented the task of assisting the English teacher throughout the first half of the day. The kids start off the day with morning devotionals which consist of the kids screaming either Spanish or English songs at you. They then prayed for the day and then we all shared a meal together. I was very scared coming on this trip because I felt it would be very difficult to connect with the kids because I couldn’t speak any Spanish but through endless high-fives or piggy backs I feel as though I have been able to connect with the kids through love.
Entering the classroom for the first time I was excited to play with the kids and observe the education system at the Christian School of Hope. I was shocked to see how well the kids could speak English considering they were only 6 years old. We started our first day with colouring different nature items and the kids had so much fun! We then sang songs and played a few more games until it was time to say goodbye to our first class and welcome our next class. The next class did the exact same activities but these were the youngest kids – around 4-5 years old. These kids knew so much English and really seemed to enjoy what they were learning!
After our second class was done it was time for recess. This was a special recess however because there were a few birthdays at the school so the teachers had prepared a piñata for the kids. The kids with birthdays were the first to swing at the piñata to see if they could break it open and release the ginormous amount of candy hidden inside. After the kids with the birthdays tried all of the other kids went and had a turn. Even I got a turn but unfortunately I am no David Ortiz and I struck out. Eventually we dumped all of the candy out and the kids piled on top of each other and went hunting for the pieces of candy laying on the ground. It was an incredible experience and the smiling faces made it even better! After this special party each of the kids with birthdays were given a present which they opened with excitement and happiness! After all of this crazy fun the kids had to go back to class where the rest of the day continued just the way it started. For me the day was exciting and incredible but also very challenging as there are very few people here that speak English. I struggle with isolation and feeling alone with nobody to share the fun and excitement of my day but seeing the kids light up and smile makes me remember the purpose of this trip and what it means to be here.
After the day was over bus driver Mynor came and picked up all the kids and I was granted the privilege to go for the bus ride with the kids. Once I returned it was time for lunch where the cook prepared a delicious meal for me! For the second half of my day I was given the task of sorting clothes for the clothing distribution that was taking place tomorrow. I have never been a great organizer but I got a lot of help from my old friend Cathy, who I met my last time in Guatemala, and she sorted the clothes while I stood there confused. At the end of the day it was time to head home where I had a very nice dinner with Alicia and her family. I had a very long day so after dinner I went straight up to bed but not before checking out the erupting volcano!
Day 2 started off the same as day 1 but today was Movie Friday which meant the class got to watch “Moana”! I’m not going to lie – I may have been more excited than the kids were. Today I felt the love of the kids even more as during recess I felt like a jungle gym with kids hanging on to me from every angle but I loved it. The kids also found a new love for playing rocket ship where I would pick them up and carry them around while making rocket ship noises. Today was also cooking day which meant the grade 1 class got to cook. They prepared strawberries and bananas and mixed them with cream. Although it doesn’t sound too special the kids loved it!
The first half of my day ended the same as day one with the bus ride with the kids and again another fantastic lunch but this time I got to eat with the other teachers. The meal was very nice with many asking questions about Canada and also making fun of my Spanish skills. This afternoon was the food and clothing distribution which is one of the projects Loving Arms runs here. Families from all across Parramos came to the school where each family received a food package for the month and their choice at any clothing item. The overwhelming love and joy from the people really radiated on me and it was so satisfying knowing these families will be able to eat.
Tonight was very special because I got to go out for dinner with Alicia and her family at a pizza place in Antigua called “Sunshine Grill”. The restaurant is owned by a man named Edgar who actually used to live in Canada for quite some time and has very good English. I soon learned that this pizza place was a very popular spot for teams coming from Chartwell and that Edgar was a star. Tomorrow there is no school so I will be touring Antigua with Alicia’s daughter Fernanda which I am very excited about! I am excited to learn more about the culture and see some of the famous sights.
If you had made it this far then thank you for reading. I will hopefully be posting these every few days but it depends on how much time I have at night. Also I will be posting pictures onto Facebook so make sure to check those out! I also wanted to thank the donors again and you will be seeing soon what your money will create.