Reality Begins

Like at home, this morning started with a delicious breakfast and a coffee run. That is where the similarities ended. We all squeezed in the van and headed back to Parramos which is about a 15 minute drive from Antigua. We stopped at Alicia and Sergio’s house, our Loving Arms local staff. We quickly sorted through the sewing supplies and pumped up a few soccer balls to give to the many children who are so interested in what we are doing.

The women on our team, went off to where they were working with local children and teaching the women how to sew, in the village of Paraxaj. The men piled into the back of a pickup truck (when in Guatemala….) and drove out to the site, stopping along the way at a local hardware store to buy a few more tools. Riding in the back of a beat-up pickup truck just means we fit in with everyone else going to work in the morning. It was interesting to see how the locals start their day. Monday is sweep-the-street day; everything is swept into big piles and then set on fire. On my commute to work to Oakville I rarely see a herd of goats, a donkeys, horses or hundreds of wild dogs, but this trip has been filled with things that I don’t usually see at home.

The future medical/dental clinic/laboratory is located on a larger piece of property owned by Loving Arms. The property has a number of projects underway, and a family who lives there. One of the projects is a large greenhouse (plastic covering a wooden frame) which grows tomatoes (which are delicious!). They are testing a mushroom-growing project. Loving Arms will consider any project that can provide work, income and food for the community. A few acres are used to farm any crop that makes sense for the season.



Two adults and four children live in a small building approximately 10’x20′. The building is just four walls and a corrugated steel roof to keep off the rain. They all sleep in three beds, amongst their clothes and few possessions. Next to the bedroom is a very small separate building which is the kitchen. It is about 6’x8′ and has a wood-burning stove. Between the two “buildings” they have an area to clean their clothes and dishes, and an area where they store the firewood – their only source of heat. I was able to spend some time with the four children, Roselia, Christina, Wilma and Joel. I played a little soccer, learned some Spanish, and delighted them with my camera. They were so excited to see their faces appear on the screen on my phone.

Further into the property, our team found the perimeter and interior wall locations of the clinic marked out with chalk on the ground. Half of the team started digging the trenches where we will be pouring the footings for the concrete walls. The other half of team started cutting and assembling re-bar for the footings and the columns. We were warned to drink lots of water and make sure we didn’t get exhausted and to be sure to spend some time in the shade. At close to 6000 ft above sea level the air is much thinner than we were used to, and the sun beat down on us relentlessly. It was a lot of pick-axe and shovel work, but we seemed to be able to keep up with the local Guatemalan crew who we had the pleasure to work with.

After lunch, the sky opened and we got to experience a torrential down-pour. It was amazing how much water came down in so little time. It stopped work for a while, but provided a much needed relief to the sun and the heat. It was cloudy and cool for the rest of the day, which was much easier environment to work in. At the end of the day we were a very dirty, soggy, tired group, but felt good about what we had accomplished today. Tomorrow we will be building the wooden forms, mixing cement, and pouring the footings on the building.

We have met nurses, doctors and dentists who are staying at the same hotel as us. They travel to rural communities to serve the local people. It was inspiring to think that in the near future, our work today will help to provide a space for the medical professionals to serve the local people of Parramos.

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