There are angels

‘Good morning, I stumbled upon your page while looking for a place to vacation in Guatamala. My questions for you are do you take donations for your school and do you allow visitors. If my wife and I go to El Paredon on vacation we would enjoy stopping by’

Larry found my blog by accident in June. He was researching a holiday to the Carribean island of Antigua and instead he found Antigua, Guatemala and our education project in El Paredon. Three days ago, he and his wonderful wife Wenona said an emotional goodbye to us and the kids from La Choza Chula after a 6 day holiday, leaving us with over $3000 worth of equipment and materials for the school, the workshop and the local community.

Larry’s enthusiasm for our project had rubbed off on his colleagues over the months preceding his trip and slowly they came to him with surprising amounts of money: ‘I didn’t even need to shame them, they just wanted to help!’

And it is incredible what he and the Men’s Church Group of Illinois and lots more anonymous donators have enabled us to buy:

A projector for us to play films and photos to the kids. Here is the moment when we showed them the projector and photos from the project. This is the first time some of the kids have ever seen photos of themselves:

 

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Books for the school for the teachers to be able to teach their subjects properly. Before they had no books. They are over the moon. And it will have a serious impact on teaching standards.

 

Also for the school: a photocopier and lots of paper (priceless), calculators, marker pens, 2 internet modems (the children currently have no internet access).

For La Choza Chula workshop: a superb digital camera, 2 vices, 2 hammers, safety goggles (the latest fashion accessory in the workshop)

For the community: a football and pump, sunglasses for Daniel (who loved Larry’s glasses so he left them) and a goody bag for Maria from a little girl the same age in Illinois. In response, Maria sent back this traditional dress for her new penpal.

And there is still money left over! Which we will spend on more books for the school, world maps, storage for the workshop and more! We have so many new ideas and this money will enable to us to achieve some of our visions.

Larry and Wenona’s visit was much more than what they physically brought us though. They are warm, affectionate, loving, generous, funny people who were great company for both us and all the kids they met and got to know. Larry and Wenona enjoyed the impromptu screening and performance event put on by the kids on Sunday night and the friendliness of the community towards them.

‘This Sunday was the best day of any day on any holiday we have ever had’ (Larry)

The kids are asking us daily ‘when is Larry coming back?’ and they have decided between themselves that they will be back for Christmas. In a very short time, they became part of the community and will be talked about for years to come. THANK YOU SO MUCH from El Paredon.

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Welcome to our workshop

our workshop (on the right)

We have opened our workshop/shop! (the building on the right – next to the central hub of the town – el comedor). A quick dust down of the cobwebs, a whiteboard borrowed from the church, a table borrowed from a teacher, plastic stools from home and we are on for business. To begin with, we’re opening between 1-3pm, Mon-Fri, before teaching in the school. This is when the little kids are free (up to age 10) as they go to school in the mornings. We picked up the key from an old man at the end of our street, paid him the £25 for the month’s rent and celebrated with kids and granddads who walked by with 2 big bottles of Mirinda – the local Fanta

inside the space – day one
our custom-made window which lets in as much breeze and light as possible

Day 1

We had invited 8 adults – Janet the hairdresser, William the resourceful maker, Enok’s dad who makes little turtles out of coconut shell, Telma the fierce schoolkeeper, Juan Carlos the grafter, sweet but flakey Pati and a couple of other women who are interested in making artesanias  – to our first meeting where we would explain how our social enterprise would work:

  • We buy the materials (from Guatemala City or Antigua – either way a 5 hour journey)
  • We hold a month of workshops where everyone shares their skills and create a range of products using local and recycled materials
  • Locals buy the materials from us and make the products
  • We sell the products in our shop and in Surf House and Surf Camp to tourists. 75% goes to the maker and 25% goes back into the project.

So we opened for our first day and, true El Paredon style, none of our core adult group showed up and loads of kids did. So we drew birds local to the area – Pelicans and herons. There is some real artistic talent here but they don’t do art in the school. Compared to classrooms in the UK – filled with paintings and displays – the walls are bare with the occasional ‘Jesus loves you’ sign.

In our first hour of our first workshop, we realized we needed to stop kids running in and out with all our precious bits and bobs so sparkly and new. We sent one of our keen helpers to find a piece of wood to lock the door. Another wee boy mopped the floor. Another put up the mask drawings the kids made the day before in an impromptu workshop in the outside eatery. Lots of curious adults wandered by and wandered in, as well as some chickens.

Day 2 in our workshop

our first key rings made by the kids

9 kids came and we made bracelets ‘pulseras’ out of the beads we bought in the city. Everyone were surprisingly calm and orderly, although it was hard to chuck them out at the end of the session. They each made three – 1 to keep and 2 to sell in our shop. It felt like a real success. That night, Telma came round with carved surfboards, triangles and turtles made out of coconut and an enthusiasm we hadn’t yet seen in her. We also met Enok’s dad who is happy to work with us on Sundays when he is not out at sea fishing and show some of the keen kids how to make his beautiful coconut turtles. We need to buy them little saws, files, sandpaper and sanding tools so they can get working. We also need a proper, solid table and lots of chairs (most of the kids are working standing or on drinks crates) as well as a hammer and shelves to put our materials on. We are trying to beg, borrow or steal for these things but may have to tap into our funds and get them from San Jose.

We also made our first sale to some men who were fixing electricity in the village!

our first customers

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