Strathcona-Tweedsmuir Volunteer Trip • Part I

 

This week we welcome our last school group of the 2016 Spring Break season, Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School from Calgary, Alberta. They arrived Monday morning with 13 students and 2 teachers, ready to get to work! This week so far has included working in the kitchen, in the preschool, afternoon activities with the kids, giving our climbing/bouldering wall a facelift, and cleaning out the road trenches in preparation for the rainy season. The students are working hard and enjoying their time! We are excited to see all the work they will accomplish this week.

Arrival at Somos, time to get settled into their rooms.

Arrival at Somos, time to get settled into their rooms.

Greg giving a tour to the students

Greg giving a tour to the students

Changing up the tires in the  playground

Changing up the tires in the playground

Cleaning out the trenches on the road

Cleaning out the trenches on the road

A facelift for the bouldering wall!

A facelift for the bouldering wall!

Sifting sand for the plaster.

Sifting sand for the plaster.

Getting the plaster ready

Getting the plaster ready

Plastering the wall

Plastering the wall

Playing with the kids

Playing with the kids

Activities with the kids and volunteers

Activities with the kids and volunteers

Stay tuned for part 2!

-Gabi Dubland, Project Somos Administrative Assistant

 

St. George’s Volunteer Trip • Part II

 

A big thank you to all of the St. George’s students and teachers that came to volunteer at Project Somos this week. The students worked hard all week digging trenches, planning activities with the kids, working in the kitchen, and playing soccer. On Thursday Saints had the opportunity to go to Iximche, local Mayan ruins with our foreman Antolin as a guide. They learned about Mayan culture and ways of life. After the tour the students went to Tecpan to visit the market and watch a procession for Semana Santa (Easter). In the afternoon we had a local ‘Kid’s Day’ where close to 50 kids showed up to play with the volunteers, some of the activities included puzzles, the zipline, a few different soccer games, and the parachute to end the day off! A great way to finish off their volunteer week. Thanks again to all of the students that came and volunteered. Safe travels home!

Antolin explaining the ball game that Mayans used to play.

Antolin explaining the ball game that Mayans used to play.

Saints in the ruins of Ixichme.

Saints in the ruins of Ixichme.

Team picture with Antolin & Ronnie (Guatemalan leader)

Team picture with Antolin & Ronnie (Guatemalan leader)

Helping the kids with the puzzles.

Helping the kids with the puzzles.

The local kids love having the chance to do puzzles and hang out with the volunteers.

The local kids love having the chance to do puzzles and hang out with the volunteers.

Zipline fun!

Only zipline in Chivarabal !

Parachute fun!

Parachute fun!

Keep the ball on!

Keep the ball on!

Always a fun activity!

Always a fun activity!

-Gabi Dubland, Project Somos Administrative Assistant

 

St. George’s Volunteer Trip • Part I

 

This week we have St. George’s school from Vancouver volunteering, with 14 students and 2 teachers. Saints has been coming to Project Somos since 2012, (except 2014) every year they come with students ready to work hard. This week they are working on digging different trenches for water runoffs, water lines, and irrigation systems. As well, the students are helping with the kids, putting on lego classes in the mornings for older kids. This afternoon Saints challenged our Guatemalan workers to a game of soccer… Needless to say, the boys have decided they are going to all come back next year, with high altitude training and a lot more practice!!

Tour of Somos before work starts

Tour of Somos before work starts

Lego Class!

Lego Class!

Lego class with Saints!

Lego class with Saints!

Trench digging!

Trench digging!

We are happy that Emily (Ms Rossnagel) is back!

We are happy that Emily (Ms Rossnagel) is back!

Working on the bouldering wall.

Working on the bouldering wall.

The students help sweep and mop the Community Hall, here they are learning to wash in the pila.

The students help sweep and mop the Community Hall, here they are learning to wash in the pila.

Time for the soccer game!

Time for the soccer game!

Saints halftime prep talk!

Saints halftime prep talk!

Goal!!

Goal!!

Guatemalan won!!

Team Guatemala wins!!

Stay tuned for Part 2!

-Gabi Dubland, Project Somos Administrative Assistant

 

York House School Volunteer Trip • Part II

 

This past week we had York House School from Vancouver volunteering for the week. It was a great week, the students worked very hard and found great success  in everything they did! Mornings were spent on more physical tasks such as painting and sanding, while in the afternoon the focus was on programming for the kids.

A big thanks to the students and teachers that came and volunteered!!

Colleen, York House Spanish teacher, works with our mamas.

Colleen, York House Spanish teacher, works with our mamas-teaching them about the importance of reading and story-telling with their children. 

Our new sign looks awesome!!

Our new sign looks awesome!!

Local kids making bracelets during Kid's Day with the volunteers.

Local kids making bracelets during Kid’s Day with the volunteers.

Time to play soccer! Canada vs Guatemala!

Time to play soccer! Canada vs Guatemala!

Crafts during Kid's Day!

Crafts during Kid’s Day!

Time to sing with the kids and volunteers!

Time to sing with the kids and volunteers!

Afternoon reading time.

Afternoon reading.

It's so good for our kids to have this time with the volunteers.

It’s so good for our kids to have this time with the volunteers.

A HUGE thank you to York House for donating laptops to our mamas and kids.

A HUGE thank you to York House for donating laptops to our mamas and kids.

Thank you York House students for all your hard work!

Thank you York House students for all your hard work!

As we say goodbye to our first group of students, we are sad, but we look forward to next week with St George’s School. We hope to see these students back again one day!

-Gabi Dubland, Project Somos Administrative Assistant

 

York House School Volunteer Trip • Part I

 

This week at Project Somos we have York House School from Vancouver visiting. With 12 students and 2 teachers, they are working hard! With jobs varying from painting, filling in a trench, sanding the bamboo in the playground, to working in the kitchen or in the preschool. In the afternoon, the majority of the students are doing programming for all the kids, which includes reading with the kids, singing, games, writing, colouring, and more! It ensures for a fun afternoon for everyone!

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On a tour, Greg explaining the planting of fields

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The students working on sanding the bamboo in playground

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Filling in the trench that was dug for a water line!

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Painting the guest house!

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Our sign at the gate is getting a makeover! Stay tuned for the finished product!

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Afternoon games

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Working on the alphabet

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Reading one-on-one

This afternoon the local kids come for a playground visit, the York House students have been planning activities and games for everyone. It will be a fun afternoon!

Stay tuned for the next update..

– Gabi Dubland, Project Somos Administrative Assistant

 

Let Yourself Trust – Volunteer Trip February 2015

 

This past week our dear friends Marytn & Justine, of Let Yourself Trust returned to Project Somos one year later, from their visit in January 2015. This time, they came with 22 volunteers who have raised money for, and to build, our music/art/culture dome! This will be our second building in our Learning Campus at Project Somos! All week the volunteers worked incredibly hard on the music/art/culture dome, but also digging a 100 meter trench for a water line, helping in the preschool & afternoon programming with the kids, painting two buildings, sanding and cleaning bamboo, and countless other things!

Seeing the foundation for the music arts dome for the first time.

Seeing the foundation of the dome for the first time.

Martyn working hard with our foreman Antolin

Martyn working hard with our foreman, Antolin

Volunteers haul the dirt buckets to fill the earth bag

Volunteers haul the dirt buckets to fill the earth-bag

Laying the barbwire between levels of earth bag

Laying the barbwire between levels of earth-bag

Digging the 100 meter trench for a water line, 2 feet deep!

Digging the 100 meter trench for a water-line, 2 feet deep!

Cleaning, sanding, and washing of bamboo. Eight meters in length!

Cleaning, sanding, and washing of bamboo. Eight meters in length!

The hard-working crew of Guatemalan workers and volunteers!

The hard-working crew of Guatemalan workers and volunteers!

Martyn playing a concert for our mamas, kids, workers, and the volunteers.

Martyn playing a concert for our mamas, kids, workers, and the volunteers.

Antje Duvekot, singer from Boston, was part of the volunteer trip, a hard worker and a gifted musician!

Antje Duvekot, singer-songwriter from Boston, was part of the volunteer trip, a hard worker and a gifted musician!

Presenting gifts on the last morning of musical instruments, including flutes, keyboards, ukuleles, shakers, and more!

Presenting gifts on the last morning of musical instruments, including flutes, keyboards, ukuleles, shakers, and more!

Thank you so much to Let Yourself Trust and everyone that came down to Guatemala, your hard work and support means so much to the families and staff here at Somos.

-Gabi Dubland, Project Somos Administrative Assistant

 

Guest Blogger Carla Costuros – 40 Years Later . . . Transforming Beauty into Beauty • Part III

 

During the second week we switched to felt-making, starting with ‘animalito skin’ felts using undyed local white and brown fleeces.  These, the mamas stitched into pantuflas (baby slippers).  Our second project was coronas (crowns) for the preschool.  With this project, the mamas started to learn how to layer felts for pattern, design, and different purposes.  Next, having developed their skills, the mamas used the precious naturally dyed wools to create other objects in felt: decorations and brooches, flowers, hearts, and leaves.  Finally, time was spent on embellishment utilizing beading and embroidery techniques from the mamas’ experience as weavers.

First adventures in feltmaking: Animalito Skins

First adventures in feltmaking: Animalito Skins

Animalito Pantuflas

Animalito Pantuflas

Each of the mamas worked so very hard, with much giggling and enthusiasm.  Clara took diligent notes, and I am confident she will be able to continue and introduce both dyeing and felting to new residents at Somos.  Each mama had her own sparkle of creativity and accomplished so much in such a brief amount of time.  This was an entirely new process for each of them, but all had a textile vocabulary and an intuitive ability to use colour and embellish their work.

2 coronas under construction.

2 coronas under construction.

Felted Calla Lilies formed and drying.

Felted Calla Lilies formed and drying.

The Mamas each embark on their own creative projects

The Mamas each embark on their own creative projects

We are grateful to Somos to have been able to spend several weeks in the highlands, teaching, learning, breathing and taking in this remarkable experience.   To paraphrase a good friend’s words: it was so very satisfying for everyone to transform beauty into beauty.

A full Guatemalan Highland colour wheel.

A full Guatemalan Highland colour wheel.

Brooches, ornaments and flowers of primarily naturally dyed wool.

Brooches, ornaments and flowers of primarily naturally dyed wool.

The crowns at the preschool are a huge hit!

The crowns at the preschool are a huge hit!

-Carla Costuros

 

Guest Blogger Carla Costuros – 40 Years Later . . . Transforming Beauty into Beauty • Part II

 

Natural dyeing continues in a few pueblos in Guatemala on cotton fibres, but my research did not turn up any reference on the current use of natural dyes with wool.  We did find a local fellow, Pedro Gieron, who has recently taken up natural dyeing (on cotton) and as part of our workshop, we had the opportunity to visit his dye works.  Pedro was instrumental in sourcing some of the dyes we used.

A visit to Pedro Gieron’s dye workshop

A visit to Pedro Gieron’s dye workshop

With the enthusiastic help of Clara, we set up a very efficient, but simple dye studio.  Project Somos does not own a flock (yet!!) so fleece was purchased in Chichicastenango.  Our first step was to sort the wool, discarding the heavily soiled parts of the fleeces, followed by 3 washes and then a degreasing process to allow for penetration of dyes.  Next, the fleece was mordanted with Alum and Cream of Tartar, both found readily in Canadian grocery stores.  (With a little longer time we probably could have sourced plant mordants as well.)

Fleece purchased in the Chichicastenango Market

Fleece purchased in the Chichicastenango Market

Sorting fleece

Sorting fleece

The collecting, saving and procuring of dye substances started much before our visit.  From the Somos kitchens, we used tea leaves, coffee grounds, red onion skins and the soaking water from black beans grown on the Finca.  In November, Biden flowers were collected and dried.  On our arrival, the Mamas harvested Margarita flowers.  From the local market, turmeric root and achiote (annatto seeds) were purchased.  Through Pedro, natural indigo powder, Palo de Campeche (logwood), Palo de Pito, Saca Tinta (leaves), and cochineal (bugs) were sourced. Indeed, in the past, cochineal and indigo were important export commodities from Guatemala, although more difficult to source now.

Fresh and dried flowers being prepared for dyeing

Fresh and dried flowers being prepared for dyeing

In the next 5 days we were able to produce a full colour wheel, over 10 lbs of dyed fleece and yarn.  Some of the local dyes I had never used before, so it was a learning experience for all of us.  It was so exciting to see different colours come out of secondary dye baths, and of course to see the magic colour transformation of the indigo dye process.  Through over-dyeing some of the primary colours, we were able to achieve additional oranges, greens, purples and neutrals.

Day #1 Margarita Flowers, dried Bidden, Turmeric X 2, Red Onion skins X 2

Day #1 Margarita Flowers, dried Bidden, Turmeric X 2, Red Onion skins X 2

Day #3 Variations of Palo de Campeche, Cochineal and Achiote

Day #3 Variations of Palo de Campeche, Cochineal and Achiote

Day 5 Variations of Indigo, Black bean, and Turmeric over-dyed with Indigo

Day 5 Variations of Indigo, Black bean, and Turmeric over-dyed with Indigo

Documenting Dye process and results

Documenting Dye process and results

A full compliment of dyed fleece and yarn

A full compliment of dyed fleece and yarn

To be Continued… Stay tuned for Part 3…

-Carla Costuros

 

Guest Blogger Carla Costuros – 40 Years Later . . . Transforming Beauty into Beauty • Part I

 

In the early 70’s I discovered weaving and natural dyeing.  When the opportunity arose to study the textiles of Guatemala, I eagerly embarked on what was the beginning of a life journey.  The weaving in Guatemala is unique and complex. In the mornings we studied with the accomplished weavers from San Antonio Aguas Calientes, and in the afternoons we toured other highland pueblos to witness the different techniques used to create the individual traje (Guatemalan suit/outfit) of each village.  Here I was introduced to the magic of the indigo vat, and the rich visual language of symbols and patterns used in indigenous textiles.  My personal teacher was an 11-year-old girl, but she knew so much more than I did.  She spoke only Kaqchikel and no Spanish.  She was an excellent teacher and taught me very well with only the unspoken vocabulary of textiles.

My 11 year-old teacher working on my loom.

My 11 year-old teacher working on my loom.

In the past 8 years I have been drawn back to Guatemala as a volunteer 4 times, most recently, 2 years ago with my husband, Don Spence.  We had the good fortune to meet Heather and Greg at the end of that trip.  We were deeply inspired by the humanity and beauty of Project Somos.  One learns as a craftsperson the necessity of sustainability in daily practice, and everything about the philosophy and reality of Project Somos resonated with what I had come to believe.

San Antonio Aguas Calietes Weavers 1975

San Antonio Aguas Calietes Weavers 1975

When Heather mentioned the intention of starting a small flock of sheep to provide the wool for the needle felting enterprise, I thought, would it not also be an excellent opportunity to introduce wet felting as another creative option? Thinking further about sustainability, it made little sense for Somos to be using fleece from New Zealand sheep, shipped to Canada for dyeing and then shipped to Guatemala.  ‘What if Somos could use the fleece from local sheep, dyed on site?’  The next step in our thinking was, ‘what if we could also use the historical local natural dyes in the process, rather than chemical dyes?’

Wearing the Traje of Nebaj where I was volunteering at the time in 2008

Wearing the Traje of Nebaj where I was volunteering at the time in 2008

Our conversations with Heather and Greg continued over the following year, and we decided to embark on teaching the Mamas wet felting (fieltro mojado) utilizing naturally dyed wool.  Although my Spanish is rudimentary, I figured, if an 11 year-old Mayan girl speaking only Kaqchikel could teach me how to backstrap weave, then I, with the help of Heather, Greg and Clara, (one of the mamas) as assistant, should be able to teach the mamas.  And Don, a videographer by profession, would document the process and produce an instructional video as a tool for teaching at Somos.

To be Continued… stay tuned for Parts 2 & 3…

-Carla Costuros

 

Celebrating One Year!

 

This month we celebrate one year since our preschool program began! I can’t believe a whole year has whipped by so quickly!

Last January we hired Maria Alicia Choc (Ali) and she began teaching the children in our Community Hall on January 15th. Seven weeks later, we moved everyone over to our just completed “learning centre”.

For the last twelve months our children have been attending preschool Monday to Friday from 8am to noon. The school is a place of beauty, peace and love. It is a place where children are encouraged to play and discover. It is a place where they feel safe and are enthusiastically engaged.

Our learning centre-home to the preschool and our growing library collection

Our learning centre-home to the preschool and our growing library collection

In 2015, Ali had as many as 16 children in attendance. Every day, a mama is asked to help in the preschool. Having a parent there gives Ali extra help, allows the child to share with their parent and it gives the parent an opportunity to observe positive, non-violent parenting and interaction with the children. It’s a win-win for all!

Preschool parent meeting

Preschool parent meeting

Last Tuesday we held our first official meeting to launch our second year of programming. We have two new families with preschool-aged children about to begin preschool here. These are children of our workers who live in the local community of Chivarabal. It was exciting to gather and discuss the upcoming year in our special preschool.

IMG_6432I can’t say enough good about our learning centre and our preschool. It is very dear to my heart. I am SO grateful to each of the donors who have helped make this a reality. I had so much fun designing and then decorating the building and was thrilled when we were able to find such an amazing teacher to work with our children. I have watched each child bloom under her loving guidance and attention.

Antolin's Mayan class on Tuesday mornings

Antolin’s Mayan class on Tuesday mornings

Something extra special that has been happening for a few months now; every Tuesday, Antolin (our foreman and a Mayan Spiritual Guide) shares teachings about the Mayan tradition with the children. And on Thursdays, Greg is now doing a little music class with the kids! It’s so nice for the children to have positive male role models in their lives and they excitedly anticipate their time with these good men.

We are all excited to embark on this next year in a our special program. Once again, THANK YOU to each one of you who helped make this a reality for these precious children!

-Heather Alicia