So Much to Share!!! Founders, Greg Kemp & Heather Knox are back from Guatemala for a short visit. This will be their only public event during this trip. Come hear all about the progress that has been made!
It’s alot of work building a Children’s Village. I have been at this for over five years now. As you can imagine, it can become all consuming. Even during time off, I am thinking about the Project, looking around for inspiration or reading something relevant to the Project.
Before going back to Canada last Fall, I decided I needed a creative outlet to call my own. Something that would give me a little change of pace and scenery. It’s been awhile since I did any sort of crafting and I was feeling ready for something. I wanted something that I would require little thinking and which I could do while listening to a podcast or an audio book. Another plus was finding a craft which wouldn’t take weeks or months to complete.
I decided to try needle felting. It appealed to me on so many levels. I loved the colours, the feel and smell of the wool, all the possibilities and the perfect fit for kids. I also loved the idea of little projects that could be completed in a short period of time.
So… on my return, I made a point of visiting every wool store I came across in our travels. I collected every colour I could get my hands on, got my needles and foamy and got to work. I’d already checked it all out by watching videos, looking in books, googling images, etc. so I was feeling excited to start!
I loved it immediately!!! Everything about it appeals to me. I’ve made numerous little gifts, two mobiles for the kids’ rooms, mini-models of our four dogs, etc. I am totally hooked!
Conejo* was the first house we began to construct May 2011. Conejo didn’t get plastered until August 2012. After plastering Tortuga* a rich terra cotta colour, we chose a celeste blue for Conejo. During the plastering Amy and I placed colourful tiles into the wet plaster around the doorways.
Within weeks, a major chemical change took place between the mud, lime and the blue tint. Conejo had turned a pasty white! So much for the differently painted beautiful bright homes for the kids! I was not happy. Looking more like a corpse than a house, the tiles had all but disappeared as well!
Fast forward to April. Our friends from SelfDesign arrived with paint gear in hand. Making the best of limited special supplies, they persevered and found a way to use their magical method of painting. The results? A peaceful, absolutely FABULOUS cloudy like look!! I am so in love with how Conejo looks now. AND…my tiles have popped with the blue/green combo!
Thanks dear SelfDesign friends! We know the kids that live in this house are going to love, love, love it!
*in the beginning the two houses were given the temporary names after the story of the tortoise (Tortuga) and the hare (Conejo) when it was clear the second house was going to be finished before the first house!
I have no overwhelming single answer to the question posed above. In just over two years, Alicia and I have observed a range of motivating impulses that have brought 240 volunteers from age 8 to 79 years old to Guatemala, assisting us in building Project Somos Children’s Village. I will share some volunteering motivations I have observed and make a few recommendations if you intend to be a volunteer.
We have had the good fortune to work with two volunteer businesses based in Vancouver – Stratosphere International Community Education and El Camino VolunTours. They organize volunteer trips with Project Somos and other projects working in the world to improve local social and environmental conditions. Some of our volunteers have been groups coming from high schools offering “service trips” and other volunteers have come as a group of individuals, varying in age and backgrounds. With both types of volunteer groups, we are always grateful for their interest, willingness to spend the time and resources to work here, and their ongoing support after their trip.
I believe it is always a good question to ask anyone interested in volunteering – why they wish to participate. The answer to this varies widely and could be – to visit and experience another culture, to help those in need, to travel, to fulfill scholastic requirements for “service” hours, to learn another language, to have an adventure, to do some environmental work, to use professional skills one has learned, to fulfill a requirement of a particular religion, to meet other people, or to join friends or family members that are volunteering. We have had volunteers with all of the reasons above.
I have observed the volunteer’s time here in Guatemala and I have seen that there is a correlation between the motivating impulse to volunteer and their overall positive or negative experience. There are three main factors, in my observations, to have a positive and fulfilling experience from volunteering. One is that the motive streams from an unselfish concern for the welfare of others. The second is that one abandons all expectations of what one will encounter and the third is that one comes with a willingness to do whatever is needed. These three facets, not always easy to acquire, form a solid foundation to have a very rewarding time.
We have seen volunteers that have tagged along with volunteering friends and they found themselves unhappy and resentful – not what they signed up for. We have experienced some members in school groups unable to engage perhaps because they came for only their service hours and we watched them complain and count the days to their departure. Some volunteers have great professional skills that cannot be directly transferred to the Guatemalan culture or our work site and have had very specific preconceived ideas of how to exercise their expertise – frustration arrived soon after. The good news is that the vast majority of volunteers that we have hosted at Project Somos have had an exciting, wonderful, trip of a lifetime, never to be forgotten.
It is our wish that all our volunteers have a rich and profound experience, but Project Somos cannot engineer that. Even with the comprehensive cultural and travel orientation that the volunteer organizations conduct, it cannot guarantee a positive experience. The best way to have a great experience is to check the motivation, leave your expectations at home, and come with an open mind and heart, ready to do anything.
We have discussed the patience it takes to realize this vision in other blogs. In the past two weeks, I have had another lesson in developing this ever-growing patience.
When the student volunteers first arrived we put them to work cleaning, sanding and staining the bamboo that would be used in the playground. Holes were dug, wood was prepped, etc. Day after day, the students have been working away at the tasks assigned to them. I check in a few times a day to see how it is going.
Initially, each time I peeked at the progress, there still wasn’t a playground out there in central area of the Village. I’m not sure why this baffled me, but it did. I couldn’t understand why, with all this amazing wo/man power, there wasn’t a playground yet.
And then… suddenly… the playground began to appear! And now two and a half weeks into this, we have a huge chunk of the playground up and running! And suddenly, it seems like this actually happened quite quickly and I am blown away!!
Tomorrow sixty children from the local school will come for a field trip. Our volunteer students from Strathcona Tweedsmuir School will host activities. Many of the activities will focus around the fabulous playground!
Step by step, it all comes together. It seems consistently, the biggest ingredient required, is…. patience.
I’ve been out of communication for far too long. For that, I apologize. The reality is that there is always so much going on that I have to supervise. And I’d always rather be chasing the frisbee than sitting at the computer.
Since I last wrote, Bruce moved to Toronto. From what I’ve heard, he’s happy and he loves the snow. Once upon a time, I loved snow too. With Bruce gone, it leaves me to keep the air space clear of vultures. A dog must do, what a dog must do!
Another dog made her way into our lives. I was told she was a temporary guest when she arrived. My people had been at the mall in Guatemala City. She was there outside the mall, covered in fleas, skinny as anything and wearing a collar too tight for her. My peeps dropped her at my vet’s and a week later picked her up to “foster” her while they found a home for her. Suckers! That’s how they ended up with me! I wonder if they will ever learn?
Her name is Spark. We figure she might be a Miniature Pinscher. She’s pretty cool, I must admit. We all like her. She’s playful, super fast and can also be super “chill”. She teases alot too. Mostly Bindi though. She learned pretty quickly I’m much more mature than that!
Last Tuesday we had another Kids’ Day. The kids always ask for me when they arrive. I let them take photos with me. I do tricks. I am by far, the most popular dog here. We now have a playground for kids. And dogs. We all think it is pretty skookum.
Once again I feel completely blessed to be here at Project Somos.
We had another Kid’s Day for the local children in Chrivabal, hosted by Southridge and Saint George’s school in Vancouver. We didn’t know how many children to expect, because it was an open invitation for all, not just for certain grades like in the past. The day -scheduled to start at 9:30- began instead at 8:50 with 38 children coming early. This was a day they weren’t about to be late to! The final count was over 150 local children with ages ranges from 2-16.
The kids instantly fell in love with the playground, especially the slide, because here they don’t have the chance to play nor the resources to have a playground. For most of the children it was their first time on a slide, first time on monkey bars. And they loved it.
For me personally, I have a new favourite memory. The bamboo barrier around the playground acts very well for a balance beam as well. Once the kids found out, it became all they wanted to do-walking back and forth on the bamboo. Seeing girls that needed a hand walking I helped them up and held their hand as they walked across the bamboo. At the end of the bamboo the girls, Leidi and Cindy, would yell “Otra vez!!” “Again! Again!”. So we’d walk back to the beginning and begin again. After walking back and forth about 5 times the girls tell me that its my turn. So we walk back to the beginning, and to my surprise they both took a hand and lead me along the bamboo. It is said that when you give, whether of yourself, time, money etc. you will be blessed 10x back. Well I can say the blessing came back about 100x over. And it wasn’t through money or things, it was through the simple gesture of a child, and I will never forget that.
-Guest Blogger, Gabrielle Dubland