I will be leaving for Guatemala again on June 2. Check back for this year's blog.
This is Gabriella and Lucia and Alicia with a suitcase and Zonta bags.
Two years ago, two US women on the trip, Barbara Mannix and Patricia Vivier-Naidl met Lucia and her mother Maria. They learned that for $120 a treadle operated sewing machine could be purchased that would enable Maria and Lucia to support the family. For Barbara and Patricia it was a "no - brainer." In the middle and on the right you can see the two young women in blouses that the family created. They now have a thriving business.
On the left is Gabriella. If you have been following this blog you have seen her as a facilitator for our first workshop of 50+ young women. Gaby put herself through teachers college by working at the school. She has graduated at 17. Her dream is to go to law school. She is brilliant but she does not have the resources to continue in school. Also her family needs the income she can bring in as a teacher. I am committed to sending Gaby to law school. I have asked her to determine the cost of a law degree including living expenses. I will be asking for the help of anyone who would like to have a direct impact on a young woman who can make a change in the world if given the resources. This is also a "no-brainer."
You also see a purple suitcase which was given to me by Karen Pati. The Zonta club filled this suitcase full of supplies and bracelets that were enthusiastically received by facilitators, teachers and people who helped us along the way. When it was empty it was filled with shoes and other items that Lucia and Alicia took back to their village. Now they can use this suitcase to take the products they create to market. A many time recycled item.
And there is the Zonta bag - like ones I saw often. To me this represents the support that the Zonta Club and Foundation of Sanibel-Captiva have given GRACE and these young women throughout the last few years. At the end of each workshop Genelle had me stand as she told about Zonta and they work we do locally and internationally. As I received the applause for my club, I was proud. We Zontians and tHe Unitarian Church of Ft. Myers and GRACE and Genelle Grant continue to make a difference in individual lives - we continue to "enhance the status of women." Together with these men and women in Guatemala we are working for justice and for peace. We are balancing the culture of violence.
I do want to thank my travel companions on this current journey, Genelle and Linda for their support and encouragement. I also want to thank the Zonta cLub of Sanibel/Captiva and family and friends for their financial and emotional support.
And also gratitude for that long ago relationship that first introduced me to this enchanted and complicated land.
There are many years and many miles between my two visits to Guatemala. Both trips were intense and meaningful personal experiences. I have not written about the personal/ private journey. If you'd like to hear about it buy a bottle of wine and good cheese and invite me over.
Mary Oliver writes:
"Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.”
― Mary Oliver
That's what I, Virginia Louise Jones, have done.
Thanks for caring enough to follow me....... Gini
I want to do a separate post on our last dinner in Guatemala with Anne Lossing. She is another "in the trenches" woman whose work deserves to be recognized. Originally from Canada she lives with her family now in the jungle of northern Guatemala and is engaged in so many projects that the best I can do is refer you to her blogs. Her husband, a physician, is retiring and they are looking for medical professionals who would like to volunteer a period of time to help or someone who would like to commit to living a jungle life. If you know anyone email her.
We brought her supplies and Zonta bags!
Here's her blogs :
Day 21 - June 17 - Monday - La Casa De Don David-El Remate, Flores, Peten, Guatemala - Our last full day in Guatemala
Above great staff professional and friendly - Melveer, Joanna and Glendi. Also thanks to Ismael whose picture I did not get. Thanks for making our stay perfect!
Below fires in the four directions around the Mayan circle.
My favorite shots from El Remate
In 2007, Genelle met Gloria Llanera Assistant Director for the Ministry of Education of the Department of El Peten (I think I have that right - apologies if not.)
Together they set up the first teacher's training workshops that have become a model for the past 6 years in Guatemala and now Lee County. Gloria gave Genelle a priceless copy of the national curriculum which many teachers in the country have never seen. This allowed Genelle to prepare workshops that supported existing government policy thereby making it more likely that GRACE projects would be accepted. The current emphasis on woman's health and on human rights laws extends the focus in a mutually beneficial and agreeable way. In Gloria's current position she is responsible for over 6000 teachers - the impact can not be calculated.
Gloria has had an impact in an additional way. She was being sexually harassed by the president of the teacher's union. Using the power of the new laws she pursued a law suit against him that is precedent setting case. When she went public with her law suit, many other teachers came forth to thank her for doing what they were either afraid of doing or where not even informed enough to know that they could.
We spent a wonderful day with Gloria, her very supportive husband Victor and two engaging teenagers Victor Jr. and Lucy. After lunch they drove us around the lake. People in this part of the country do not dress as colorfully but the buildings are more colorful.
Yes that's Genelle doing a cart wheel. See we are still young at heart!
Later I joined Gloria and Lucy for a full clothed swim in the lake.
Day 18 - June 14 - Friday - Fly from Guatemala City to Flores. Arrive at La Casa De Don David in El Remate
A day of saying goodbye to Vilma, final shopping at an artisan cooperative, lunch and art viewing on hilltop at Hotel Casa Santo Domingo, stop at La Antigua Galleria de Arte, wandering "home to Hotel San Jorge", saying goodbye to Mercedes, Sylvia, Esther and Evelyn who have taken care of us SO well , and packing.
Click here if you'd like to go to the Santo Domingo website to see an incredible use of an older building!
Click here to visit the site of an incredible gallery - NYT calls one of the best in the world. Goto Gina Intween
Many Many thanks to Mercedes, Esther and Sylvia and Evelyn for making or stay at Hotel San Jorge, La Antigua so wonderful. And below to Miquel ( pictured with Joyce) for keeping us safe and entertained on the road.
Special People !
Day 16 - June 12 - Wednesday - La Antigua The day of Vilma's appointment in Guatemala city for a visa to visit Joyce in Minnesota. It's still not fair !
I remember in 1972 applying for a teaching job in NYC. The man interviewing me asked - "Why should I give a young woman - you- the job when in a few years you'll get married start having children and we will have wasted our investment?"
I remember being so angry and confused. I did not get the job. It was ok because I got a better one.
Now 40 years later I hear a similar phrase told to Vilma to justify denying a 3 week visa. They anticipate that she will stay in the US because she is "a young unmarried woman who does not own land." To our government this means she will stay in the US illegally. I know the situations are not the same but in both a young woman is denied because she is a young woman.
Vilma is a 27 year old who is totally committed to her country and her family.
She has a good job. She just wants to go visit. And it's not to our country's benefit to say no to her.
Vilma - through GRACE - and her own professional work and personal life is working with women in Guatemala to help then STAY in Guatemala.
And this is Vilma with Joyce.
Joyce (Genelle's cousin who lives now in Minnesota)has been helping Vilma and her family for years. During the year Joyce collects things from the US and sends down gigantic boxes to help the extended family have shoes to wear and school supplies. Each year Joyce comes to Guatemala when GRACE is here to work and to see Vilma and her family and Rita and her family (see previous post with pictures of Pamela and Manual.) Joyce, Vilma and family, Rita and family have become a big family extending across the borders of our countries.
Vilma just wants to visit.
Every time they go to the consulate to apply for a visa the US government charges them $160. With the transportation and taking a day off from work it costs $400 which Joyce pays.
This is Vilma and Joyce after they received their 3rd rejection.
I have watched her study and learn with Genelle in Facilitator trainings, I have watched her teach,I have seen her meet new people and new situations, I have experienced her manage a group of over 50 teachers many of whom were older, more experienced and in senior positions. I have spent a late night sitting at a table with this computer looking through each others facebook pages - laughing when we had no common words.
She should, as should every person regardless of sex, age, status or country, be encouraged in every way possible to expand her experience and to use her talents.
Do you know someone who can help get a different visa ruling in the consulate in Guatemala City?
How about John Kerry?
Day 15 - June 11 - Tuesday - Workshop with teachers at San Lucas Toliman Centro Educativo Pavarotti (Pavarotti Education Center), an initiative of the Rigoberto Menchu Tum foundation. End day back in La Antigua, San Jorge Hotel
This was a day with experienced and GRACE trained facilitators, some of whom have been a part of the program for 6 years. The facilitators were
• Osbaldo - education director of the Rigoberto Menchu Tum Foundation
• Angel - District Director for the Ministry of Education
• Rita - Assistant Director of the Pavarotti Center
• Irving - Middle School principal
• Vilma - Pavarotti Center teacher Kakchiquel and Spanish
• Marina - Pavarotti Center teacher cooking
If I have made a mistake there please let me know. Also my apologies for not having their last names.
There were many high points and many lessons which I have shared with you previously. A high point was a more extensive explanation of 5 very important human rights laws that most do not know about. The attendees (teachers) broke into groups each with a facilitators to discuss the laws. Sharing of ideas after discussion was very energetic. Some in the group seemed uncomfortable to me.
The 5 laws guarantee:
1. A right to family planning
2. Equal right to man and woman within the marriage
A right to protection against :
3. Physical abuse of the child
4. Physical abuse of the wife
5. Sexual abuse of anyone
Obviously I only have these in general terms. but that's the gist of it.
Since the protections are very crucial it was such a huge step to have 50+ teachers/principals/directors in 3 different workshops have a copy of the laws and a discussion about them. They'll be a few photos of discussions further down in this post but back to the beginning...
Osbaldo started us off with.... you guessed it ... breathing.
Deep - into your belly.
Marina, Vilma, Osbaldo and Irving lead the game of Bingo which always brings laughter as the teacher/students learn terms of reproductive health. Funny when the drawing of the word condom wins you a prize. The prizes - school supplies donated by the folks back home were very much appreciated.
Then a teacher would introduce one of the laws, there's be discussion and another teacher would sum up what the group had said. There were many great suggestions as to how to broaden the exposure to these laws.
Below caught looking at the photographer.
We left at 1 pm because
1. It's rainy season and last week we had such a frightening time leaving this beautiful town that is in a valley because of the water.
2. A few years ago Genelle was caught on these same roads when a road washed out.
and 3. Because the facilitators are so experienced they could continue.
So we left for La Antigua.
There are no more workshops for this year.
But there will be some fun stories and photos so check back. Later Tikal!!!!!!!!!
The blog is a day by day explanation of the trip. If you would like to just see my favorite pictures from this trip click on this button.
Lucia's letter was recorded from a teen age Guatemalan woman who was trafficked to the United States. You can read it here.