On January 30th I traveled to Guatemala to work with Habitat for Humanity and help build a four room cinder block home for a family in desperate need of decent shelter. I wanted to do something after I retired in which I could make a difference in the life of others, but I also simply looked forward to getting down and dirty and to working outside and soaking up some sunshine. And of course I hoped to have fun and make new friends who enjoy doing similar things.
14 people from across the U.S. met at the Guatemala City airport and became fast friends. We traveled together to Antigua, then on to the town of San Juan to Hotel Chi-ya. We worked together, ate together and goofed off together. Everyday we traveled up and down the mountain to two separate work sites where we laid cinder block, filled cracks, made rebar. We gave hope to at least ten children and two Guatemalan famillies as we constructed the home of their dreams.
We bought school supplies to donate and delivered them to the local school. We also visited a weaving cooperative of 8 women who owned Habitat homes and decided to make money for their families by opening a shop to sell their goods. Over the middle weekend we took a boat across the lake to some other small towns where beautiful handmade textiles were sold.
The families who were the new homeowners worked along side us and we got to know them and their children. After a few days of sharing our lunch with the children, lunchtime drew a larger crowd of hungry children from the surrounding area. The well mannered, polite and delightful children helped us work on the house and reminded us that the interaction with them was also an important aspect of our presence.
On the next to the last day the woman who was to be the new owner gave us bracelets as a gift of appreciation. She made an emotional presentation and talked about how grateful she was for our help, making it all worth while!
And the friends, oh the wonderful friends I made from all over the U.S., some of whom I am sure I will see again. It was quite an intensive two weeks, working on a house, soaking up a new culture, each day a new adventure, and all the while getting to know 13 new people. I loved every minute of it and I'm still absorbing all that I saw and did.
I can't wait to do another vacation with purpose.....in the process of determining where.....coming soon!