This year marked my 7th year and 11th visit to Guatemala in an effort to bless lives by leading teams to build homes for the poor and to explore the country in a partnership with Americans Fontaine and Paula Greene, owners of Catalyst Resources International.
This was my biggest team to date – 24 in all including 16 young adults. Miraculously, our mighty team built 3 homes in 3 days in the very desperate village of San Miguel Petapa for three deserving families who have never owned a home or had a clean, quiet, safe place to sleep at night.
We all had to work really hard since we basically only had 8 people on a team. All of the families joined in and helped where they could. They were so proud of their new homes!
Many of you love the BEFORE and AFTERS Joann and I post of our projects. Well here is the BEFORE of this one (take a breath):
Now let’s focus on WHY we go to Guatemala:
My daughter Emory and my nephew Dylan killin’ it with their newly acquired building skills!
My brother in law Paul worked side by side for three days with the father of our family, Santiago. Despite the language barrier there were lots of laughs and camaraderie!
Every year, our building experience is completely different. This year, we were not in the countryside like in years past, we were in more of a city environment (actually the tiny home plots were on a defunct chicken farm). We built our homes in between already finished homes so we had to build the walls on the ground and then lift them up – and yes that meant lots of knee and back work. Ouch!
I brought lots of matchbox cars and the kids made ramps and mazes with the scraps of wood.
The house before the pretty windows and solid door went in. (The shack they lived in will be taken down and the new stove and cooking area will go in it’s place.)
VOILA! LIVES CHANGED!
Each of our three homes contain (4) completely made up beds filled with gifts and clothes, a small eating table, 4 chairs, 2 stools, eating and cooking utensils, garbage can, broom, a water purifier (BIG deal), an ONIL stove (another BIG deal) and lots of fresh food (eggs, rice, beans, oil, sugar, soap, shampoo).
Of course we also had to have custom made drapes in the doorways to offer some privacy. After all, I am a designer even in the most crude environment:)
The homes do not have electricity or running water, but that’s ok! The family isn’t sleeping on a cold dirt floor under a tarp anymore!
Lots of friends were made in the progress. My daughter Emory and her college roomie Lindsey joined the team for the first time. What a blessing.
There are always a lot of sweet moments during our time in the villages. Like this one when I presented 4 year old Jerson with a pair of almost new Converse sneakers that had belonged to my friend Shelly’s son Ronan. Jerson was SO thrilled with his new shoes. Oh those dimples. I’m sure he was sick of the Gringo lady who kept kissing him:)
Another memorable moment was when we received a surprise visit from Flor and her two sons who we built a house for last year in the village of Villa Nueva. Word got out that we were back and she rode a bus for 2 hours to come see us again! Oh what a dream to see her again!
Once all three homes were finished, the local pastor came to dedicate each home to the families and we all went back to CRI with our hearts full and tears in our eyes.
On Thursday we headed to Panajachel for two days of R&R but not without stopping at House of Hope orphanage run by two American angels Diane and Justin Herman. This is an orphanage my teams have supported for years. Diane and Justin and their staff currently take care of 15 orphans. Unfortunately, the international borders for adoption from Guatemala are closed, but they are doing their best to find Guatemalan homes for these cherubs.
This is my sister Kimberly holding Roxanne. This sweet baby girl was discovered in the infamous Guatemalan Dump in a garbage bag on a dark rainy night, her umbilical cord still attached.
My husband Mike always finds a friend right away when we visit House of Hope.
My daughter Riley would have hidden little Alfredo is her bag and smuggled him home if she could have. He was taken away from an abusive mother and brought to House of Hope for a new beginning.
Once in Pana, it was time to shop, drink some cervezas, go zip lining and visit one of my favorite hotels in the world – Casa del Mundo.
My college roommate and soul sister Jen Bastian was my partner in crime on this trip bringing 10 great women and girls from Philadelphia along with her.
We even had a special trunk show put on exclusively for us by my friend Paula’s talented firecracker entrepreneur friend Maya, owner of Ketzali, a Guatemalan textile company that makes gorgeous scarves, ponchos and more.
My 11-year old niece Ella was our youngest team member this year and she did a GREAT job!
Zip-lining thru the jungle anyone?
Look at this amazing team!
Most importantly, I want to thank every single person who donated to my efforts this year – from donations ranging from $20 to $500, it all added up to almost $7,000! WOW!
This is what I know for sure – giving back is a healer. The act of paying it forward strengthens the soul, sets priorities straight and offers balance to our crazy 21st century lives. With a very humble heart, I am VERY grateful for every donation, every prayer and every team member that made our 2017 trip a great success!
If you’d like to donate to CRI who makes these trips possible, please click HERE.
To donate to House of Hope orphanage, please click HERE.
If you’d like to join an upcoming team, donate to the 2018 team or simply learn more about our efforts in Guatemala, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.