Mission to Guatemala

UPAVIM Delegation in 2011

UPAVIMWhat are the lives of our neighbors like that share the same hemisphere? What do we have in common? How are we different? In an effort to understand the lives of the Guatemalan people, and they of ours, DGFUMC has sent several teams to live with members of the Unidas Para Viver Mejor (UPAVIM) Christian community in the impoverished outskirts of Guatemala City. We have also hosted two teams of women from UPAVIM in our homes in Downers Grove. UPAVIM is a cooperative association of about 88 women from marginalized areas. Some are widows, some were abandoned by their husbands, and some are dealing with alcoholism in their families. Many are sole providers of economic support for their families. They began helping themselves and their community in 1988 with a Healthy Baby program, then decided to create products to sell to generate funds. With those funds they have built a facility which houses a medical clinic with a pharmacy and laboratory, a daycare, a school from K-6th grade, a library, soy milk production, a bakery and rooms for the manufacture and shipping of their handicrafts. They are now working in a number of ways to achieve better housing, clean water, better education and health care for the thousands of people in their community.

We travel not to build buildings, but to build a long-term relationship. As Christians, we are charged with reaching out in understanding. In the Beatitudes we are told to put ourselves in "the other person’s shoes." Because our world is so diverse, we need greater understanding of cultural traditions, religious practices, trade, sharing resources, reducing pollution, and peaceful ways of resolving conflict. And, as Christians, we need to stand in solidarity alongside one another in the problems we face.


Fifth week at UPAVIM

This was my fifth and final week at UPAVIM. The past few days were full of good-bye hugs, photos, and food. On Monday, I had dinner with Carrie, one of the Sister Parish coordinators that I met during the delegation last year. It was great to catch up with her and tell her about my experiences at UPAVIM. On Wednesday, I had a second meeting with the consejo del hermanamiento (the UPAVIM committee in charge of the Sister Parish connection). We continued planning ways to improve communication between our two communities, including a "pen pal" email connection between youth. I hope that my presence here has helped strengthen the relationship between DGFUMC and UPAVIM. On Thursday, the women had a goodbye party for me, which was bittersweet. 

Fourth week at UPAVIM

There were lots of good things happening at UPAVIM this week! In Reforzamiento, the younger kids were working on the days of the week (in Spanish and English) and writing the letter i. They colored iglesias (churches), iguanas, and indios (Indians). Since they are still strengthening their finger muscles, writing dozens of letters can be tiring. With the older kids, I am still working on parts of speech. I asked them to choose a book and make lists of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns. After several lessons, they understand most of the categories well, and it is fun to see how excited they are when they correctly identify "el dinosaurio" as a noun and "jugar" as a verb. I have really enjoyed getting to know these students, and I love when they yell "¡Hola, Seño Clara!" when they see me around the neighborhood.

Third week at UPAVIM

It has been another busy but fun week at UPAVIM. On Monday, I had a nice meeting with the women in charge of the hermanamiento (our Sister Parish connection between DGFUMC and UPAVIM). I gave them some updates about our church, including special summer activities like camp and mission trips. We also discussed ways to improve communication between DGFUMC members and the UPAVIM women. We will try to send more updates and photos via email and Facebook (I am always happy to help translate). In addition, we are going to try to set up an online "pen pal" program for the youth. I will collect the names and email addresses of the 4th - 6th graders at UPAVIM that are interested, and then I will connect them with youth from our congregation. It will be a great opportunity for them to practice English and Spanish, respectively, and to learn about each other's cultures, interests, and daily lives.

Second week at UPAVIM

Hello again from Guatemala City! It has been a busy week at UPAVIM. The big news for the clinic is that we received a delivery of much-needed medications! We purchased these medications through donations from DGFUMC, via Guatemala Connection and the MJC (missions, justice, and community) Work Area. Dr. Hector, Nurse Johana, and the directors of the clinic committee are very grateful for our church's generosity, and they are excited to see the pharmacy's shelves much more full than usual. We still have about half of the donated funds left, which we will use to buy more medications and supplies for the clinic.

First week at UPAVIM

Hello from Guatemala City!

The weather is great up here on the techo ("roof," actually the 4th floor of the UPAVIM building), and I have a nice view of the La Esperanza neighborhood. I am sharing the volunteer living space with Elena (who works in the clinic and the Montessori classrooms), Matt (one of the English teachers), and their two sons, Sam and Michele (who attend 1st and 3rd grade at the UPAVIM school). They gave me a warm welcome on Monday and they've taught me many useful skills, like how to wash my clothes by hand, how to take the bus to the market, and where to buy the best bread and fruit. I've also met three of the four young women that teach English, but they live in a house nearby, not on the roof.

Claire arrived safely in Guatemala

Hello DGFUMC family!

I just wanted to let you know that I arrived safely in Guatemala City yesterday. I have a cute little room on the top floor of the UPAVIM building. The other volunteers are very friendly and helpful. Today I took a tour of the UPAVIM building and met many of the UPAVIM members and their children (some of whom I met last July, since I was part of the North-to-South delegation). I also started helping with the Reforzamiento tutoring program. Tomorrow morning I will start working in the clinic as well.

Favorite Moments from the Delegation to Guatemala, July 13-21, 2015

This July we sent our fifth delegation to visit the women of UPAVIM, a women’s cooperative in La Esperanza, our hermanamiento in Guatemala City, with whom we have a nine-year relationship. UPAVIM is an organization that provides employment to over 80 women in one of the poorest communities in Guatemala City, making the beautiful crafts that you have seen on sale in the parlor. This work has allowed them to fund and build a community center that includes a school, bakery, soy milk production and a medical clinic, pharmacy and laboratory. 

During the trip, our representatives spent a few days living in the homes of some of the women of UPAVIM, sharing meals with their families and learning about the community of La Esperanza and the work of UPAVIM.

Below Michelle Loconte, Sam Snyder and Claire Pitstick, three of our delegation members, share their favorite moments from their experience.

Guatemala - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Last night, many of the delegates had a very meaningful conversation with Armando, who works as a security guard during the day and stays at the Sister Parish Center at night. He is originally from a small village in Quiché, one of the 22 departamentos (states) of Guatemala. Although many of the people in his village speak Spanish, they are of Mayan origin and speak the Ixil language.

Guatemala - Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Day 2 was another successful day full of laughs  and adventure!  The members of the delegation and the  UPAVIM women waited out the rain with a few icebreaker games inside. We sat in a big circle and went around saying a word to make a story. It was a little challenging with the different languages but by the end of the game everyone was laughing away the delicious Campechanas. (Campechanas are sweet bread that the women make.

Guatemala - Monday, July 13, 2015

We made it! PTL!

Yesterday we arrived at the Guatemala airport at 6:30pm. We were greeted by several UPAVIM women with posters reading "Bienvenidos!" and Dina waving a giant bouquet of balloons. Then we drove in a bus through Guatemala City to our home-away-from-home for the first half of our trip, being, the Sister Parish Center. Here we were greeted by more UPAVIM women and Sister Parish staff. After introducing ourselves we enjoyed our first Guatemalan meal that the women made for us "with lots of love." By way of broken Spanish/English and translations galore we have began connecting with these women.

Praise God for a safe arrival and the overwhelming welcome and community that the Holy Spirit is so obviously dwelling and working in here in the UPAVIM and Sister Parish family.

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