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.

In Guatemala, I found a bounty of beautiful landscapes and lasting smiles. The part that stood out as a turning point for me was when we were waiting for the rain to stop before visiting a church in Guatemala City’s central plaza. First, we played a name game so that the seven delegates and the UPAVIM women could become better acquainted. Then, Jessie suggested a storytelling game. Each player added one word to the story as it developed person by person. The problem was that we spoke different languages, so the story had a slow start. Nevertheless, with good sportsmanship from the translators, we tried anyways. The dynamic changed as the game created a more elaborate plot. I was amazed at the continuity of our group. It was also the first time I noted that the group became more relaxed. The game concluded with everyone smiling and ready to take on the day together. Despite a language gap and contrasting sentence structures, we were able to bond over creating a silly story. Sharing that moment opened my eyes to the impact these types of trips can have. It showed me, first hand, that making the effort to build community sometimes starts with a friendly hello and a good laugh. I'm blessed to have shared in such an experience.     ~Michelle Loconte

During our reflection times, a lot of us talked about how beautiful it was to develop relationships with each other and with the UPAVIMAS so quickly. I didn't know Spanish and I hadn't formed any kind of relationship with the other delegates prior to the delegation. So, the way that the week went made God's hand in it all so apparent. Despite my very limited Spanish, these women loved on me with an intensity I've never encountered. One pivotal moment for me was in the middle of the week when first arriving to Chichicastenango where we stayed at the Ruth and Naomi cooperative. I had been slightly discouraged by my inability to bond with the women due to the language barrier—however it was the evening of this trip that I started to feel close and more comfortable with the women. Several female delegates and UPAVIMAS shared rooms with each other wherein we shared pictures of our families and novios. And laughing. So. Much. Laughing. These women really knew how to laugh. I think it was from then on that I was much more comfortable interacting with the women and feeling like I was really apart of our mission to deepen our understanding of and strengthen our ties with UPAVIM women.     ~Sam Snyder

Life’s most memorable moments are often unplanned. During our second night in Guatemala City, Dale Faber struck up a conversation with Armando, a friendly young Guatemalan who is temporarily living at the Sister Parish Center. At first, they were just sitting on the stairs, chatting about their shared interests of hunting and fishing. Armando was very patient with Dale and the other delegates as they practiced speaking in Spanish. I later joined the conversation in the staircase, both to help translate and because I wanted to hear Armando’s fascinating but heartbreaking stories. He is originally from a small village where the primary language is Ixil, one of 21 Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala. Armando was very young during the internal armed conflict (1960-1996), but he recounted the experiences of his parents and older brother. For example, the Guatemalan army completely destroyed his village in 1982, and his family escaped to the mountains. We thanked Armando for sharing these emotional stories with us. Talking with Armando was not on our agenda, but it was an educational and impactful experience for me.     ~Claire Pitstick


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