Friday, September 27, 2013

It´s Summertime!

An Ixil woman dresses Liza Klassen -one of the group participants- in their traditional clothes.
This past summer MCC Guatemala/El salvador had the pleasure to host again the Enlace group from  MCC Ontario. Enlace is a 4-5 week program that seeks to connect youth and young adults with the Guatemalan and Salvadorian communities. As part of the journey, the participants take Spanish lessons, learn about the context and history of Guatemala and El Salvador, live with indigenous families and serve along with the native people in the communities they visit.
This summer, the enlace team had 7 participants: Cameron Adams, Daniel Brenneman, Liza Klassen, Margaret MacDonald, Anneke Pries-Klassen, Caitie Walker and Lindsey Werner. The group came along with two enthusiastic, adventurous and with a great sense of humor leaders: Leah Martin and Andrew Jones.
The journey started in CASAS -Central American Study and Service- where the group took a week of spanish classes and participated in activities to learn about History and Injustice in Guatemala. One of those activities was the ¨contrast tour¨ where the group is taken to the national cemetery to discuss historical facts, the city dump –where people live and work under extremely poor conditions- and a luxurious mall to experience the gaps and imperfections of the local economy and witness at a non-intrusive level the inequality and injustice in the country.  
During the second stage of the trip, the group visited the MCC office for Guatemala and El Salvador where they met with the Representatives of the country program and me (Nancy) to learn about the work and the partnerships that the MCC has throughout G & ES. The day after the MCC in country orientation we left to Comitancillo, a community located in the department of San marcos (Yes, and country of Guatemala) to visit and serve in the rebuilding project that the Dioceses of San Marcos is coordinating after this community was severely hit by an earthquake this last November.
Anneke – an 18 year old Enlace participant- remembers: ¨Before we started the labor portion of the day we had a really neat experience of watching the house foundations be blessed. The town officials started the prayer although everyone from the community quickly joined in, creating a blur of the Mam language. It was a very spiritually moving moment. It ended with the town officials sprinkling water on the ground. Through this experience we have been able to interact with many local people and the children.¨   

From left to right: Andrew Jones, me (Nancy Sabas), Don Juan Marroquin (the future benefitiary of the house) and Cameron Adams having taken a picture together. 
The group spent 4 days serving in Comitancillo and ended their time there with a delicious meal prepared by the community using some vegetables of their own harvest and acknowledging their gratitude to the group. We moved later to La vega del Volcán community where I had the joy to witness the project completed that one of the past work and learn groups- the Rockway Mennonite collegiate- started and funded: A road in the middle of the rough ways in the community.
Margareth MacDonald wrote about her experience in La vega del Volcán: ¨ We had a tour of the community’s co-operative supported aquaculture project: raising trouts. We were led around the village to see all the trout pools, some of which MCC helped to build. It was really nice to see others' work pay off and that it really made a change in some peoples' lives. The trout production not only allows people to make a stable living but it also makes their land more valuable to them as it is a source of sustenance and profit. We then tucked in for trout for lunch, which was delicious.¨
The group also was part of an unforgettable cultural sharing time with the school students, and had a meeting with project coordinator Juan Pablo Morales, and MCC worker John Vanderheide to discuss about the megaprojects issue.  The last day in San marcos the group hiked one of the stunning volcanos that surround the area: Tacaná (Also the second highest peak in Central America). 

The ¨Rockway road¨ was a project supported by the Rockway Mennonite Collegiate team in La Vega del volcán.

The 3rd stage of the trip was visiting the department of Nebaj. During this time the group immersed in one of the most meaningful, rewarding and sometimes uncomfortable experiences: Living like a local. The participants stayed with indigenous host families and spent 3 days putting themselves on their ¨shoes¨ and experiencing a normal daily routine of a Mayan Ixil family.  Margareth continues sharing: ¨ The beds were uncomfortable and the washrooms were definitely not the same but while eating dinner with this family who didn’t speak the same language I realized how much I was enjoying myself. My first host family lived in a small two bedroom house with seven people living in it, yet they were so willing to let us outsiders in to their lives.¨

Liza Klassen -one of the participant´s of the enlace group- is helping to build a greenhouse in the community of Vicalama, Nebaj.
The canadian group plays hockey on a cultural sharing activity with the Youth of Xepiun, Nebaj.
The last part of the trip was a visit to our partners in El Salvador. Cameron Adams talks about his experience: ¨ Monday night was spent at ANADES, one of MCC´s largest partner organizations in El Salvador. We then travelled to San Martin, where we visited with the community of La Linea – a community of squatters living along an abandoned railroad line. The pastor, Jaime, showed us around the community, then took us to a large farm owned by the Baptist Church in the area. Many members of the community work on the farm, harvesting bananas, avocados and coffee beans. The end goal is to move the entire community to an unused piece of the farm property, but it is a work in progress.¨
The group also visited our partners in Perquín: CEBES and one of the ANADES´ daycares. Nearby Perquín, there is a monument called El mozote where groups are taken to listen to stories of the massacre that took place in that community during the armed conflict.
The last day of the trip the group spent some time debriefing and sharing their reflections. It was a happy/sad time for me because this is the time to say goodbye but also to know more about the impact that the journey had on them and the hope that it brings.
¨ When life gives you corn, make a tortilla…. and atol… and a tamalito… and various other types of corn that you can eat!¨ Daniel jokes.
To know more about the enlace program visit:

The Enlace group poses for a picture with their ¨graphic binnacle¨ of the trip on their last day in Guatemala.

Cam, and me finally understood how to make the wirework!. The Enlace group visited the San marcos diocesis´ project of building houses after the earthquake disaster in 2012.

Building a greenhouse was one of the projects that the group made and funded.

Margareth Mcdonald is almost ready to look as an authentic ixil woman!

Guatemala´s city dump. Photo taken by Stanley Toews.


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