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Guatemala Projects Block

San Lucas Toliman is a small agricultural village on the shores of Lake Atitlan high in the mountains of Guatemala. Eleven students from High Mowing are embarking on a journey there to learn about Mayan culture and take part in the wonderful educational, environmental, medical, vocational, social and spiritual projects coordinated by the San Lucas Catholic Mission. Please enjoy these glimpses of a life deep in the heart of Central America!

Continuing with our many projects

We're nearing the end of our stay in Guatemala and have been re-visiting all of our projects—we've been doing a little bit of everything, but still find time for relaxing and journaling.

finishing up projects in guatemala


Posted by S. M. on Monday September 23, 2013 at 03:15PM
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Outing to San Andres

San Andres is a village that was constructed for 160 families after Hurricane Stan around a decade ago. All the families used to live on a plantation nearby, and all the workers' living quarters were destroyed when a hurricane's heavy rain caused a landslide. After this event, Father Greg bought a large plot of land and gave it to the displaced families. The Guatemalan government built houses for the people, and the Parish constructed a beautiful church.

We went to see the church and came upon children playing. We asked them if we could play with them, and they said yes. More and more children started to gather around until there were about 20 kids playing and 20 more watching and laughing.  We played freeze tag, then made a circle and showed each other tricks, and then we played Duck Duck Goose in Spanish. These children don't have the material luxuries we have, but they were laughing and kind and delighted to play simple games.  When it was time to leave, they didn't want us to go!

These children receive education, food, books and medical care for $1/day, through an organization called the CFCA, the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging.


Posted by S. M. on Thursday May 10, 2012 at 11:25PM
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Reforestation Center

These young men come from families who are very poor; the manager of the reforestation center teaches them to make wooden spoons which they then sell to groups who come to visit. Many of the students learned how these spoons are made and bought some to bring home.

After carving the shape of the spoon with the machete, it is smoothed with a series of rasps.

While doing the final smoothing of the spoons using sandpaper, students make friends with these two girls. After daringly trying to use their broken Spanish for the past two weeks, they had a breakthrough.  While they were working together for three hours, they were able to communicate! 

High Mowiing School high school students carve spoons at the Reforestation Center in Guatemala

Posted by S. M. on Thursday May 10, 2012
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More photos from Escuela Caracol

Our visit to Escuela Caracol was intriguing -- familiar but different. Here is the first grade classroom and the room where morning circle is held. The first grade teacher is pictured below, as is a U.S. Waldorf school graduate who volunteers as the music teacher. The five foot tall home-made harp has a serious Waldorf vibe, and the building projects were evident. We were happy that we could visit this multi-cultural school.

Posted by S. M. on Wednesday May 9, 2012 at 07:58PM
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Visit to a local Waldorf school

We had the pleasure of visiting the Caracol Waldorf School in San Marcos la Laguna. This Waldorf school has two kindergartens and goes up to 5th grade, hopefully to 6th next year. The founder was busy when we visited, but we met several of the teachers who are, or are in the process of becoming, Waldorf-trained. The rooms pictured here are kindergarten rooms. 

Escuela Caracol is open to all children. Some of the parents, mostly foreigners, pay tuition, but the majority of the students in the school are local Mayan children whose families pay a symbolic 1 quetzal (about 20 cents) per day. The school is primarily supported by international donations. Our group made a small donation towards the scholarship fund to enable more local children to have access to the wonderful Waldorf education being offered at Escuela Caracol. Donations can be made at their webpage:

Posted by S. M. on Wednesday May 9, 2012 at 07:58PM
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La Cambalacha

It's been a long but relatively relaxing day. We took a trip to another town today to visit a small Waldorf school and another organization I have visited before called La Cambalacha, an extracurricular art and culture center for local children. The pictures below were taken at La Cambalacha, in the village of San Marcos la Laguna. Although we were not there for very long, it was good for the students to see that there are initiatives doing meaningful, creative work. In this first photo our group was welcomed into a team-building circle game with a group of beautiful children. At La Cambalacha these children get skills and experience with creative activities which they would never ordinarily experience given their financially destitute state.

We had a nice long lunch out, and after returning we held a conversation in a circle. We have been doing that every couple of days, and it's very nice to experience how our students are so insightful, grateful and compassionate.

After dinner we had reserved the soccer field to play with the same Guatemalans we played with last week. It was super fun again. It is so nice to see people—who come across as being very serious normally—laughing and having so much fun as we did. There were so many people who came to play, we had to divide into four teams and hold a sort of tournament of five-minute games. It poured for a while and at one point all but two small lights went out, but we didn't stop for a moment!

Posted by S. M. on Wednesday May 9, 2012 at 07:57PM
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Dinner out

We enjoyed a great dinner at Milton's restaurant. The last picture is of a Guatemalan taxi. Quite different than our version!

Posted by S. M. on Wednesday May 9, 2012 at 11:20AM
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A teacher's story

Yesterday, after our morning hike, volunteering at a construction project all morning and then watching two short documentary films at the Parish, the group went out to dinner at a restaurant of a very kind family I met several years ago.

Milton, our host, told us about his experience working as a teacher for over 30 years in this rural community. During the war, he taught children while soldiers watched through the windows of the classroom to make sure he didn't teach anything subversive.

One of the stories he told us was about how Father Greg offered him an escape to the US when Milton's name appeared on a list of people at risk of "disappearing" at the hands of the military. Milton said "I haven't done anything to harm anyone. There is no reason for me to leave." Despite the threats to his life, he stayed and continued working with the Mayan children from his community. Milton and his wife worked so hard and lived so frugally that they managed to send all nine of their children to university, no small feat in any country—especially one as poor as Guatemala.

In addition to running a restaurant and teaching in local schools, Milton and his wife have a silkscreen business. By making silkscreened labels for the fair trade coffee of the Parish for several hours before and after dinner, these devoted parents were able to save enough money for all their children to receive an education.

Another side job of Milton's is wood turning. He gave us a demonstration of turning the wooden base for a lamp, and then let all the students have a turn at using his homemade lathe.


Posted by S. M. on Tuesday May 8, 2012 at 07:39PM
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An early morning hike

This group of students, accompanied by a guide, hiked up the very steep mountain beside our hotel at six o'clock this morning. At the top we had a magnificent view of the lake, San Lucas and the volcanoes beyond.


As seen in this picture, many of the mountainsides, which would naturally be jungles, are bare, because people have cut down the trees for firewood or to plant crops. On slopes as steep as these, this is very dangerous, because in the rainy season can cause devastating landslides.

After going on this strenuous (optional) hike we proceeded to move stones in the hot sun for the rest of the morning. This is a wonderful group. Everyone is working as hard as they can and supporting one another.

Posted by S. M. on Tuesday May 8, 2012 at 06:52PM
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Mayan culture

Here are some photos which give us a look at the Mayan culture: 1) These carved stones are ceremonial objects used in honoring the Nawales, spirits the Maya perceive dwelling in all creation. 2) This is typically how indigenous woman carry their babies, in woven scarves wrapped around them. 3) The church of Santo Tomas in Chichicastenango is located right next to the market and many vendors of candles and flowers can be found on its steps on market days. 4) the Chichi cemetary is very colorful with brightly colored stones and constructions honoring the dead.

Posted by S. M. on Tuesday May 8, 2012 at 08:53AM
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