Where Have I Been ?

That is the question ? Well, it has been very busy over the last months, actually the last year. I lost my assistant and I have been the jack of all trades and have been run off my feet. Let’s catch up anyway.

So much is happening for us and has been for quite awhile. We are just finishing construction of our 18th school or 39 classrooms. We began construction on our 19th school and will have completed 42 classrooms by June 2015. Hopefully, more will follow depending on the rising of funds.

We launched our Escuela Ideal Program in January after a successful pilot project in 2014. Our book Nabe’ Binem is being accepted well and being requested in other schools that are not in our program. The use of our book printed in the Kiche’ Mayan language resulted in a 10% decrease in the failure and drop out rate of first grade indigenous students in Uspantan. This year we are hoping for a larger decrease. That is our goal.

We had a great volunteer group go with me in October 2014 to build stoves in Chinique. We have moved from Uspantan to build stoves in Chinique. After 7 years, we filled all the requests for stoves in Uspantan. We are also building stoves in Chicaman. In January 2015 I had a small group of volunteers building stoves in Chinique. I will be leaving on March 22nnd with a group of school students from Rundle College to build 120 stoves again in Chinique. The plan is to remain in Chinique till all requests are exhausted for stoves.

Our program to raise the quality of teaching in Uspantan is well on track as our training workshops are frequent and the presenters are the best to be found in Guatemala. The Puerto Rico team of professors in education still are very involved as well.

We completed 2 more Community Gardens Programs that focused on nutrition, gardening techniques, cooking, recycling and reforestation. These have been a real success and we hope to do more. As always it depends on funds.

All my staff in Guatemala are doing well. Rebeca Galindo works harder than ever. Some of the staff are in university classes which is a great satisfaction to me. H&H supports them financially as much as we can.

Both Boards of Directors(Canadian and Guatemala) are working well and a great support to me. They take on work that frees me to do the thing I really need to do. Corazones y Manos will have its annual fundraiser in Guatemala on June 7th. I will be there for the event. Hearts & Hands will have its 3rd annual Golf Tournament on August 7th at Brewsters Ranch near Exshaw and Canmore. In addition, we will be selling seats to view the Stampede Parade on the 3rd of July. In November we will be selling live wreaths for Christmas. Always, always fundraising. That’s my life. Thank goodness for the great Board members I am not alone.

There will be an October volunteer trip from the 23 to November 6th. There is still room for volunteers on the team. Just email me.

Well, very briefly that is all for now. I am sure I forgot a lot, but time is precious. Best wishes to everyone who reads my blog. Sorry for the long delay. I will try but cannot promise I will do better/
Hasta luego,
Jan

How Fast Time Flies

It seems time gets away from me. Work just seems to occupy my time and priorities rule my life. The new year has come and we are almost into March. So much is happening for which I am extremely grateful. In January we held our training session in Guatemala for the schools involved in the Escuela Ideal program. The materials were distributed as well, so the program was set to begin. However; the teachers in Guatemala went on strike, and only returned to work last week. That was advantage to us as it gave us time to get the coordinator of the program on board.

It is only 3 weeks until I leave with the team from Rundle College. This year we have 15 students and 3 teachers. In  addition, there will be Dr. Lloyd Evans and his 2 assistants making up the dental team. This will be our 8th dental clinic. The plan is for it to be held again in El Pinal. We have Bill and Heather Way  on board as well..

I will be remaining in Guatemala until April 10th. There is much work to oversee during and after the team leaves. We are in the process of planning the 2nd textbook for Escuela Ideal and lots of work is needed in the initial stage.

In Canada H&H will have the Annual General Meeting on April 26th. We will be holding a whole day retreat with the Board of Directors developing a new 5-year plan as well as examining the past and future of the organization. It is amazing how fast 5 years pass. It seems like only yesterday we formulated a 5-year plan. 

We have 5 new members on the Board- Allyson Van Impe, Andrew Bitcon, Tracey Bitcon, Terry Felton, and Bonita Felton. With sadness we bid farewell to Sharon Macleod and Arleah Bloxam from the Board. Both gave so much in time and effort to H&H and will be sorely missed. I have been fortunate to have so many great people serve on the Board over the 8 years. Many have left their mark on the organization and the organization has grown because of them. I look forward to working with this current Board as we continue to grow.

This year H&H has many things to accomplish. There possibly will be another Bocce Night at the Calgary Italian Club in May. We had one in January which was loads of fun. Terry Felton organized the night and it is well worth repeating. I did not know so many people could become so competitive !! We will look forward to more bocce fun.

We will be holding our 2nd Annual Golf Fun Day on August 6th at the River’s Edge Golf Club in Okotoks. We hope to make this a big event with a full roster of players and sponsors. The Committee is beginning their work now. I did not play last year, but I am giving it a try this year and will hope the back holds up.

In August also we will have a booth at the Canmore Folk Festival to sell Guatemalan handicrafts. It is a good venue also for exposure for the organization.

That is a brief look at the coming year for us. Of course there will be a group October 24-November 7 for building stoves. Many people have already signed-up. If anyone is interested, you should get your name on the list NOW to reserve a spot.

Till next time, Jan    

How Fast Time Flies

It seems time gets away from me. Work just seems to occupy my time and priorities rule my life. The new year has come and we are almost into March. So much is happening for which I am extremely grateful. In January we held our training session in Guatemala for the schools involved in the Escuela Ideal program. The materials were distributed as well, so the program was set to begin. However; the teachers in Guatemala went on strike, and only returned to work last week. That was advantage to us as it gave us time to get the coordinator of the program on board.

It is only 3 weeks until I leave with the team from Rundle College. This year we have 15 students and 3 teachers. In  addition, there will be Dr. Lloyd Evans and his 2 assistants making up the dental team. This will be our 8th dental clinic. The plan is for it to be held again in El Pinal. We have Bill and Heather Way  on board as well..

I will be remaining in Guatemala until April 10th. There is much work to oversee during and after the team leaves. We are in the process of planning the 2nd textbook for Escuela Ideal and lots of work is needed in the initial stage.

In Canada H&H will have the Annual General Meeting on April 26th. We will be holding a whole day retreat with the Board of Directors developing a new 5-year plan as well as examining the past and future of the organization. It is amazing how fast 5 years pass. It seems like only yesterday we formulated a 5-year plan. 

We have 5 new members on the Board- Allyson Van Impe, Andrew Bitcon, Tracey Bitcon, Terry Felton, and Bonita Felton. With sadness we bid farewell to Sharon Macleod and Arleah Bloxam from the Board. Both gave so much in time and effort to H&H and will be sorely missed. I have been fortunate to have so many great people serve on the Board over the 8 years. Many have left their mark on the organization and the organization has grown because of them. I look forward to working with this current Board as we continue to grow.

This year H&H has many things to accomplish. There possibly will be another Bocce Night at the Calgary Italian Club in May. We had one in January which was loads of fun. Terry Felton organized the night and it is well worth repeating. I did not know so many people could become so competitive !! We will look forward to more bocce fun.

We will be holding our 2nd Annual Golf Fun Day on August 6th at the River’s Edge Golf Club in Okotoks. We hope to make this a big event with a full roster of players and sponsors. The Committee is beginning their work now. I did not play last year, but I am giving it a try this year and will hope the back holds up.

In August also we will have a booth at the Canmore Folk Festival to sell Guatemalan handicrafts. It is a good venue also for exposure for the organization.

That is a brief look at the coming year for us. Of course there will be a group October 24-November 7 for building stoves. Many people have already signed-up. If anyone is interested, you should get your name on the list NOW to reserve a spot.

Till next time, Jan    

Many Thoughts of Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving approaches tomorrow in the U.S., I sit here working in Guatemala feeling a bit homesick. Growing up in the U.S. and in a family where Thanksgiving was a big family event, I cannot help but feel a bit of nostalgia. I was fortunate to have a Mom who loved to cook and have as many family members at her table on Thanksgiving as possible. She cooked all the traditional dishes and began cooking and baking days before the big event. She delighted in her pies- pumpkin, mince meat, and butterscotch and it was common to see 8 or 10 pies cooling in the kitchen. In those days the turkey had to go in the oven very early and she was up cooking before any of us got out of bed. I remember I was given the job of peeling potatoes and helping set a beautiful table. We never had much in the way of china or silver, but Mom could set a beautiful table with what she had.

Thanksgiving was when my Mom’s oldest sister and husband came home to Cincinnati from Rochester, Minnesota for these Thanksgiving holidays. She was looked upon as the matriarch of the Martin family. Her visit was always cause for all the Martin family to rally round and  it was usually at our house on this special day. It was not uncommon for there to be 25 or more people sitting at our dinner table. It was a glorious time which I fondly recall even today. Of course, my sister Linda and I were selected to do all the dishes after dinner and we were each paid 50 cents for our efforts. That was the days before dishwashers.

I am nostalgic about those days because I look back at how our family changed after my Mom died in 1968 as most do after a parent dies. My dad lived till 1980, but our family was never the same after Mom’s death. Hindsight is great and in our case, Mom was definitely the glue that kept our family close. She made every holiday- Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, and others a special time. She kept us a family and it is a shame we do not realize it at the time. Thanks, Mom, for all you gave us. Especially the strength you modeled for me as a woman. You gave me courage to do whatever and the confidence to believe in myself. I know you are watching still and spurring me on. I hope I am making you proud.

Thanksgiving is about remembering your blessings. Just like the Pilgrims who celebrated their first harvest with the Indians, I celebrate my harvest which is Guatemala. I have written many times about my gratitude for this country and its people. I have a second home here and have been welcomed with open arms. I still am amazed at the acceptance of H&H; and the cooperation from mayors, Minister of Education, local governments, and the communities that have worked with us and continue to do so. That is a blessing. I observe other organizations that work autonomously and wonder why they choose to ignore these great partnerships. So much more can be accomplished and be sustainable when working together. Basically, they are doing for rather than giving a hand up. The secret is helping people to help themselves.  That is the legacy I hope to leave here. Helping people to gain pride in doing for themselves. That is the blessing.

Saturday is another milestone for me. I turn 72 ! Am I old ? Not on your life !! I still have too much to do. Rebeca is constantly asking me where I get all my energy. I always tell her that it is a God given gift. My energy always outlasts hers. Why was I given this gift ? That is a question only God can answer. I pray it lasts a long time.

Blessings ! I have many. My sons and their love and support is number 1. My grandchildren and great grandchildren are another. My extended family, friends, and all who have touched my life are a blessing. My staff and Guatemalan family give me blessings everyday. So tomorrow, I give thanks for my life and the chance to walk this earth. I have been blessed.

Jan

         

A Month Later

Wow !! Where did the month go ? Time flies when one is busy. The launching of our book- My First Steps- was on November 17th and it was a fantastic event. I never imagined the response we would have for this book. The Minister of Education gave her blessings as well as the Department Director. I did not completely realize how progressive this book will be. It will be the first book printed in a Mayan language for school children. Each child in the first grade of the schools, who have contracted with us, will receive the kit- book, phonetic chart, and composition work book. That was a priority for us, so that the child will have ownership of the book. The goal of this project is just not to teach the Quiche children to read and write in their language and Spanish, but for them to learn about their culture and give them pride in who and what they are. We will follow this same group of children through the third grade. We will produce a book for both the second and third grades  Hopefully, after the 3 years,  we will be able to measure our results and achieve the success we want. I have hired two coordinators to manage and oversee this project for the 3 years. I am very excited about both persons and welcome them to the family of Hearts & Hands.

A new field work coordinator was hired and started work with us this week. His name is Carlos Us. He is a young man full of energy and so happy to have a job. He was out of work for a year and has a wife and 2 daughters to support. He gave a thorough and complete presentation to all the staff on the problems in the environment and his plan for addressing them in Uspantan. His title is actually Environmental Program Coordinator. It was an impressive presentation.

I am back in Panajachel for a few days as Rebeca and I work on budgeting for 2014 and review of all our programs. We will involve the staff next week in a planning session for 2014. It is necessary as we continue to rapidly grow and become more complex.

2014 is not that many weeks away and it will be busy in all programs. It is still amazing to me how far we have come and grown in 8 years. It is a miracle and a blessing. I hope 2014 brings us even more success and growth. Most of all I give thanks for all the Lord has given me in a wonderful staff who support me and our projects. I am grateful that together we are able to assist families in health and education. May we continue to blessed.

Jan         

Guatemala Again

After a nice paced summer, I am back in Guatemala with a full 2- months work ahead. I arrived in the City on the 16th. It has been a little hot and humid until yesterday which was just right. I have spent 3 days in meetings about the text book we are publishing. I spent one whole day at the publishers observing the book unfold in printing. It is amazing- so colorful and bright. I am so proud that we have been able to find topnotch professionals to work with us on this project. It is amazing that they are almost as passionate about it as Rebeca and I.  We will be offering not only a book, but a phonetics chart, a composition book, and a dictionary to every child in kindergarten and first grade in the 27 schools which have contracted with us. I feel satisfied that 27 out of the 32 schools we approached have signed a contract to work with us for the 2-years. It was important to have schools who really wanted to be part of this project in order to ensure success.  

I will move from the City to Uspantan today. There have been many mudslides between Los Encuentros and Chichi, so we are a little worried about getting through. I will write more from Uspantan.

Jan  

Busy Summer

Where did the summer go ??? I took the summer off after coming home from Guatemala in June. Well, that is what I intended ! I never really thought I could take each day off, but perhaps only work half days. Sometime that worked and sometimes it did not. mostly did not. However; I have enjoyed the slower pace and being at home more than I have been for the last number of summers.

What has been happening ? We had the food sales at the Miner’s Hall Pub during the Canmore Folk Festival. It was a lot of hard work by a few people who did a bang-up job. Thanks to Sharon Macleod, Alli Macleod and her friend, America. Thanks also to Sharons’ friends from Calgary who came out and assisted her in the kitchen. The food was great and it was fun. I worked in the booth on the grounds and we sold lots of crafts. despite all that, the concensus is that the food sales are so much work for a minimal return. The Festival goes for 3 days and what we make does not warrant doing it again.

On August 7th we held our first Annual Golf Fun Day at River’s Edge Golf Club. It was great fun and very profitable for a one day event. We had only 48 golfers but still had a great return. Thanks to the Golf Committee led by Terry Felton it a was a huge success. Next years Golf Fun day will be held on August 6th. The committee has a head start on the planning. The next one should be totally successful as we have much more time than the 2 months we had this year.

Our textbook is going to press this week and the expected date of public presentation will be November 11th. I will be in Guatemala for 4 public launchings in Guatemala City, Xela, Santa Cruz del Quiche, and Uspantan. It is so exciting I can hardly wait till it is published. It a beautiful textbook and well done by the creators of it. It is something for us to be proud.

The next group will be departing on October 25th. The fall groups are always small, but my favorite. When the group is small, it is usually more friendly and relationships are closer. In addition, I will attend 3 inaugurations of playgrounds that we built with Rotary money. That is always exciting especially to see the kids playing on a playground instead of the muddy fields.

On October 5th we will hold our 2nd Octoberfest. There will be the good Austrian food by Valbella, music by the Moldy Fig, and the Austrian yodelers will perform like last year. It promises to be another night of fun.

When I leave for Guatemala on October 16th, I will not return until the 12th of December. The work load requires me to have longer stays in Guatemala now. I will be home for the Christmas holidays and probably return there in late January.     

I hope of you who read this blog are having a great summer and keeping well. I appreciate your support by reading this blog and I hope to see you at one or all our fundraisers. Please continue your support. We need and appreciate it.   

Blessings, Jan