We also visited an immigration office in the Capital. This office assists several groups of people: individuals who have been deported from the states after living there for years (and sometimes decades) and need assistance with finding any family members in Guatemala; individuals who have migrated from other countries and have found themselves hungry and without shelter; and individuals who have been manipulated by coyotes and have been captured, kept under house arrest, and sometimes forced in to prostitution (this group mostly consists of women and children). The goal of this office is not to smuggle individuals into the states (as some might assume). Rather, the goal is to care for those who are living on the streets and have no place to go. Much like First Presbyterian Church’s Stewpot program ( http://www.thestewpot.org/ ), The Migrant office offers breakfast and dinner and a place to sleep. During the day, patrons are expected to go out into town and find work. Social workers and volunteers assist the patrons in networking, finding jobs, and locating family members.
We also visited Ventanas Abiertas (“Open Windows”), where Young Adult Volunteer Austin Langley will be working. This is a program in San Miguel Duenas which provides after school programs and character building to children in the surrounding areas. The program offers after school tutoring, computer lessons, community projects, and education to parents. Below is a picture I snapped of a group of donors- not sure if it is Kerrville, Texas, does anyone know??
Another program we visited near the Antigua area is “Common Hope,” where Young Adult Volunteer Julianne Blaha will be working. This program, in Ciudad Vieja, was founded by Americans and provides a plethora of services. They have a large dorm where they host international volunteers. They are in the process of expanding their library, which is available for use by the children involved in the program. They train teachers and volunteers that work in schools they sponsor and offer literacy classes, breast feeding courses, and computer literacy classes to parents. http://www.commonhope.org/
We also visited Young Adult volunteer Jackie Wonsey’s hometown of Pachaj, where she will be working in a women’s shelter as well as a clinic for Indigenous women and children who do not have easy access to medical aid. This clinic has a regular doctor and nurse who bring supplies from larger cities and educate the women on proper nutrition, breast feeding, and vaccinations.
Independence Day in Guatemala happened to be September 15th. We had a wonderfully cultural day where we watched the parade and had a barbeque in the afternoon with friends of our site coordinator, Marcia. There were parades throughout the entire day with bright colors and school bands, some of which included members of our host siblings! (see below)
After four weeks of living with my language school host family, we said a very tearful goodbye and they gave me a pair of earrings as a parting gift. I miss them dearly and look forward to visiting when I am in the Antigua area again.