Ben and I went to Guatemala a few weeks ago with Compassion International. Ben works for Compassion and travels someplace oversees every other month--he's quite familiar with their work, but I had never had a chance to visit a project before.
We went with a sponsor tour--a group of people who sponsor children in Guatemala through Compassion--even though we don't sponsor a child there. (Our sponsored kids live in Bolivia, Uganda, Kenya, and India. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to visit them one day!)
We did meet so many beautiful sponsored children, though, like the girl we are standing with in the photo above. I gave out lots of hugs to the kids and hope that they felt their sponsor's love for them through me.
One day, we had the chance to visit the home of one of the children who attends the project we visited. We walked through the local neighborhood and made our way to his house. A lot of times, I think my own home is small and crowded, but seeing where he lived made me realize just how big my house really is.
It was just two rooms: a kitchen and a bedroom. There were two mattresses on the floor, a side table, and a small tv. That's it. Six smiling kids were sitting on one of the beds--they all lived there with their mother, grandmother, and aunt. Four of the children belonged to one mother and the other two belonged to the other. I found it hard to imagine what the sleeping arrangements were--with so many bodies and only two beds.
I have no idea what was in the kitchen. I barely glanced inside as we passed through to the bedroom, but I think there was a table in it. Maybe a stove? I really don't know. They also had a backyard with a rustic sink with plumbing.
Two of the children attended the Compassion project at the local church. They attend school in the morning and in the afternoons, they go to the project to have a nutritious snack and receive extra tutoring from the project workers.
I remember the mother of one of the children saying how she loved that her child had a safe place to play after school.
Here is the little guy in his classroom and the project. See him on the end?
Later that day, we were able to serve the snacks to the kids and also hang out with them for a bit. They only spoke Spanish and they thought my attempts were quite humorous. While far from fluent, I can get by in Spanish (or so I thought), but to listen to these kids, you would think I was speaking Greek! They laughed at me and looked completely confused at times. It was pretty funny.
Their classroom was bright and fun. They had pictures of their national bird, flower, flag, etc on the wall--the same sort of fun things that 1st or 2nd graders learn here.
It was so wonderful to visit the two projects we saw and to meet all the children and staff. If you sponsor a child through Compassion, they regularly organize sponsor trips that you can join and take a visit to your own sponsored child.
I'm always amazed by the countries I visit and Guatemala was no exception. It's very lush and green and overflowing with flowers. It seemed like everywhere I looked there was a tree or a vine exploding with bright red or pink blooms. On top of houses, in yards, courtyards---everywhere!
The buildings were also colorful--red, blue, yellow--just regular stores and buildings looked like works of art just because of their painted facades and gigantic flowering vines crawling up their walls. I could not stop taking pictures.
As beautiful as the scenery was, the Guatemalan people were even MORE beautiful. I loved their hearts, their hospitality, and the way they exuded such beauty and joy through their clothing and most of all through their smiles.
I had read Abuela's Weave with Juliet before going on the trip, so I was hoping to get the chance to see some of the amazing textile handiwork that they are known for.
In a local market, I was able to talk with this woman who showed me how she worked her loom! I bought a few of her tapestries and hope to hang them in our home soon.
It was an amazing experience and I'm so glad I had the chance to go. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't get the chance to meet my sponsored child (like the rest of the people on our trip), but my new friend Brandy wrote a beautiful post about her experience meeting her sweet 6-year-old sponsored child on our trip. You can read it here. (Make sure you have some tissues handy, you are going to need them.)
Another new friend, Noel shares more photos and her experience visiting one of the homes of another sponsored child. She shares a lot of great pictures in her post that really give you a good feel of the entire experience. Read it here.