Monday, September 6, 2010

Final Words

Hi all,
Enlace 2010 has officially finished! August 24th was a tear-filled day as we departed the beautiful Guatemalan landscape and left the many wonderful friends we have made. And it was another sad goodbye when we arrived at 50 Kent where our families met us and we had to say goodbye to our new family, the Enlace team. Our last few days in Guatemala were spent debriefing and reflecting on our month. We realized exactly how much information we had taken in, stretching brain muscles, emotion muscles, and physical muscles much further than we had expected. We have a whole new perspective on multiple things including consumerism, the projects of MCC, wealth disparity, natural disasters, and mining. Ask us about them. We've come home to share with you about things we have experienced first hand, and advocate about issues that have become very dear to us. I encourage you to listen and learn. Thank you so much for all your support, we very much appreciated your blessings of money and prayers, and we hope to pass that blessing along through sharing about Guatemala and El Salvador.

A last reflection from Thomas:
The Guatemala/ El Salvador experience was very enriching and taught me much about what it is like to live with less. I have learned to be skeptical about what I perceive myself needing, and traveling has made me more compassionate to the less fortunate, and more empathetic about international issues. Enlace was well organized and showed me contrasts in Guatemala very effectively, as well as being a very fun experience. I hope I can have more experiences like it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A True Story

So this is Mr. Frank talking and what I’m going to be talking about is a little bit about the group and what I’ve have learned on this trip.
Once A Upon A Time...
...a group of 7 went to a city called El Salvador . When they were in El Salvador they learned so much: they learned to care, love, share, and to work together as a group better. Its not that they didn’t know how to do that before it’s just that they saw and felt the pain of what the people in El Salvador were going through and they just didn’t want it happening to the ones they love and care about. Now they treasure everyday because of what they have learned and it keeps them =) *it means smiling*

So now I’m just going to talk little bit about what I have learned on this trip. I’ve learned to treasure the things I have back home and be thankful to GOD that he has blessed me with a great life and a wonderful family.
So don’t every take anything for granted,
be happy with what u have!
- Frank Her

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Oh Say Can You See..

What does being Canadian mean to you? Why is it so important to stitch that Canadian flag on your backpack when you travel? Because the international community likes Canadians. We´re nice, friendly, and apologetic. We´re peacekeepers. That´s a myth that continues to be revealed to a majority of Canadians who may not realize our involvement in Afghanistan is of combat nature. We also like to boast that we are socially responsible in our international business. The mining industry worldwide is 70% Canadian. Countries prefer Canadian mines to other multinationals because we have a reputation as nice people. That reputation may still stand in the hearts and minds of Canadians but in San Miguel Ixtahuacan something unusual happened. I, as a dual Canadian and U.S. citizen, chose to identify as a Yankee. Voluntarily.

San Miguel Ixtahuacan is a small town located in the province of San Marcos, that has served for the past 5 years as the location of the Marlin Mine, a mine of the Canadian company GoldCorp with head offices in Vancouver. This town has very little to offer other than the bars that have increased in number by 1000% since the mine opened. So any white people passing through town are there for one reason: the mine. No, we were never in danger while we visited the outside of the mine and heard stories from the local youth working in resistance under the Catholic church. But we felt the tension. Families, the government, and the church have experienced conflict and division ever since GoldCorp arrived. The Marlin Mine employs 500-600 people from San Miguel and another 1300 from other parts of Guatemala and the world. They pay taxes to the community and regularly give gifts of fertilizer and infrastructure to the people. But they fail to recognize new phenomenons skin rashes and dying cattle as a result of the polluted water running from it´s leaching ponds and cracked houses as a result of dynomite blasts four times daily. The Marlin Mine uses 250 000 litres of water per hour for the process of extracting the gold from the ore, an amount of water that a Guatemalan family might use in 30 years. The locals are afraid to use the water now, and consume the crops from their land.

But there is hope. The 3 days before we arrived in San Miguel we spent in the communities of La Vega and Yalu, communities where MCC supports projects of trout and flower co-operatives. These communities are under the threat of GoldCorp as well, who has obtained licenses for exploration to start new mines. With these micro projects, MCC is hoping to instill a value for this land, where the people will use the natural resources towards sustainable projects instead of selling to the mining companies.

We were also fortunate enough to have Claire Lehan along for that portion of our trip. She works in Parliament, as a legislative assistant to MP John McKay who is currently working to pass Bill C-300 which would keep Canadian mining companies responsible for their actions in developing countries. Claire gave us some very concrete ideas for when we return including petitions, rallies, and contacting our MPs to encourage our government to regain our reputation as a people who cares about how we are treating others.

I never thought the day would come that my Pennsylvanian roots would win out over the 19 years I have spent living in Canada. But I can only hope that if I were to return to San Miguel, or any other Canadian mine location in Argentina, Papua New Guinea, Romania and many more, that one day I will be able to call myself Canadian and not be ashamed about it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Panajachel/ Santiago Atitlan Update

Hey everyone,

Hope you are all doing well! The group has had an amazing few days here in Santiago Atitlan. We are currently living with host families whom have graciously opened their homes to us and have provided with great food and wonderful memories. The partner organization that have been showing us around town is called Anadesa. Among the many projects that they have for the community here, the big one was providing water filters systems to various families in the area to provide them with clean water. The major work project that we have been helping with for the past two days is helping to clear out a school facility that was abandoned when Hurricane stan came through and left the building covered with layers upon layers of mud. On the first day we successfully (but painstakenly) cleaned out one of the lower classrooms as well as collected and transported two hundred boulders from another area, to the school, to help begin building a retaining wall. After a hard morning of work we were able to enjoy activities with the kids from the communities. We did a some arts & crafts, sang songs, and ended with some basketball/mini stick games. The kids throughly enjoyed themselves but definitely not as much as we did!

I don´t have time right now to write out everything else we´ve done, but I will update this post at the next opportunity we get. On that same topic, we are going to be going to San Marco´s tomorrow, and therefore internet access will be a lot more limited but don´t forget to keep us in your prayers. Some of the participants have been dealing with some stomach and headache issues, but it´s mostly due to the change in diet (as well as change in altitude) and luckily no one has had prolonged symptoms. Tonight we are looking forward to a cultural exchange/ talent show so I´m sure the next update will have a good story or two! Untill then take care,

- Felipe

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Just a quick note on the picture situation. I know everyone's been waiting to see what we are up too (visually) but the computers that we are using at the moment don't have memory card readers and none of us in the group brought usb cables for our cameras. So we've asked some of our hosts if they could help us out and we are hoping to get some pictures up soon! Keep checking back, and don't be afraid to post a comment or two! Miss you all,

- Felipe

Weekend At Chichicastenango

Hey friends and family!
We´ve had a busy two days since leaving the capital, now we are back.

Yesterday we visited Mayan ruins outside Guatemala City.

We visited several womens´ co-ops, and bought lots of clothing accessories. It was pretty cool for the group to enjoy intense hospitality as we received breakfast, two lunches and two suppers, one of which was at a wedding.

Chontola's Widow's Cooperative

Some of the amazing crafts the women above make!

Today we went to Guatemalan mass, which the group agrees was the longest two hours experienced so far. Overall, things are going well, everyone´s having a great time.
Thomas and the Enlace team.