Buenos Dias from Guatemala

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38 volunteers, 40 bags of donations, 3 hour bumpy ride to Lake Atitlan, and a stop at a chicken joint. I think Pollo Campero needs to sponsor us as I know that the stop yesterday won’t be our last…

2017 mission trip. We are spending two days at Opal House, a day at San Jeronimo the teen girl orphanage , two days with the kids at God Bless the Children in their new digs in Guat City and a half day here and there to combat the ever present traffic in this country.

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This year the need is just as great as years past. Mike’s Angels is funding and working to:

  • Complete the second floor of the Refuge house at Opal House
  • work on painting and clean up projects at Opal House
  • Install wifi at the teen girl orphanage
  • provide clothing for teen girls
  • paint and donate formula, diapers, money for food shopping and worker clothing st the baby orphanage God Bless The Children

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The Refuge House was built with the concept of housing single mothers and their children in this area. It is designed as a temporary stop gap to assist these women to get them on their feet again to support their families.

Mike’s Angels and Rotary International have been instrumental to the success of the completion of the house.

Currently there is a family of 10 (yes, mom, dad and 8 kids) residing on the first floor. They were discovered living in the woods on the property next to Opal House. So poor, they are illiterate, were in horrible health and needed food and work. Since there is 60% unemployment in this area of Guatemala so many are left homeless and desperate. Opal House is trying to change that cycle of poverty here by educating children and providing work  for them on their 70 acre avocado and coffee farm.

The Refuge House

Our January 2016 Visit – Hogar Padre Juan Andres Tiboldi

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The weather in Guatemala is GLORIOUS in January! What beautiful days we had on our quick visit to check up on our projects.

Shari Clarke and I (Mary Anne Payne), traveled to Guatemala City January 18 along with my daughter Kat and Shari’s niece Alyssa from Atlanta. A hearty thank you to the Delta ticket agents and their infinite patience checking our heavy bags (rain soaked but that’s another story)and for the co-pilot who ran to sub the one who didn’t show for our flight so we weren’t delayed too much.

When we arrived at Hotel Aurora in Antigua we hung all the damp sheets in our room – like Shari remarked – it DID look like a Hari Krishna laundry room :0!

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Tuesday the 19th we got up early and ventured with Trish and Jackie’s cousin Martin to the girl’s facility in Zaragosa which is just west of Chimaltenango about 45 minutes from Antigua.

The girls were so excited to see us- familiar faces really do make a difference to these girls! I have a fondness for Maida, she is 14 and deaf and she took one look at me, ran up and immediately pointed to my wrist looking for the bracelet she made me last summer. They remember!

We talked with Sister Nadia extensively about the kitchen project- they need a new roof, cleaning and a better ventilated stove in order to teach the girls how to prepare food. The kitchen is used for teaching as well as cooking larger amounts of food. It is a major hazard.

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This is the cooking area that needs better ventilation, a good cleaning, better stove and a new roof.

They still use wood burning stoves as gas is hard to get

They still use wood burning stoves as gas is hard to get

We made all the beds up with the new bedding, decorated with the banners from the fun run last fall – the girls LOVED it. Martin and I went into town and got everyone Pollo Campero – it was a huge hit!

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This is the project we did last fall, having concrete poured in the laundry area-it was dirt and when it rains….

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So much better! Thanks Alli and Kathy Knight for the idea and comforters!

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Me and Maida – oh she gets her hearing aids in 27 days!

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Suzanne and Maida – both furiously signing each other!

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Kat doing some trampoline time

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We'd like to possible add a library to their study hall this year...

We’d like to possible add a library to their study hall this year…

In the next month we hope to get a complete estimate for the kitchen – Sister Nadia and Sister Delia are doing such a fantastic job with this mission!

Mike’s Angels Funds Upgrades at Hogar Padre Juan Andres Tiboldi

BEFORE!

 

Daily wash is hung in this area in the orphanage. When it rains, it becomes a giant pool of mud!

Daily wash is hung in this area in the orphanage. When it rains, it becomes a giant pool of mud!

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We are so excited to show you the progress that has been made at the girl’s orphanage we assist in Chimaltenango Guatemala.

Hogar Padre Juan Andres Tiboldi is home to over 20 young ladies between the ages of 6 and 32. It is an older warehouse type facility that has been turned into a home for special needs girls abandoned, orphaned or placed there by the state. Hogar Padre Juan Andres Tiboldi is a Catholic orphanage run by Sister Marina Soto, they get very little funding from the local Diocese and virtually none from the government.

When we were there this past June, we were told of some of the immediate needs, one being the contruction of a concrete pad in the laundry area as it was on dirt and flooded during the rain. The other project we noticed was in the girl’s small dorm, the walls were unfinished and bleak so we funded drywall to be hung to make it more inviting. When we return next summer we will have some fun plans for those walls!

Here are the AFTER photos of the laundry project!

Hanging wash in the new area!

Hanging wash in the new area!

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Your donations to Mike’s Angels make these projects a reality for these kids-we want to thank you so much!

On our trip this summer we also painted one of the walls in the classroom-our volunteers did an amazing job and also had fun.

 

Lions and Tigers and Josue and David, Oh MY!!

The 2015 trip was soooo sooo busy and full of work and happiness ( and some interesting stuff, will get to that later) that the blog couldn’t be updated during the trip. And also for the fact that the hotel internet was hacked and the kids were hogging the hotel computer….

Fun Day at the Guatemala Zoo!

Fun Day at the Guatemala Zoo!

We had a smaller group this year – 5 teenagers, 3 kids, and 12 adults – which made the bus ride a little less crowded and with just a few less bags. We still provided over 20 suitcases of items for four facilities:  God Bless the Children in Guatemala City, Hogar San Jeronimo in Chimaltenango, Opal House on Lake Atitlan, and Hogar San Emiliani in Guatemala City.

One of our young volunteers, Alli and Victor

One of our young volunteers, Alli, with Victor

A HUGE Thank YOU to everyone who donated clothing, toys and medicines, and those who donated money as we found out more about the real needs of these facilities and hope to provide some money for projects for them.

We arrived Friday and Saturday on a warm, dry June weekend in Guatemala CIty. We went from the airport and picked up the older kids at God Bless the Children and took them to the city zoo. I was a little worried we would be outnumbered by all the toddlers but three of the helpers at the orphanage went along to assist us 4 adults with the roundup.  Later the rest of the crew came from the airport and made it JUST IN TIME for Pollo Campero fried chicken with the kids.

This is Chris's sixth trip to Guatemala with Mike's Angels and this year's scholarship recipient. He remembers little Antonio from previous trips and Antonio remembers him!

This is Chris’s sixth trip to Guatemala with Mike’s Angels and this year’s scholarship recipient. He remembers little Antonio from previous trips and Antonio remembers him!

We were joined by Jackie and Trish’s cousin Martine who was appropriately dressed as Jungle Martine and thankfully he knew the best things to see and led our motley group of bewildered adults and kids jacked up on Pepsi through the maze that is the Guatemala Zoo.

Believe it or not, this was a lovely, clean zoo with great habitats.

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After about 90 minutes, we were getting some cranky pants children so we headed back to the orphanage. Within minutes they were blissfully asleep on the bus!

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I am going to feature some of the kids we met and tell you about their background stories so you can get an idea of who we are helping.

Martine with Josue and David

Martine with Josue and David

This is Josue (pronounced Hose sway)  and David.  They are about 18 months old and are twin brothers and are on their second stay at God Bless the Children. When they were born they BOTH had the same heart condition that needed some serious surgery. Their parents couldn’t afford the care so gave them up and the city court placed them at God Bless. David and Cynthia, the operators of the facility (both are lawyers – Cynthia is an adoption attorney who gave up her practice when they shut down international adoptions in 2008) worked with cardiologists and were able to get the twins the surgery needed to repair their hearts. Josue and David did great – they both have the same exact scar on their chest from the surgery and were thriving at the orphanage. Their parents found out that they were healthy and went to court and demanded their children back and the court turned them back over to their parents. Who, by the way, are alcoholics and street beggars. Guatemalan courts still want parents to care for their children like many courts do but are overwhelmed with cases.

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A few months later, one of the employees of God Bless saw these parents on the street begging using Josue and David as part of their way to get money. They were underweight and hungry. God Bless went back to court and was able to convince them to take the children out of the parents care and put them back at the orphanage. The parents gave up without a fight. They are doing well, David is a charmer, Josue has a harder time with strangers but they are both coming along.

Unfortunately, Guatemala doesn’t have quite the adoption culture we do as Americans or those do in other parts of the world. One cause is the amount of poor in the country, a country with little or no middle class. There is some talk of adoptions opening up after 2016 for special needs children. Guatemala does not provide any financial assistance to private and church run orphanages, only the few that they have which sometimes house upwards to 700 children at a time.

UNICEF estimates that there are more than 370,000 orphans in Guatemala and at least 5,000 children live on the streets of the capital, abandoned by mothers who are too poor to keep them. In addition, the HIV/AIDS epidemic appears to be growing rapidly. Here is a very good article from the Wall Street Journal on the orphan crisis in Guatemala.

 

Trish and Jackie Marcucci with David

Trish and Jackie Marcucci with David

We brought along a huge supply of diapers, Enfamil, and other items for God Bless – they are at capacity with 23 children which includes 6 infants. A few days later we came back to paint furniture and walls and feed babies.

Watch daily for stories on the children and caregivers we met on our mission!

To help go to Mike’s Angels page.

Tomorrow, meet Victor and Sharon!

We are Back! A New Classroom for Opal House

It’s January in Guatemala and since it’s the dry season it’s also very busy with tourists in La Antigua.

Shari Clark and Mary Anne Payne have come down to be at the dedication of a new classroom that Mikes Angels has funded for Opal House. We are in La Antigua today staying at the Hotel Aurora, our headquarters for our mission trip and it is as beautiful as last summer. It’s so nice to see hydrangeas blooming in January!

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We took a quick walk up to the Arch and enjoyed the street vendors then ate
at Sobremesa, a lovely restaurant run by an American ex pat Alex who makes the most unusual ice creams! Caramel Tobacco Esspresso ice cream anyone?

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Tomorrow we venture by shuttle bus to Panahanchel on Lake Atitlan to Opal house ! Hopefully we can fit in some Pollo Sabroso too…

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Thursday and Friday

On the way back from the volcanos of Atitlan we stopped by the girl’s orphanage in Zaragosa, about 45 minutes from our base here in Antigua. Sister had to flag us down on the highway so we could find it-so funny to see a nun in a black habit on a cell phone on the roadway.

We were able to briefly meet the girls (as due to the previous Monday’s strike we couldn’t visit). So we had to split our troops on Thursday to see both groups as the boy’s facility was in Guatemala City.

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All the girls at the hotel

Thursday, most of the older teens went into town with Fr Fito and Jackie to the boys’ orphanage and we sent our bus to bring some of the girls back to the hotel where they made rainbow loom and beaded bracelets. We went to the big cross up the hill that overlooks Antigua and then back to the hotel for the favorite lunch-Pollo Campero!!!

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The boys orphanage

At the boys facility they delivered clothes and shoes and the guys were so happy to receive all of the cool athletic t shirts that were donated. They played soccer and Chris showed them how to throw an American football which they loved. They also line danced and loved playing on the cell phones the kids had.

So sorry this post is a little shorter as the author has a bum finger due to a slip and fall at the cross-but all is well otherwise.

We have so much more to share with you-keep checking in this coming week! Watching these kids bond and be moved by this experience has brought all of us closer to God and each other.

Our Day at Opal House

This country is an oxymoron. It is breathtakingly beautiful, yet the abject poverty is overwhelming.

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The view from the back of Opal House

We are now at 6500 feet above sea level. It seems like for three hours all we did was travel uphill in our loaded bus. We did take a lunch break and stopped in Panachel-a town along Lake Atitlan-and took a short scenic boat ride around the north end of the and then back to the docks for lunch. Then it was up hill again. Definitely an e-ticket ride (Mid life Disney fans will get that reference).

Dr Will and Diane Boegel, originally from the Seattle area, had been long time missionaries in the slums of Guatemala City. Dr Will is a podiatrist – they traveled extensively and came upon this small rural area quite by accident while on break from their work in the capital. Knowing their calling was helping the people of this country they knew they wanted to have a small place here to travel to and do their work. They looked at this property to kill time and fell in love with it-a home with a coffee an avocado farm of over 70 acres overlooking Lake Atitlan and surrounded by volcanos. They knew there was a need in the local community and decided to make this their permanent home. Trying to start an orphanage was too difficult with a corrupt government so Diane set up a school-now Montessori, to serve local children and Dr Will has a clinic here and performs surgeries at the local hospital.

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We threw their annual birthday party with pinatas and games-what a blast!

In Guatemala, most of the population, if lucky, get to about third grade and drop out of school. Getting to sixth grade is rare. 40% of the population is illilerate. Guatemala has the highest fertility rate in the world and has one of the highest percentage of rape and incest. International adoption was halted about 5 years ago due to corruption within that system. Run by an Oligarchy, this country does not even provide basic clean water to its citizens. In this rural area, Dr Will, with the help of Rotary Internattional, had all of the water facilities tested for bacteria and parasites and 99% of those facilities tested positive. Dr Will and Diane found out quickly that the children in their schools had parasites-at circle time, when they got up from sitting on the floor, worms were found. Since then, they have had filters donated to each of their school kids families and had them installed so that they get clean water. In one home visit, Dr Will found that two of their students lived in a cane-built home with no electricity or water. They are in the process of building a halfway home on their property for single moms with children to help them get back on their feet.

Today, the older teens went with Dr Will to help out at his clinic and the others have stayed behind to assist in the school. Dr Will is a founding member of a local Rotary International chapter and there is a Rotary group here from Washington state helping plant avocado trees and install a cistern they brought along.

Mikes Angels brought along suitcases full of Montessori games and crafts, medicines, books and toys.

The need here is real-and because sending items is extremely expensive and complicated, the need is funds. You can find out more about Opal House on their website.

We will venture back this afternoon-lighter in load from our donations but full in our hearts for the people of this region.

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