When we started planning our trip two years ago we wanted to find a charity to help in Central America. The Fergus-Elora Rotary Club, which my dad is in, started to support a charity that we really liked too, so we picked that one. The charity we chose was called Project Harvest and it helps people with not enough food to start their own vegetable gardens. The money raised helps people to buy seeds and to build special containers to catch rain water in the rainy season and stores it for them to use in the dry season.
For my 10th birthday last March I decided to ask my friends for donations to Project Harvest instead of gifts. They were all so generous and we raised lots of money together. Thank you to my friends! We also gave Project Harvest donations to some of our family at Christmas instead of gifts. My family and I drove down to Hamilton just after my birthday and gave the money to Project Harvest at their yearly musical concert fundraiser. There was traditional Guatemalan food and dancing and we had lots of fun. They were very grateful for my birthday money. They even put a picture of Mirren and me in their newsletter. I will put a link to this at the end of my post in case you want to learn more about the charity.
We planned our trip so that we would have a few days to visit the communities that have worked with Project Harvest. The towns are in an area called Chiquimula, Guatemala. It is about an hour drive from where we were staying in Copan, Honduras. So, we left our bags there and headed back into Guatemala for a few days without all our heavy stuff. We got to know a border guard pretty well because we crossed the border so many times in a few days. She was grumpy to begin with, I think because our Spanish is not very good, but she finally smiled at us the last time!
People from the local Rotary club that are helping to run the project picked us up in Chiquimula and gave us a tour of the area. They took us to one of their other projects (supported by other Canadian Rotary clubs) which is building more classrooms at an elementary school out in the mountains. They were also building bathrooms for the school kids to use. Here is a picture of Mirren and me inside one of the new classrooms. Their old school only had two rooms for one hundred kids. It will be so much better for them.
The second day the Rotary people took us to the Project Harvest community, Pitahaya, and the ladies showed us their gardens. They were very proud of them! I would have been proud too if it was my garden! The earth all around was very rocky and very dry. It took them 20 days to dig the hole in the earth to build the container to catch the rain water. It was 15.75 cubic meters and held enough water to water their veggies for the whole dry season. The ground in their gardens was dark brown and much softer because they used a lot of composted stuff and watered it daily. Their veggies were much bigger than the ones we grow at home in Canada. Some gardens were shared between two or three families so they all had to help build them and pitch in with the gardening too.
If they had extra veggies they would sell them at the local market. The families now had chickens and pigs too. Before Project Harvest started several years ago the kids back then were not able to grow properly or learn as easily. We met one little girl who was so tiny because her mom didn't have enough healthy food when she was growing in her mom's tummy and she didn't have enough food when she was a little kid. The mothers all said their kids are much healthier now. And the little babies on their laps were all happy looking.
My dad had emailed the Chiquimula Rotary club before our trip to say we would be visiting and asked if we could maybe see the project to take photos for his Rotary club back home. I couldn't believe it but the Project Harvest leader down here knew my name and kept saying how thankful they all were for my help. She spoke in Spanish and called me corazón which means 'heart'. The families gave us a delicious lunch and gave me a thank you card and a beautiful tapestry that they had stitched themselves! I totally wasn't expecting that at all!! I left there feeling like I had really made a difference to their lives. They were doing well now and I think they had just needed a bit of help to get started. I was so glad that the little bit of money that my friends and I had raised had made such a big difference. That was such an amazing feeling!
You can click to see more information about Project Harvest or go to this website, http://projectharvest.org
We can tell you that donations are making a big difference!
The kids we met in Pitahaya were all so friendly. We had parked in front of their school when we went to visit the gardens and when we walked back to the truck to head back home it was recess time and they all ran to the fence to look at us. They invited us into their school yard and I got to play basketball with them. I play basketball at home in Canada (Go Phoenix U11 Team!) so I kind of knew what I was doing. They cheered when my first basket went in. When I missed my second basket they all just went 'ohh' at the same time. It was sooooo funny! There were about 100 kids and they had a nice play area but they only had two old balls to play with. The teacher my mom spoke to told her that they could use some pencils and other stuff. It really made me think about how full my own pencil case is at home... Me and Mirren are planning to raise some money to send some balls and school supplies to this school, just so you know we might ask you to come to our yard sale or lemonade stand!
From our family:
We would like to thank the Rotary Club of Chiquimula de la Sierra for helping organize these visits and touring us through the communities, especially Veronica and Abelardo. You are facilitating such worthwhile projects! We also send a huge 'thank you' to Isaura and the Project Harvest community leaders; Elvia, Gloria, Maria Elena, Roberta and Santa. You opened your gardens, your community and your hearts to show us how we have so much in common and how even the smallest gesture can grow into something significant.
Para nuestros amigos en español:
Nos gustaría dar las gracias al Club Rotario de Chiquimula de la Sierra por ayudar a organizar estas visitas y nos paseábamos por las comunidades, en especial Verónica y Abelardo. Usted está facilitando este tipo de proyectos que valen la pena! También enviamos un enorme 'gracias' a Isaura y los líderes de la comunidad Proyecto Cosecha; Elvia, Gloria, María Elena, Roberta y Santa. Ha abierto sus jardines, su comunidad y sus corazones para mostrarnos cómo tenemos tanto en común y cómo incluso el gesto más pequeño puede convertirse en algo significativo.