Would you like to make a tax deductible donation to my future projects?

Hello Fellow Blog Readers:

To those of you who are interested, I will be setting up an account that will allow you to make tax deductible donations to the projects I will be working on my second year. I will be spending my first year working on education. Then in my second year, I will determine families that are in need of a project in order for them to better their health. Projects could include, an improved cook stove, latrine, cement floor, water storage system, or drainage system. Criteria for recipients of projects will also be based on families dedication to the educational health talks that I will be giving and how great their desire is to better their health. More details to come concerning cost break down as it becomes available.

I am giving you a heads up so that you can start putting money away for this now if you so desire, maybe you have something you can give up and instead of spending the money you can send it towards a good cause. I will be setting up a fund when the time gets closer to begin my projects.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Finishing Up

I felt like it was time to give an update on how I am finishing up here. After receiving news of my early Close of Service (COS) date, I was pretty down hearted on not being able to come through on my word and carry out the projects for my women’s groups. Things have changed and developed since I broke the news to my groups. 

I have learned to keep my expectations low here and that way if something better happens I am pleasantly surprise instead of being continually let down from having high expectations. I was expecting the worst with my groups, that they would be angry and frustrated that I was no longer able to come through on my said projects. I held on to the hope that after spending almost two years with these women that they had a good idea of who I was as a person and would understand that this was something that was out of my control. Luckily that was how it worked out in each group and instead of just taking the news and stopping there, they decided they wanted to take action and search for another way for their projects to get done.
All along the planning process of my projects, I was never completely sure that they women were ready for it. You see, the goal of the projects that I was going to do was that the women would be involved in every step of the process and that I would no longer be something that was in my hands. I would function only as a facilitator and offer whatever support they needed. The way the process was going for me, I was doing pretty much everything and wasn’t really sure if the women were willing to work for their projects. The sudden change in my plans allowed me to step back and take another look and through that, I realized that I was right, that the women were not really ready to take it all on themselves.
After getting news of my early COS date, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I could do to fill my time. I would no longer have to plan projects so I wasn’t sure what to do. I made myself available to my groups to support them if they decided to continue.  They all took me up as an available resource in helping them find alternative funding for projects.  
I have been spending my last 2ish months doing my best to help my groups seek out other sources of funding. I have found it to be quite challenging as most of the them are looking for an easy way out. Hopefully the time I spend with them now will inspire them to keep working in the future.

Friends and Family back home, see you soon! I will be flying home March 31st!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wishing it lasted forever

We live our time here pretending we’ll be here forever. We long for this time and feeling to continue on and never end, but it was never meant to be like that. Our lives are full of experiences and moments that we had wished would have lasted forever. If only we could have held on to the feeling a little longer.

That is how I feel about my experience here in Guatemala and it doesn’t help that it is getting cut short. For those of you who haven’t heard, my new end date is now the end of March.  I found out Tuesday that we will officially not be getting a replacement volunteer after we leave site. I was hoping and planning for our work to be continued. I mean we have put so much into our work here that it should be continue, but it just wasn’t meant to be that way. I just have to accept the reality. It makes me feel like a person who had a crush on someone and then one day finally got up the nerve to ask and the other person said ‘sorry, I just don’t feel that way about you.’ You see, up to that point, when the reality set in, the one with the crush was able to imagine that the other person felt the same way about them and dream of what life would be like if they were together. These dreams and hopes could have gone on and on if not for the sting of reality. Reality gets us back to where we need to be, kind of like a gentle shake or a slap on the face, with it we wake up from our dreams and are forced to stand with reality. It’s hard but it’s for the best.

Sometimes reality is better than our dream world but sometimes it isn’t. My current reality isn’t. Getting my time cut short means that I will no longer be able to carry out my projects. It has really shaken up what my plans are between now and when I finish. Before this change, I had my time planned out to finish the end of June but after the wrench was thrown in, I have become a little apathetic in trying to revamp my plans. Last week was a bit difficult and went really slow. It was also really cold and cloudy the whole week which didn’t help at all. This week is going a little better and things seem to be coming together a little for me. I had a meeting with one of my communities on Wednesday informing them of my early termination date and what that meant for their projects. I expected the worse but I got a pleasant surprise. I was hoping that the women would have gotten to know me well enough that they would understand this drastic change wasn’t coming from me. When I gave them the news, it took all that was in me not to cry. I felt horrible not being able to come through on my word. They seemed to understand, with the help of a translator, that this was not coming from me but from the higher ups of Peace Corps. I gave the women the option of trying to do the projects on their own (with support from me until I head out) and they seemed to be willing to run with it. I wasn’t really sure what their reaction was going to be once they found out they were no longer getting this sort of hand out. I had the feeling that a lot of them might not really be willing to work for their projects but really just wanted the hand out. I guess my feeling was a little off (in a good way!) and they seem willing to take on the process of the projects themselves. They wanted to get started right away in order to make the most of the rest of my time here. It looks like those seeds of empowerment that I planted are starting to come to life in some of the women. Now that just puts a smile on my face!

Prayer request:
-That I would be able to make the best use of my time left here (I will be leaving March 24th!)
-That the women would stay motivated and be able to find some financial resources for their projects.
-For Peace Corps Guatemala as they try to make improvements in terms of safety and security of volunteers.

Peace out,

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Early COS

I don’t know if you have heard the news or not, but my training group from Peace Corps has been forced into an early Close of Service (COS). We got notification last week via e-mail that we would now have to be finishing at the end of March instead of the middle of July. The news was bittersweet. Part of me is ready to head back home and be closer to my friends and family but the other part of me would really like to finish what I started here and complete the projects that I was going to give the women that have been working with me.
This past week we had an All Volunteer Conference with Peace Corps to discuss changes being made within Peace Corps Guatemala. The Regional director, the man that oversees the PC countries in Central and South America, came to speak about the decision that was made for my training group to finish early. The decision for my group to end early was a means of reducing the total number of volunteers within the country of Guatemala. They want to reduce the number of volunteers because of the increase security risk Guatemala is to us. They want to better be able to control those that are in country and keep them as safe as possible. We heard the lead up to why these decisions have been made and were better able to understand why such drastic measures were being taken.
The Regional Director stated that the Northern Triangle of Central America, which includes Guatemala, is the second most dangerous place in the world, second only to an active war zone. I must tell you though that violence in Guatemala is fairly concentrated within the capital city and a few other areas. The majority of the country, where a lot of the volunteers are located, is not dangerous. Some volunteers are being relocated that are in these less safe areas. We are fine if we stay in our sites, but that really isn’t feasible or desirable for us to stay in our sites. We need time away to go visit friends and just relax. That is where the problems come into play, how to keep us safe while traveling and out of our sites. For that reason the decision was made to decrease the number of volunteers in country.
We asked the Director if there was any way that our COS date could be pushed back a month or two for us to have time to finish our projects but he informed us that if he was to make an exception for us that he would have to for others and that just wouldn’t work.  My program, Healthy Homes, is designed to spend the last year of service working with community members to help them get projects, having an early COS date really puts a damper on this for us. The process for projects is pretty involved and involves the community at every step, teaching and training them the process of diagnosing and solving problems amongst themselves. The process can’t be rushed because then it loses its sustainable aspect.
At first, I was really bummed that I couldn’t carry out my projects. Through the process I realized that maybe my communities aren’t really ready for projects. After some reflection, I can see that they were not taking as much ownership of the project as I would have hoped. The goal of the project is not to give stuff to the families but to teach them sustainable ways of living, to educate and empower them to help themselves. When our second year of service comes around, we are not required to do project but must evaluate our communities and see if it is a reasonable action to carry out with them. I think I jumped too soon into the idea of doing projects. I don’t think my community was really ready for the work that would have gone behind it. They were really just looking for the handout of a new project. I think this early COS was God’s way of telling me that it wasn’t time for projects here in my site.
I really wanted to do projects because they would be a tangible culmination of my work here. I don’t know if any of you out there have worked in Development, but it can be a challenging because the results don’t always come right away. I have been educating women about how to better their health but the results of my work will take time to develop. I have planted seeds in these people’s lives and pray for them to grow. It’s hard to feel like I am really making the change when I don’t see much fruit for my labor. In Development work, you just have to know you are making a difference and that has to be what keeps you going. It’s a challenge to say the least but I think through this process, God is bringing me back to the basics of my work here. Development work is about investing in people and empowering them to better themselves. I think that I was able to accomplish that, maybe not to the extent that I was hoping for but if I was able to change one person’s life within my time here then I think that makes it all worth it.
Please be in prayer for the women I have been working with as I haven’t notified them yet of the change in plans. I am really hoping that they can understand all that is going on and that they know me well enough to know this was never my intention.
Please also pray for other volunteers that will be COSing early. Pray that we all may be able to finish well.
Also for volunteers that will be relocated. This is the group of volunteers in my program that are a year behind me. Some of their sites were in unsafe areas and they have the choice to relocate or COS. Pray that they may continue on in their work here and they may be able to have smooth transitions. They will be relocated to volunteers sites that are in my group and will be COSing early. There is one that may be coming to my site. She is unsure yet if she wants to relocate or COS.
Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers
Another note:  If you were planning on sending money to my projects, I will no longer be in need of those funds, so please do not send them.  For those of you that have already sent in money towards my projects, I plan on using them for a smaller alternative project in my community TBD.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mayan Ceremony

Surprise! Two blog post in one week!
So today I had the opportunity to attend a Maya ceremony in one of the communitites I am working in. The ceremony was the Blessing of the Seeds. It was a way for them to give thanks for the harvest and look ahead to another year of harvest. The ceremony was a experience for all the senses. The women were wearing their brightly colored typical dress and also a special ceremonial headress that was equally as colorful. Insence was being burned along with candles and bread as an offering.  There was also traditional music being played including the marimba. In this picture right here---> the participants are carrying around ears of corn as they did a dance to the music that was being played.

 Here you can see the incense being burned around the fire and the bread and candles that were later burned up.
 In this picture you can see the ceremonial headdress they were wearing, along with their dress. The man seen here was in a line that was marching around the fire along with another man playing a flute and a boy with incense.

In this picture the women are dancing around the fire carrying ears of corn.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Surprise! A random adventure!

Today I headed out to the church I have been attending in Chichicastenango. I don’t really like traveling on Sundays as it is market day in Chichi and there are many people going in and out of the city but the church has been such a blessing in my life I suck it up and travel.

If you decide to partake in the public transportation system of Guatemala it should also be made known to you that you are also signing up for a few random "adventures." One of mine came today on the ride home. While in Chichi, I had the option to take a microbus to another destination where I could then catch another microbus to my town, but this time I opted to catch a bus which makes it a direct trip for me. The bus I got on was pretty full and there was standing room only, so I was all the way to the back standing in the only open space left. This is a normal occurrence on the buses especially one that passes through Chichi on a Sunday. 

A little while into the trip, other passengers started talking amongst themselves about an accident that had taken place ahead on the road we were traveling and the talk soon proved to be true as the bus driver stopped the bus, heard wind of the blockage, and decided that it would be better to backtrack to an alternative road that would take us around the accident. The bus I was on did a turn around on the curvy mountain road (surprisingly only a 4 point turn!) and we headed back towards where we had just come from. We took a turn off just at the entrance of Chichi and began our trek on this back mountain road. We were driving on a one lane dirt road with small stretches of concrete or block. It was a very dusty trip as we were in a line of four buses taking this alternate route. There were many surprise locals that stood by the road watching these uncommon large beasts plow through their town. At some points in the trip we were traveling too close for comfort to the embankment but the view was amazing! I tried my best to focus on the view and not the fact that we were so close to the edge. As we drove along, I kept looking for a sign of the highway we were making our way back to but nothing was there until we went up a small hill and made it to the highway. After taking a hour to travel the distance, on a trip that normally takes around half an hour on the normal route, we made it back to the main highway. 

You’d think the adventure would have ended there but then you must have forgotten that we are talking about Guatemala here and things sometimes go wrong more than they go right. Now back on the main road, I think the drive got a little too excited about the fact that we had returned and maybe forgot how to properly drive over a speed bump (or he could have very well intentionally done it). We did not slow down enough going over one and the bus may have possibly bottomed out (not sure if that is even possible but it sure felt like it!) because my feet completely left the ground  for about 1.5 seconds (remember I was standing up!). Crazy!! The bus starts pouring out a cloud of thick white smoke that very quickly enters the back windows and fills the back of the bus. As soon as the smoke enters, people begin to panic (always a great thing) and decide we need to get off the bus. I am not as well versed in what to do in situations involving Guatemalan buses so I tend to follow suit of what others decide to do. It was every man for himself and I made it out quickly and unscathed. After a small crowd of people piled out, I soon realized that all the panic wasn’t necessary and the bus was not about to blow up (a thought that crossed my mind). I heard from other passengers that the bus wasn’t going to be moving again anytime soon so we should start pursuing other options. I waited for the return of my bus fare and caught the next micro that passed.

The whole time this was happening, I was thinking about my blog post. My posts don’t happen often enough so I thought I would take advantage of the experience and write one.  So the end of the story is, I made it safely home, just took a little longer. No injuries, just a crazy story to tell my kids someday!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Now is the time to add your part!

Hello blog readers!
As you saw from the last post, I am now starting the process of giving projects to the families I have been working with. I am going to need some help from you folks back home! Now is your time to shine and become part of my projects by making a financial contribution. What ever you feel you can give will be much appreciated by the women and their families. And if you can't give financialy prayers are always appreciated too :)

You can send your cotribution in the form of a check to the following address:

Friends of Guatemala
P.O. Box 33018
Washington DC 20033
Please add "Kelsey DeMull Cat. II" to the memo line so it makes it to my account. 
Donations can be made until the end of February. 

Let me know if you have any questions. In the mean time check out the pictures of some of the families you will be helping out with your donations. Many of them will be receiving new cook-stoves, cement floors, or latrines. These projects will help reduce the rate of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.

Thanks so much!