Spencer: Limitless Horizons has supported the opening of Chajul’s first library, a space no bigger than a classroom, stocked with a wild array of antiquated books in Spanish, Ixil and a few in English. In its 2 years of existence, it has enrolled a few more than 300 official card-holders, the youngest member at a tender 4 years old. LHI rented the Salón Municipal today, a gym-like structure covered in the finest dust central America can offer up. Your amazing children spent 4 days working in grupitos to organize art, singing, book-mark, hopscotch and book-reading actividades for children holding library cards (carnets). They are Ixil speakers, learning Spanish, so each word of Buenas Noches Luna was translated by Edilma, Chajul’s first female University student, a living example of Chajul’s 0.007% who have access to higher education. Her demeanor is teacher-like, commanding an attention that feels inspiringly out of place in a town struggling from poverty and gender equality. Lunch was Boxbol in families, the culinary pride of Ixil culture, a torpedo of corn dough wrapped in Huisquil leaf and boiled for an hour. A peanut-like sauce made from the seeds of ayote and some chile enhance the taste of this wet dish, but that didn’t stop some of us from augmenting with some PB and J back at the NGO office. Marcelino, the area’s only agronomist will take us down to Viz’chu tomorrow to plant broccoli, lettuce, carrots, radishes and beets in the area’s first-ever school garden. Guatemala ranks 3rd in the world for malnutrition. “Stunting,” the phenomena of children not growing and developing correctly due to lack of nutrition manifests in very visible and disheartening ways. Growing more nutritious food is paramount. Tomorrow afternoon, Andy Zechnich, our beloved medical professional and resident expert on community health, will lead us to the Chajul clinic to hear from the doctors and nurses about the challenges and recent advancements over the last months.
Jenna: Lately, we have been spending a lot of time with the children of Chajul. Tuesday we went to the school, CEMIK, and did an art project with the kids there. We embroidered hoops to hang along the walls, and the kids were amazing at sewing. Even the boys did a great job with their hoops— though it is nothing compared the the beautiful weavings that the women make. Today (Wednesday) we helped in the fiesta for the public library, singing, face painting, and playing “simón dice” (simon says) and hopskotch. The kids are incredible, and we all had so much fun working with them. Everyone’s Spanish is getting great! To the point where we are starting to struggle with English sometimes. And though it is raining now, the weather has ben fantastic for the most part. We have 2 more days in Chajul, and are very sad to leave, but ready for an awesome time during these 2 days.
Julianne: Today we helped LHI (Limitless Horizons International, the nonprofit we’re working with in Chajul) throw a party for the kids in Chajul who were members of the local library (run by LHI). Jenna, Tara, and I were teaching kids different songs in spanish – la pequeñita araña (the itsy bitsy spider); cabeza, hombros, rodillas, pies (head, shoulders, knees and toes); los pollitos, and one about the days of the week. It’s interesting to see kids of all ages – from three and four years old to fourteen, really stay engaged in the songs and other activities we’ve been doing. I think it reflects how much all the children here in Chajul and in the surrounding aldeas are genuinely concerned with and watch out for each other. To me, this sensibility appears to be unique to this society – everyone here is so friendly and caring. Here in Chajul, when walking around downtown, it’s completely normal to greet every person you see on the street, and you get funny looks if you don’t say something. Can you imagine doing that anywhere else on your travels? I’ve loved every minute here in Chajul, and I can’t wait to keep working with kids at LHI and CEMIK and waking up to the smell of cooking fires.