Keep on smiling with GuateMalta
So I landed in Panama City and started vagabonding north exploring the magnificent countries of Central America. When I was in Nicaragua I found out about GuateMalta Foundation through a friend. Contacted padre Anton and he was very informative and helpful, gave me info on how to get to Puerto Barrios, busses, connections, etc ( its the far east of Guatemala on the Caribbean side).
Padre Anton picked me from the bus stop after over a whole day of travel, and took me to Guatemala. It’s situated nicely on a small hill where the city diminishes into the rainforest. Padre Anton got his main parish there, he also got a useful little work shop and a nice football pitch where he gathers the teens of the area and organizes football tournament, also equipped with a referee that he is as strict as a staff Sargent with new recruits. All in all it makes the game much more interesting and fun to watch.
Most morning I spent in the work shop giving a helping hand with different bits and bobs, sending, painting, etc.
I got to meet the staff and they were really cool, like Johnatan, “el carpintero”, Franklin and the rest. I got to practice my Spanish with them on daily basis and that was a very good up side. They are a fun bunch to be around and I am very lucky that I got to be part of their team
In the afternoons I went with Padre Anton to little villages out of the city, in the rainforest. Life gets very simple and basic out there. Some of the villages that we went to only consist of a couple of hundred people or so with more than half of them are still kids.
Most of these villages belong to the indigenous Mayan tribe of the Q’eqchi people. They still dress very colourful and traditional. Most of the females and kids don’t speak Spanish but only the mayan language, but this didn’t stop the little kids to try to have a conversation. There I was on the side of the road surrounded by around 20 kids, 2 skinny turkeys and a fat funny looking little dirty pinkish piglet.
At first I couldn’t make much sense of what the kids where saying but after a while a word stood out more than the rest. “Colocho, colocho”, and when i repeated this famous word to them, colocho, they burst out into a frenzy of laughter and pointed their fingers at me while jumping, shouting and singing colocho molocho ( later on i found out it means curls or curly hair in spanish) the colocho nickname was an ice breaker with other kids and grownups alike through the rest of the stay.
These kids live in such poverty that most of us can never imagine and ALL of us don’t want to imagine our kids experience not even a short vivid experience like this.
Given that these villages haven’t got any source of gas for cooking, they have to collect a good amount of wood on daily basis. Then they do a fire in their huts to cook their food and this creates a lot of smoke, which the kids and the rest of the family end up inhaling unfortunately.
GuateMalta Foundation right now has a little clever project how to help kids and their family like the Q’eqchi tribes, it’s a stove that is made out of treated concrete, fire resistance tiles and special bricks. It uses 70% less wood and it’s fitted with a chimney, so more than 99% of the smoke will go outside, given the kids and the whole family a healthier environment to live in and much more time on their hand to play or study instead of collecting twigs and chopping up branches.
All in all it was an amazing experience, every day was special in its own way. Some evening I went on walking along the coast line of Santo Tomas that is as breath taking as all the Caribbean cost. On a Sunday we spend the day climbing coconut palm trees and collecting the best looking coconuts, forgetting the fact that you need a machete to open them (some kids lent me a machete later on and the coconut was even tastier than I expected), also got to visit rio dulce and lago izabal that was picturesque. Other evening were spent with the Padre and some of his friends trying to master the board game of something like scrabble but with numbers where I found out about my severe dyslexia.
It was without any doubt one of my travel highlights. I want to thank the GuateMalta team, all the people that I met along the way and especially Padre Anton for welcoming me and let have this truly memorable experience.
If you ever got the chance to volunteer please do it. It feels way better given something than receiving and you will only believe this until you experience it for yourself. If you can donate something, your little something its heaps for kids like in the villages of the q’eqchi; what is money compared to genuine happiness? Money doesn’t buy happiness but giving a cookie to a kid in the street make you smile not just from the outside but from inside as well.
If you are interested in donating something please contact Padre Anton on [email protected]
Buena onda from your faithful mochilero.
Sam Camilleri is originally from Gozo, Malta and currently residing on Comino Island. He runs a segway tour on Comino Island. His website is: http://outdoorexplorersmalta.com/