After a week of work, on Monday we headed off to Flores where we stayed overnight so we could visit Tikal to see the Mayan ruins. Despite the long five hour drive, the visit was definitely worth it, as our tour guide explained the history of the Mayans whilst we got to see the spectacular remains.
On Wednesday we headed off early to the Q’eqchi’ village, Tameja. By this time we had visited a number of villages, however we could not fail to note different attitudes. For instance, these people were quite reserved at first, in fact the children weren’t that keen to play but after a coupleof games most of the children joined in. In the evening, we participated in mass at Stella Maris parish were we had the pleasure of meeting Bishop Domingo of Izabal.
Work resumed for the following three days, where the boys finished off working in the building of the workshop and continued to help the girls with the painting of the parish hall. In addition, on Thursday the girls visited Puerto Barrios Prison. Similar to the boys visit last week, they were greeted by inmates and then participated in mass with the inmates which was celebrated by Fr Anton. They were a bit astounded by the living conditions of the inmates, who make a number of items such as hammocks, handbags and tortillas and sell them to the visitors in order to earn some money for living inside the prison. However, they admired the unity of the inmates and their eagerness to participate during mass. Furthermore, on Thursday we had a five-a-side football match against two teams, one against the boys and one against the girls.
After a day’s work, on Saturday evening, the local youths organised a rally for us volunteers. It was similar to a tournament which consisted of a number of games where teams had to compete against each other. The best part was that we had the opportunity to meet and work with these energetic youngsters, who despite the pouring rain, never lost their enthusiasm.
We started off Sunday with a mass celebration, which we as a group animated since it was our last Sunday here in Puerto Barrios. Thereafter we headed off to the village of Sarita, where whilst the mass was being held we prepared games for the local children. That evening, the locals were so kind to prepare a cultural night for us before we left. Not only did they perform traditional dances and songs, but where also so considerate to include a part of our culture too. As if this weren’t enough, the Liturgy Group then prepared a small gathering for us as a last goodbye. On Monday we woke up eager to finish off the work we had started on the Parish Hall. Althoughit seemed impossible at first, together we managed to achieve our goal.
After lunch we headed off to inaugurate the three houses we helped build during our time in Guatemala. We were beyond satisfied that this project was so successful and we are more than grateful to everyone who contributed to it. The best part of this project was that we got the opportunity to build a
relationship with the families that were benefiting from this programme and thus, goodbyes were heartbreaking. Afterwards we participated in the last mass at Stella Maris church. After spending
three weeks in this community, where we were made to feel incredibly welcomed, it goes without saying that it was very hard to say our last farewells. However, this experience went beyond what we were expecting and it filled us all with so much joy that we will hold these memories dear in our hearts.
We awoke with heavy hearts on Tuesday morning as we left Puerto Barrios for good. We travelled to San Manuel Chaparron in Jalapa where Fr Anton was the parish priest for eleven years. There, we visited the local church where we could see fragments that reminded us of home, such as the Maltese cross on the floor. We then headed to the local school founded by Fr Anton, Colegio Madre Teresa , where we had the opportunity to tour the classrooms and meet some of the teachers and students. We then met with Sister Marta, who will be taking over the school’s direction. We offered our donation, which will be contributing to the school’s imminent renovation
projects. Our final stop was Proyecto San Isidro, the fish farm project established by the
GuateMalta foundation. There, we toured the premises, where we could see the tilapia at every
stage of the process.
We will be ending this month in Guatemala with four days in Antigua Guatemala, where we will be able to visit some of the country’s main landmarks. We would like to thank Fr Anton and the community of Santo Hermano Pedro parish for their hospitality they have shown us ever since we arrived. This has been an incredible experience which exceeded all of our expectations. Guatemala and its people will forever be in our hearts.