It’s been 11 days since we left Malta and started our 2 day trek to Guatemala. 48 hours and 10,236km later we arrived to what is possibly one of the most beautiful (albeit the hottest and most humid places) we’ve ever seen.
We arrived at 5.30am, after a 6 hour car drive from Guatemala City and by 8.30am we were at a local prison. A prison which has space for 200 inmates, but houses 850! The conditions are far from acceptable and we learned that the prisoners have to buy their own water to shower… A basic human need. After Father Anton celebrated Mass, we walked around where the inmates tried to sell their wares for pocket money; hammocks, bags, puches, all made of nylon thread.
The next day we got started on what would be our main project here in Guatemala, painting the GuateMalta arena which Fr Anton opens up to all local kids to play and have a safe place to meet. There have also been many a competitive game with 700 spectators. We started painting the walls and getting ourselves organised.
In the the afternoon we visited to villages, whilst Fr Anton celebrated mass, we met the kids and made friendship bracelets with them. The people here have a hard shell, and the kids were a little weary when we first arrived. However, they soon gave us big smiles and opened up to us as soon as the toys came out 🙂
On Saturday we all went to an Ordination of a young local priest. We were given lunch with the hundreds of people who attended the celebration.
Sunday we celebrated Sunday Mass at the Santo Hermano Pedro parish church and enjoyed lunch at Tamarindal Village. It’s always fun trying new food and the locals also offered us Lychee. Sunday was also baking day! We all decided to treat Fr Anton for Santa Marija tomorrow, so 2 of the girls whisked and baked whilst the rest of the group prepared a surprise for Fr Anton in our rooms.
The group finished preparing the surpise, a 6ft print on canvas of the statue of Santa Marija venerated at the Gozo Cathedral. Fr Anton’s reaction was priceless. The evening was then wrapped up with a Pizza night, we got sopping wet getting there and back and it was totally worth it!
The following morning, we were woken up, at 5.30 am with Fr Anton letting off petards. His idea of a practical joke, since the majority of the group are die hard San Gorg followers, and Santa Marija is their ‘competing’ feast. We then visited more villages, did crafts with more children and had a feast supper including home made cake and ice cream. [Us Maltese… We love our food]
We continued painting the arena in the afternoon. We had to stop because of the rain…this happens a lot here. All in all another great day! We continued painting early the following morning till lunch time. Unfortunately our afternoon plans of visiting villages by boat got cancelled due to heavy rain…another tropical weather perk.
Thursday was Container day! Before leaving for Guatemala, the Gozitan group and the group from Qormi both managed to fill a container filled to the brim with donations. Chairs, tables, matresses, clothes, toys, kitchen wear and much more were stuffed into every corner of the 40? Foot containers. Both happened to arrive at the same time, and were released on the same day.
We were up by 4.15 am and by 6am were unpacking and organising and carrying like there s no tomorrow. The first container took us all but 2.5 hours thanks to the help of the locals. The second container gave us an hours break. Then back to unpacking. Boxes, tens of boxes were carried and stacked and passed along a human chain of approx 8 of us. This one took us approx 2 hours, once again thanks to the invaluable help of a few strong locals. By this time it was 2pm and had worked up quite the appetite. Quick lunch and we decided to have a quick nap…everyone woke up from their coma like nap 2 hours later!! Oops hehe. We then went to the house for supper as usual. Last 2 of the group joined arrived.
An early start on Friday meant we started painting the Guatemalta Arena by 7.30 am. We covered a substantial amount of ground in just 2 hours. Father Anton asked us to stop by about 10 after which we headed to ‘Garbage Village’. It’s 2016 and there are still people who live, literally, in garbage. This was by far the poorest place we visited so far. It is also the only place that, together with Father Anton, we gave out food and clothes. What struck us most, apart from the awful living conditions, was how grateful and yet gentle these people were. They all thanked us and chatted and were almost shy to approach us. A little kindness goes a long way.
After a quick lunch we headed to another of one of Father Anton’s 27 villages. This one however, was poorer than the rest, and apart from the sweets and crafts we do with the kids, we also gave out items of clothing. We were thanked with bag fulls of plantanes and a few sugar canes. Grateful as always. 🙂