Mark, Scott and I (Monica) arrived at the factory to help make more standing frames. We drilled holes in wood and ran tests to figure out how long each step of the standing frames took to complete. With this data, we can accurately calculate how many standing frames we can make each week.
The time came for Scott and me to say our goodbyes to the Stand With Me team. As we drove away from the factory I started to count my blessings and think overall we accomplished this trip. We were able to build, complete, and give away standing frames. Meetings were held to improve standing frame production and clearly communicate future goals to the Stand With Me team. The greatest blessing, children's lives were positively impacted. I felt truly grateful to be a part of an impactful trip. Cheers to next time!
The morning began with fresh lemongrass tea from the garden and pancakes with honey and butter. After our stomachs were full we got in the card and drove to Antigua for Church. The sermon was about Gods love for his people and how he sees us as truly valuable. I (Monica) began thinking about the six children who received standing frames yesterday. God makes each person different and unique and each person is a true treasure to God. Stand With Me shows Gods love to his valued children by allowing them the opportunity at a better quality of life.
After church we met with Jeff, one of Stand With Me partners, to discuss logistics, product development, and goals. Much was accomplished in the meeting and everyone came away with a clear understanding of the goals for the remainder of 2018 and the start of 2019. When the meeting was over Scott and I took some time to explore Antigua and enjoy an evening learning more about Guatemalan culture.
Before 8 AM Saturday the van was packed at the Mission Impact factory and ready for the delivery of 10 standing frames at the Hope Haven factory about 5 miles away. The frames were unloaded and set aside for the children. As the families patiently waited for each child's turn to be fitted, (Monica) I began talking to a grandfather of one of the patients. He told me he and his family traveled about two hours to come to the clinic today and received a standing frame. He also added that he was grateful to God for this opportunity. As I walked around the hope haven factory taking pictures, I was touched by the moment, this moment will dramatically impact the quality of life for these children and their families. This device that was once just an idea, grew into an incredible project consisting of a dedicated team and many generous supporters.
After the fitting and adjusting the standers to each child, parents were taught how to properly and safely operate the stander. Paper forms were also completed with the mothers before the children were prepared to head home and begin a new chapter in their lives where they will begin daily weight-bearing activity on their legs at home. The team waved goodbye to the small truck that carried away our six patients, their mothers and siblings as well as the six standing frames’ strapped to the roof of the truck.
That afternoon we had the meeting with the Hope Haven staff regarding future plans for distributions and educated their team more about how to use the official Stand With Me forms that help us to keep track of our patients and follow them over time. It truly was a miraculous day in Guatemala.
Scott and I (Monica) departed the airport at around 1pm, in our Kia Picanto. The hunt was on as soon as we landed in Guatemala City. One would assume finding a yoga mat and Velcro in a large city would be an easy task, this was not the case. Determined, Scott and I followed as many leads as possible and finally found the perfect 6 mm yoga mat that is used as padding on the standing frame. With a little more hunting we also discovered double sided one-wrap Velcro used to secure patients’ legs and feet. Once the goods were acquired, Scott and I joyfully drove to the factory to start assembling the 10 standing frames that would be distributed the next day.
This morning, we scrambled to get to work during a power outage. After about an hour of good work, the lights and the internet suddenly stopped working. A few minutes later, Mark and a few factory workers found a yet-unused diesel generator to power a few necessary things, like our internet router, of course. We spent the morning working as best we could with the sparse internet and shaky power to the workshop. Scott and Riley figured the power outage was a good opportunity to go out and buy more parts. They found yoga mat foam and velcro straps for cheaper than we’d been buying them, even further reducing the cost of materials of our stander!
The power came back in the afternoon, so we resumed all our work at full tilt until dinner time. Trey, Emily, and Thomas continued to brainstorm and write for grants while Emory, Riley, and Scott worked with Eric in the shop. They spent time working with our new molds and finalizing the stander design for the last time, at least for this trip. Around six o’clock, we headed to Xenacoj to explore the town during the Feria. It seems that there are ten times as many shops and stands as any other week! We enjoyed a few great gringas and churros for dinner before heading back in a camioneta, a Toyota pickup truck with some railing in the bed for passengers to hold on to. We continued to work on grants and the final price of our design before heading to sleep.
Today, we split up for the last time. The families we visited today were much farther, so we got an early start. Riley, Emily, and Ilse traveled to San Pedro to visit our standers. They left the earliest this morning, as they had to travel by boat across the lake. Their first launch was at 7 o'clock this morning. In total, they took six boats to get to their families! They visited two kids today with standers. Jesse, Trey, and Scott visited five patients in San Lucas. They traveled with Hector, a physical therapist from Adisa. Emory, Thomas, and Eric saw three families with standers with Anelvy, another physical therapist from Adisa. They drove about an hour and a half away to Patulul, a small town south of Atitlan. The last girl they followed-up with outgrew our stander and now uses one her parents had designed to address her specific needs! She’s improved a lot over the past two years, as now she can stand on her own and even take a few steps!
After convening for lunch, we got back on the road to head back to Hope Haven. Upon arrival, we realized we locked our keys to the kitchen inside the kitchen when we left. Emory, Riley, and Emily were working on breaking in when we realized there was another copy of the keys in the factory. At that point, though, Emory had already gotten to the fridge. Thankfully, we were all able to get some food before we went to sleep.
Early this morning, the SWM team, Eric and Ilse piled into our van. Today and tomorrow we’re going to be visiting more patients near Lake Atitlan. Our base is in Santiago Atitlan at the Adisa center, where we met Andrea, Jesse, and Karen. Andrea is a physical therapist, Jesse is a recent graduate who’ll be working with Adisa for the next year, and Karen is studying to become a certified physical therapist. Today, we split up again. Three groups spread out over Santiago to visit patients, each with two or three team members and including one physical therapist. Riley, Emily, and Ilse visited three patients; Emory, Eric, Andrea and Thomas visited four; while Scott, Trey, Jesse, and Karen visited three families.
Several of the families we met were only Mayan speakers. In Santiago, the local language is Tz'utujil. The langauge itself is fascinating, it sounded completely different than any other language any of the team had heard. It uses a variety of clicks and guttural sounds, unlike any languages we speak and even different from the Mayan language common in Xenacoj, Kaqchikel.
After meeting together for dinner, we visited the center of Santiago. Tonight was the last night of the Feria, a celebration for the patron saint of the town. We Visited several street vendors and played foosball with some local boys. Eric and Riley proved to be a formidable duo, but Thomas and Manuel, a boy from Santiago, held their own. We met with Jesse at the concert in the main square before heading back to our hotel.
Our plan for today was to split up. Three of us went to see patients, while the other three stayed in the workshop and finished our plans for new CNC router molds.
Emily, Riley, and Thomas traveled to Fundabiem Escuintla to meet with several families with standers. They traveled with Sergio to follow-up with seven kids. The first family we met with received their stander about four months ago. Jaury is only three and a half years old and has mild cerebral palsy. Before starting therapy with our standing frame, his legs couldn't bear his own weight even with support from his mother. Now, he's able to walk with a little help and can stand on his own! Our stander is a great fit for Jaury as he's able to use it for upwards of two hours a day! He really enjoys his time in the standing frame, which is when he gets to play with his favorite toys and interact with his mother and siblings more easily. Sergio was able to get pertinent information from each patient, which will help us track their progress over the next few years.
Back at Hope Haven, Emory, Trey and Scott traveled to San Lucas to finally get our updated molds done. They found a CNC shop nearby that could make every change we needed! They asked for a great price and should be able to finish the molds within the next few days. The updates to our design should allow Eric to build standers even more efficiently.
To celebrate a successful day, we baked another batch of brownies before heading to sleep.
Our mandate for this Sunday was to conquer Pacaya, one of three active volcanoes in Guatemala. We arrived at the base around mid-morning where we met our guide, Roberto. He took us all the way up to the first peak along the trail at the edge of the treeline. From there, we could see the barren landscape that resulted from the eruption in 2010. Roberto told us about the thundering cascade of rocks and lava that he saw that day. The people had to evacuate their homes and leave their fields. For two years, farmers couldn't plant their crops under the mountain. Now, the fields are strengthened by the minerals that the lava deposited in the soil and the local corn, bean, and coffee harvests are back to normal.
Just below the first peak were several tunnels carved into the igneous rock. The black volcanic rock formed a three-meter-tall opening in the ground, nearly 25 meters deep! The team traveled to the end, facing the darkness head-on. The second tunnel was much taller, nearly five meters high with a few openings in the ceiling. At the far end, there was a smaller opening just the right size to climb through. Scott, Trey, and Riley flung themselves through the fissure. Next, Roberto brought us to a natural oven! We came prepared with hot-dogs and marshmallows and enjoyed our lunch, cooked over flowing lava. After our lunch break, we began our descent. Spearheaded by Roberto, our group swiftly made its way down the mountain. Incredibly, as we passed another group ascending the volcano, Emily was recognized by an acquaintance of hers! She’d worked with him in New York City, and he happened to be climbing Pacaya just as we were passing by and spotted her in the crowd.
Back at the factory, we finished Hercules and got plenty of rest to recover from our long morning.
We expected and planned to visit Antigua today, although we hadn’t figured out how to get there. Yesterday, we decided that would be a problem for this morning.
Somehow, Scott managed to convince Mark, who runs Hope Haven here in Guatemala, to bring us to Antigua early this morning. We were all roused unexpectedly and packed into Mark’s van. On our way, we stopped at a shop to see if there were any interesting cowboy boots. Emily bought a pair of handmade leather shoes, built right in the back of the shop from locally-sourced leather. We made our way into central Antigua a few minutes later, parking just outside a huge open market filled with more handmade goods. Mark brought us to his favorite local joint, Toko Baru. We ate a mixture of Indonesian, Mediterranean, and Central American dishes at a restaurant run by a Dutch man. We shared our most interesting stories with Mark, who enraptured us all with his own accounts of his youth. Our next stop was a hike above the city. Mark brought us up to an overlook of Antigua and even gave us all an in-depth history lesson about Central America and its history in Antigua.
Mark ended his morning chaperoning shift and dropped us off in central Antigua. We waited out the rain in a small restaurant. After waiting much too long, we decided to venture into the town square. Within about 15 minutes of leaving the safety of the restaurant, the downpour began. We found refuge in a nearby Wendy’s for the duration of the rain. Next, we picked up a quick dinner before catching a ride on some chicken buses, the local public transport. The buses got us near the factory quickly, but we did have to walk the last mile home. Back at the factory, we only managed to watch half of Disney’s Hercules before we absolutely had to get to bed.