Humanitarian Mission Trip to Guatemala, 2005


CCAMRE Mission 2005 was a dynamic group. Fourteen volunteers traveled to Guatemala to help the indigenous communities of Timushan, Volcancito and Peña Blanca in the Merendon Mountains. This mission encompassed a very ambitious work-plan for community and economic development. The mission members’ enthusiasm and commitment made it possible for the success of CCAMRE’s work.


CCAMRE arranged to have the proper documentation with regard to the land and ownership of the sewing room. The services of a lawyer were required as his advice and information helped CCAMRE to comply with the protocol and legal issues of this process. On this subject, CCAMRE, the President of Volcancito’ Community Association and the Municipality of La Union met and a verbal agreement was established, that would be ratified by lawyer as per legal protocol.

Project Coordinator Francis Salguero, coordinated and arranged the preliminary work to begin the construction in conjunction with the architect. Upon the arrival of the Canadian team, the work on the land had started to be ready to start the construction work. A bricklayer was hired to do the initial work, and he was working and training community members to work on the construction.


This project continues to be a success. Plenty of supplies and material was donated to the communities of Peña Blanca and Volcancito to facilitate the learning process. More women are becoming interested in learning sewing skills. Project participants (both communities) exhibited their work for the last year, and this included shirts, blouses, pants, dresses and children clothing. Nurse’s uniforms from the Oakville Hospital, were used to make children shirts, blouses and skirts, it was wonderful to see them and they were very proud.

Each community has their own system of coordinating their sewing classes. Mrs. Zoila Salguero has visited each community on several occasions and stayed there overnight and work out a scheduled to teach them basic to advance sewing skills, pending on the group skills level. She has trained the women that have advanced skills, so that they can transfer those skills to the women that are at a basic level. This has been a common practice at both communities, and the interest and support keeps growing.

In addition, a tailor was hired in the fall of 2004 to work in both communities to teach them how to sew men’s clothing, such as trouser and shirts. A couple of the women also participated in this training and they are working out a scheduled to teach women interested in learning.

As this point the sewing project still at a basic level and the participant are learning to make their clothes to meet the family needs, and this is are important skills that makes a difference within the family dynamics. Ana spoke with some them and address the issue of selling some of the clothing, and they think that it is a good idea, however, the entrepreneur concept need further discussion and preparation. Both communities had been working on this project for one year. Recommendation: Once the multi skills centre is completed to start discussion and begin training on how to have a community micro-business. A local NGO can be contacted that can provide the technical skills and preparation. One of the barriers to achieve this is the high level of community illiteracy, particularly in Volcancito.


The medial team was lead by Dr. Ruth Matheison and Lorenza Durina RN. CCAMRE met with the La Unión Health Centre and presented our work plan, and how we could work together to meet the community health needs. The Health Centre gave CCAMRE full support to access their centre, and facilitated the assistance of one doctor to work with CCAMRE for the two weeks and CCAMRE was able to access medications as well.

Eight full days of clinic work was done in the mountains in the villages of Peña Blanca, Volcancito, and La Unión Health Centre. Three days of this clinic work was held at La Unión Health Centre.

CCAMRE provided basic health services to 803 people, and they came from 15 villages. Some of these people walked between 3 to 5 hours to access the CCAMRE clinic. Their common illnesses ranged from respiratory problems, mal nutrition, infections, cold, headache, body aches, stomach problems, small injuries, parasites, women health issues. Some of them required the services of a specialist and they were referred to the Health Centre for the proper referral.

CCAMRE purchased two Physician Travel Pack (mediations) from the Health Partners International of Canada in Montreal. A list of medication was sent to the HPIC, the request was made based on the recommendations of last year medical team that identified the health needs of these communities.

The Director of La Unión Health Centre and his staff gave full support and access to Centre, CCAMRE worked at the Centre for three days and was a great experience. Upon completion of our mission a box of the remaining medication was donated to the Health Cenre, a thank you letter has been sent to the Director. In addition, CCAMRE has full support to work at the Centre for next mission.


The dental team was lead with Dr. Russell Grover and Heidi Grover. Eight full days of dental clinic work was done in the mountains in the villages of Peña Blanca, Volcancito, and La Unión Health Centre. However, community member of other villages also accessed the dental clinic as well. Two days of this clinic work was held at La Unión Health Centre. CCAMRE met with the local dentist, Dr. Garcia and discussed the possibility of having a dental office at the Health Centre. Dr. Garcia thinks it is a great idea as it will benefit the community at large. Dr. Grover is thinking of donating a fully equipped dental clinic, however, this needs further discussion here in Canada and in Guatemala. We need to look at logistics, transportation, legal issues, commitment and responsibilities. This idea was also discussed with the Director of the Health Centre as the clinic will be in their premises, he gave his verbal support, and however, a formal request needs to be sent to Guatemala as per Ministry of Health protocol.


Health teaching is a very important component of the health team. Lorenza Duria RN and Andrea Taracena (interpreter) held a number of sessions addressing women issues of their interest. Subjects addressed were, family planning, birth control and sexuality, nutrition and healthy eating, hygiene, body changes, first aid and preventive basic practices.

How to work as a group and how to organize was a very important subject for the women of Volcancito. The president of the Women’s Committee organized a women’s committee meeting and over 45 women attended this meeting. This meeting was facilitated by Ana Paredes and they expressed an interest on how to organized meetings, how to elect the committee members, how to do the work that need it to be done, communication skills, commitment and responsibilities.

It was important to listen what their needs were and from that point on, each item was addressed. Ana is a certify Life Skills Coach and used this model to facilitate the discussion. In basic language issues of group dynamic, decision making process, conflict resolution, community participation, commitment and responsibilities were addressed. Most importantly, this was an opportunity to identify what their needs are, both as individual and as community members. Parallel to that, commitment and support is equally important to achieve their goals.

The women were very interested in this discussion and agreed to do the following. The President of the women’s committee would call a meeting to discuss what the women wanted to do and how to achieve that. It was recommended that when they had this meeting, it was important to have someone delegated to takes notes, so that everyone would have the same information as decisions needed to be recorded, develop a list and from that to prioritized on one to two items at the time, delegate the work and be committed to the task, find out potential local support and establish regular meetings to follow up on how things are developing and evaluate progress. The number one item on their list was to elect the new committee leaders, as the current committee has been working for over two years and felt that other women should take on this responsibility. Recommendation: a structure life skills workshop to be delivered at each village, this is to include print material for reference.


A discussion was facilitated by a male doctor and topic of sexuality, alcoholism and family violence were addressed. The men were interested and this was a good opportunity to put these issues to be address and shared their experiences. It seams that men responded better when this discussion is facilitated by a male. Men still have many questions, however, these are very sensitive issues that require further follow up and CCAMRE brought this to the Community Health Care Centre Director to follow up for further assistance.
This is an issue to be followed up on mission 2006.


Ten scholarships were given to student of the Village of Peña Blanca and officially given to the parents. The scholarship is given as per academic year and it includes tuition fee, full uniform and shoes, school supplies and a snack. To apply the parents contact CCAMRE in La Union, fills out an application form, and this is discuss with the school teacher for input. CCAMRE estimates that applications will triple for next year.

A scholarship has been giving to a young lady in Timushan as for the last two year she has been working toward getting her high school diploma. She needs to travel outside her village, and this scholarship includes; transportation, school supplies, books and food. Her goal is to become a professional nurse and CCAMRE has made a commitment to grant her a scholarship to continue her studies at the nursing school. This has been possible by a generous donation from Ms. Mable Leen from Toronto a strong believer in CCAMRE education projects.

Teachers Professional Development, CCAMRE provided professional development to the teachers of La Union and topics presented were: to promote positive academic success, health & education, parents committee, HIV prevention, abuse, reading marathons, art workshops, art and art craft, drugs and addiction, introduction of academic psychology, group dynamics, sport and recreation, career planning and adult education. The workshops were facilitated by Maria Carmen Romero and teachers were very interested and would like to continue addressing these topics.

Integrated Alternative School, CCAMRE met with representatives of the Ministry of Education and City Hall and discussed the projection of a integrated alternative School in the Villages of Peña Blanca and Volcancito. This is an important project and requires further discussion with regards to funding issues and project development. Statistical information will be provided by local government to assess the situation and determine if this is a viable project as funding must be secured.

Mission member met every night and discussed the work day, updates or changes for the next day. This was an important process to keep everyone inform and it was an opportunity to expressed concerns and/or ask questions. Of course sometimes these sessions were lengthy due to fact that there was a lot to discuss and decisions need it to be made.

This mission had six interpreters, four from Canada and two from Guatemala. CCAMRE’s work went smoothly as the interpreters played an important role in this cross cultural communication.

Construction of both corn grinding machines shops were concluded a few months ago, both communities waited for CCAMRE mission team arrival to have the inauguration ceremony. Each shop has the corn grinding machine installed and fully equipped, there is a community team that coordinates the management of the shop and responsibilities clearly outline on paper on posted on the wall (this work was done on last year mission), particularly safety issues and rules. Not everyone is fully trained on how to operate the machines, so arrangements were made to have someone from La Unión to train them.

This project was officially launched during last year’s mission. The communities of Timushan, Peña Blanca and Volcancito attended a community meeting as a presentation was given by Anibal Estuardo Salguero, who is the specialist on poultry. His presentation addressed the interest of becoming involved on this project, responsibilities, how to take care of the chicks, nutrition, immunization and projection of future impact. This training was given in three steps, as Mr. Salguero visited each community on three occasions to provide the information and training required.

Each family received 5 chickens and chicken food. Mr. Salguero would visit the families at a later time to immunized the chickens and to train the community so that they could do it them for subsequent times.

In Peña Blanca 94 families received chickens and 82 in Volcancito. However, these numbers may slightly be different as some family did not accept the chickens (because they were afraid that the chicks would die) and a few others are not on the list.

In both villages the chicken project had been a total success. Only a few chickens have die, all families are eating the eggs and the numbers of chickens have reproduced significantly, about 60 % of the families are selling the eggs as well. One family had a total of 35 chickens, and was selling 4 dozens of eggs per week. This had a major impact on the household income and improved their way of life by eating better and been able to afford other family needs such clothing, shoes, and household items (testimony).

Testimonial, many families came to CCAMRE mission team members and expressed their appreciation for the help given to them, they are eternally grateful as their children are eating eggs and the little money they make, they are able to buy food items.

Mission members had the opportunity to do site seeing and travel to Tikal, Antigua and other areas. This was a wonderful opportunity as we all had a chance to experience the culture, the food and the people of this wonderful country. Of course, we also went to the local markets and arts and craft stores and that in itself was challenge and a b beautiful experience.


Mission members filled out a form and gave very important and good feed back on the mission. Later on we met as a team to reviewed and discuss our work, what we achieved, what need it to be improved and recommendations for next years’ mission.


CCAMRE would like to take this opportunity to thank all mission members for your support and commitment to make this mission a success
The interpreters for facilitating the cross cultural communication and getting our message across.
We would also like to thank our Guatemalan counterparts for making us feel at home, safe and comfortable.
We would not be able to do our work without the continued financial support of the Canadian community to make these projects a reality, on behalf of the people of the Merendon Mountain gracias.
Most importantly thank you to the people of the Merendon Mountains, for welcoming us to their homes and sharing with us two weeks of their lives.

May 30, 2005
Toronto, Canada.