Over the years a number of members of CoFiA have gone to Guatemala to visit or to help with projects. While it always makes us sad that our Guatemalan friends cannot go to visit their friends and family, we are happy to have these glimpses of life there.
This year has been an especially turbulent time. Hundreds of campesinos marched to the capital for 12 days to plead with Congress and the government for their right to clean water and to land. They reminded the government that 97% of the water in the country is contaminated and desertification is reaching 19% of the country because of actions by the agro industrial industries. The economy of the country is so devastated that many people–maybe as many as 70%–have been forced to migrate at one time or another. We know many of them, here is Bergen County.
Because of this situation, which is the result of collusion between international corporations and the Guatemalan government, there are far too few schools. Several CoFiA members have gone with groups like Hug it Forward to help build schools. Here is an account by Carolyn Sobering, former chair of CoFiA, of her experience this summer–her third trip:
I dream of a world where every child has the opportunity to get an education, and to create a better life for themselves and for their families. Hug It Forward is the non-profit group I worked with in Guatemala as a member of the team that helped to build the 75th bottle school. The whole community participates in the project – children gather plastic bottles, families stuff the bottles with inorganic trash which are then used as eco-bricks for the walls of the schools, and fathers, uncles and grandfathers work on construction. Bottle schools are much less expensive to build than traditional schools, they clean up the environment, teach lessons about environmental sustainability, and involve the entire community in their construction, resulting in a sense of pride and ownership.
I was involved in each step of the project: mixing cement, stuffing bottles, painting and celebrating with the community as their dream of a school became a reality. It was an amazing experience!