U21 Social Corporation Internship, Guatemala #2

 Guat4Week Two in Chiantla – 6th July 2015

This week has been not only eye opening but very interesting! Departing from Xela and arriving in Chiantla, Huehuetenango, I could already spot the fundamental differences between each town. Our mini-bus first drove through ‘Huehue’ (way-way) and my eyes were gleamed towards the hustle and bustle of the markets, the bold and wonderful garments being sold and the endless line of fruit stalls selling tropical foods ranging from papayas to mangos. Chiantla is a far more rural town than Xela, with many living in poverty. What interested me is that Popti, Canjobal, Chuj and Mam are some of the many languages spoken here along with Spanish of course!
We stayed at a hotel located within minutes of the Parque Central and from here onwards we saw a deeper vision of how impactful water filters could be here and started to work on our business projects. I loved this part of the internship, as we were introduced to the influential people behind Soluciones Comunitarias in Huehuetenango: Nelson and Teodolinda!

As part Team Oportunidad we had the task of coming up with a business model for creating and scaling empowerment through catalogue sales. In accordance with this, we were involved in Team Impact’s work that centralised around creating a sustainable impact in rural schools. We got the chance to visit three different schools and raise awareness in regards to the danger of parasites for the digestive system and how important clean water is! This was an amazing experience as in our first school visit we initiated a theatrical performance, with hand-drawn visual signs we made of parasites and the water filter. While our team was doing this, I participated in surveying with my group, asking children if they drink water from the tap and what they think of it. I loved this part, as interacting with children from different ages really enhanced my understanding of how intelligent and creative they were in the way they expressed their ideas.

We visited another school with a slightly older age group and part of the group were involved in filming a documentary there. The school had students who all came from different backgrounds and spoke various dialects. The documentary was going to be used as means of exploring Guatemalan culture in Schools and how certain traditions are influenced by different cultures – very eye-opening!

During our time in Chiantla, we also got to visit another Mayan school, where we hiked uphill for one hour to reach. Whilst climbing up the steep angles to reach the school, I thought to myself how beautiful the highlands of Guatemala are, as the luscious green bushes and picturesque scenery was something all of us admired a lot! Reaching the school, we saw many students really excited and curious as to what we were doing there. We then split into groups and asked the children certain questions about their use of tap water in the household and if they knew what a water filter was. We used fun methods as means of asking the questions – for instance asking the children to run to the left or right side if they answered yes or no, they seemed to enjoy this a lot! This school really spoke to me, I felt the students were incredibly creative, just by judging from the amazing art-work being displayed in classrooms. I will never forget one student saying to my group in Spanish “thank-you for caring about our health”. It really meant a lot; yet I was wishing we could do more to enable the students to access unlimited clean water.Guat3

We also had another campaign day in Aguacatan, which was very insightful for us in terms of learning about catalogue sales. Pahola, Xafina and myself went out to the public and were raising awareness about the water purification filters and cooking stoves. Many residents seemed to be interested in the water purification filters and expressed an interest in purchasing one due to the cost-effectiveness of the products. What helped was creating ‘money-scheme’ leaflets to take with us to show customers how much they would potentially be saving monthly. This method proved as successful as many people were intrigued to know how much money was spent regularly on Agua Pura!

For one free day in the week we got to visit amazing ruins in Zaculeu. Luckily it was not busy, so we had the ruins all to ourselves and got to soak in how beautiful and huge the structures were. We also had a very humorous salsa lesson during the week, which is always going to be a definite choice when in Guatemala!

Can’t wait to see this journey progress even more, Chiantla has been full of memories.

Hasta la vista!

Amber Malik

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