I write this final summary for our 2017 SHGO international relief trip to Guatemala from home here in Worcester. After 9 days of being wet, hot, and tired from walks through the Guatemalan jungle and a very long night of air travel back to the U.S. last evening - we are all safely home and preparing to return to our varied routines. For those SHGO travelers who’ve never been to the community we support in Guatemala, expectations for the trip were perhaps initially uncertain but after 9 days of living with and becoming immersed in this remarkable indigenous community in west-central Guatemala I have no doubt that we have all become more appreciative of the many small, and large, privileges we enjoy here in America. We all also learned many lessons from our friends in Loma Linda: the beauty of living with and in harmony with nature; the simple pleasures of “family” and how each member of the village supports each other; the value of a hard days work; and how a positive attitude and good humor can transcend even the most difficult hardships. These were but a few of the valuable life lessons I am reminded of each time I visit Guatemala or any of the 8 countries we support around the world in respect of our Seven Hills staff who come from all over the world. And so, we have to ask ourselves, “what did we accomplish and what value does it bring to Seven Hills or the world?”
Through our work in Loma Linda, we support over 35 families with basic needs such as food, medicine, and education for their children. This effort alone touches over 350 individuals in this remote village of 1200 people. We’ve introduced beekeeping and honey production as a small sustainable business for the community to engage in so as to supplement their coffee bean production. And perhaps most importantly, we’ve extended a hand of comfort and friendship to people who are in need and through that effort affirmed one of the guiding ideals and values of Seven Hills Foundation. Over these past 6 years taking different SHGO teams to Guatemala I’ve seen the community of Loma Linda change. Their economic struggles to survive today are more severe as they try to cope with the coffee plant disease called ‘roya’ which has resulted in the total collapse of their economic base. They are trying to introduce new disease resistant varieties of coffee plants but that takes years to bear fruit with questionable market demand for their variety of coffee bean. Our work in Loma Linda has always been an effort to grow the local economy which will in turn benefit the social requirements of their society (healthcare, education, governance, etc.) as well as the environmental concerns. This is the same approach We’ve taken in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Liberia, Haiti, Jamaica, and Bangladesh where SHGO now serves the poorest of the poor. If we can uplift a community economically through sustainable efforts we can in turn positively influence the social and environmental aspects of the community. “Charity” is not a sustainable effort; economic and social partnerships are and so this is our approach at SHGO.
What is needed now in Loma Linda, Guatemala? Given the collapse of the coffee market we need to increase our $300 per year ($25 per month) child sponsorships from 35 today to 45 over the next 6 months. These 10 added sponsorships do not come from Seven Hills; they come directly from individuals or groups connected to Seven Hills as private donors. Ten more $300 per year sponsors will support 10 more poor children and their extended families for a year. This initiative is a temporary stop gap and gives Loma Linda the time necessary to create profit generating businesses. We have also committed to assist them in identifying other business opportunities from which the community can earn a living. Honey production, natural spring fed mountain bottled water is another business opportunity we are researching on their behalf, creating a local transport business which would eliminate the need for ‘middle men’ when bringing their goods to market is another economic opportunity we are assisting them in exploring.
Seven Hills Global Outreach is a very modest effort to address just a few issues around the world - all of which find their root in poverty. We began as a simple effort to support our staff who have come from 57 countries around the world. From that small idea we have grown to serve more than 17,000 men, women and children in poor nations by providing economic development assistance, clean wells and sanitation, schools for children, medical clinics, microfinance loans and other supports. All of this is largely done through the donations of others outside of Seven Hills. I could use your help if this work resonates in your heart. In Guatemala I need to find 10 more child sponsors; in Sierra Leone we need to hand dig 9 more clean water wells and community toilets; in Ghana we need to expand our honey production efforts; in Kenya we support a school in Kibera for 350 children an an orphanage out side Nairobi which is home to over 400 parentless children; and more efforts in other countries. If you know of someone, or a group, interested in supporting a child and extended family in Loma Linda, Guatemala for $300 per year, let us know.
And so to our Guatemala 2017 SHGO team - Keisha, John, Juan, Spencer, Kellee, Sue, Annalena - I want to thank them, and the families who supported them, for the sacrifice of their time, money, hard work and sweat. They made a difference in the lives of the many people they met in Loma Linda. And finally, how could I not end this trip by saying “muchas gracias” to the wonderful people of Loma Linda who have welcomed us all into their homes and hearts not as visitors but as ‘familia’. See more pics taken on this 2017 trip to Guatemala on our social media sites in the days to come. Thanks.
Dr J -