The work that Konojel Community Center does within the village of San Marcos la Laguna goes far beyond the nutrition program that was the root of the efforts when we began. The mandate has expanded to include educational support, a computer center, and women’s job training and empowerment. All of these programs represent a huge step forward for the residents of the village, but they are a drop in the bucket where needs are concerned.
Konojel isn’t the only organization working to alleviate suffering or address the root causes of poverty in the area. We’re proud to work alongside other excellent NGOs and their dedicated staff and to accept the help of volunteers as well. Not all of the volunteers that support our work are schools, like SUNY New Paltz or Indiana University School of Dentistry. And not all of the volunteers are folks who dedicated months or years to the effort. Sometimes it’s as simple as a group of mothers who decide to dedicate their checked baggage space to filling the tangible needs that arise unexpectedly.
Konojel Meets More Needs Than Just Nutritional and Educational Ones…
This spring there was a tragedy in the village, in the form of the death of a young mother, not yet thirty years old, of complications from diabetes. She left four young children, one too young to benefit from the nutrition program. Sadly, this kind of death is all too common in Guatemala, where most of the indigenous do not have access to adequate healthcare and treatment for chronic conditions is exceedingly difficult to access.
The leader of this group, a some-time resident of San Marcos, contacted Andrew and Maria just days after the death of this young mother to ask if there were any needs that the women could meet on their way down. As mothers, the story of the baby who had not only lost it’s mother, but his most reliable food source as well, stuck a cord and the women sprung into action, determining to raise a year’s worth of formula for the child. By leveraging their social media networks, these nine women filled three suitcases full of Similac. But they had a combined checked baggage allowance of 6 more bags. So they asked what else the community needed but had a hard time accessing, and over the three weeks before their trip they provided the following:
The cloth diapers and cloth feminine hygiene supplies went to support the new women’s health and birthing center being established in the village.
The medicines and bandages are being shared with the community through Konojel as needs arise. Having a stockpile of children’s pain and fever reducers allows parents who cannot afford medicine for their children during a particularly difficult flu season to get them through Konojel.
The prenatal and children’s chewable vitamins will support the nutritional efforts within the community and are being distributed to pregnant mothers and the young children who need it most.
Quality Differences Matter
But can’t supplies be purchased in Guatemala? You might be asking. Great question, and we always support purchasing goods in the country whenever possible so that money isn’t wasted in transport and funds are spent into businesses within the community where the cash will do the most good.
The problem with purchasing medical supplies, medicines, and formula or baby diapers and feminine hygiene products in Guatemala is quality. Often pharmaceutical and corporate brands produce lower quality products, packaged under the same labels, that can be sold less expensively in developing countries. Disposable diapers and feminine hygiene products, in particular, are very low quality in Guatemala. And then, of course, there is the issue of the trash produced by disposable products in a village (a country) without adequate waste management or recycling.
In this case, having a large supply of high quality healthcare and nutritional support items allows Konojel to serve the community and support other NGOs with the goods they need to do their work the most at risk people in the village.
One of the jobs that the SUNY New Paltz crew accomplished this year was building secure and critter proof shelving at the Konojel facility to house the formula and medical supplies. We’re now much better equipped to store and distribute the donations as needs arise.
Coming to San Marcos? Maybe You Can Help!
There are lots of ways to contribute to the work that Konojel is doing in San Marcos. If you’re planning a trip down and you know you’ll have a luggage allowance that you’re not going to use, perhaps you could contact the directors and ask if there is a need that you could fill that suitcase with. It’s amazing the difference something like high quality pre-natal vitamins makes.
We’re very grateful to Gayle, Stacey, Dacia, Gayle, Jen, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Kristin, and Sarah for making a tangible difference in the health and quality of life for women and children in San Marcos. Mal’tiox… thank you, in Kachiq’kel.
If you’d like to join them in bringing down needed supplies, please be sure to contact us and ask what is needed. It’s important to make sure we’re filling real needs, as identified by Maria and the ladies, not just filling shelves with more stuff.
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