At the present time the Mustard Seed Peace Project is working in one of the poorest regions of Central America, Playa Grande, Ixcan, Guatemala. This
region is located on the NW border and consists of 173 villages. This picturesque jungle and mountainous area of 1,575 km. registers a population of 80,000 of which 45% are children and youth less than 15 years of age. This region is known throughout Central America for witnessing horrific systematic massacres of entire villages during an internal conflict that began in 1960 and ended with the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996. During this time 200,000 civilians lost their lives and 440 Mayan villages were wiped from the map. This is a region struggling to heal and rebuild from the devastation brought about by 36 years of war. It is for this reason that the Mustard Seed Peace Project has chosen Playa Grande, Ixcan, Guatemala as the first location of its ministry. It is our belief that peace and security are essential to a vibrant life. And it is our hope to alleviate the sufferings of children and youth by paving the way for a future full of opportunities. This can be achieved by attending to the needs of the youth and by helping to create a culture of tolerance and mutual respect.
The job of the Mustard Seed Peace Project is to raise awareness in the United States of the devastation and the need in this region of the world by organizing short-term mission trips. Along with raising cultural awareness, it is the job of the Mustard Seed Peace Project to raise funds needed to address the educational and personal needs of the youth in this region. This will be done through private donations, grants, fundraisers and child sponsorship programs.
Development of Land
In January of 2004 the Mustard Seed Peace Project purchased a little over 11 acres of land in the jungles of the Mayan community of Virginia. At the request of the people in this community clearing of the land began and plans were made to begin constructing a park. The park was to include a soccer field, an amphitheater, a small house of prayer and a walkway through the jungle complete with benches and inspirational quotes positioned along the way. The amphitheater would be used by the youth to put on skits, allowing them to use their imaginations and express their creativity through drama. All structures are to be constructed by the people of this community and utilizing as much of the natural resources extracted from the land as possible.
|Teresa Cranmer standing in front of property with family January 2004.||Property as it looked in January 2004.|
|Pathway cleared through the property December 2004.|
By December of 2004, a pathway had been cut through part of the land. The people had begun the hard task of clearing the land and keeping the regrowth from occurring.
In June of 2005 work was well underway. The soccer field was cleared, the walkway was complete and construction on the house of prayer had begun. The women and children of the community had also begun working on a flower garden, using plants and flowers gathered from their homes.
|Children stand in the house of prayer.||Hard at work on the house of prayer.|
|Planting flowers in the park.|
By February of 2006, the house of prayer was complete, the flower garden was in bloom and the children were using the soccer field.
In April of 2006 they began digging and constructing a well.
Enriching Lives Through Clean
One of the daily challenges for the indigenous communities in Northern Guatemala is finding a clean water source. Often, the women of the communities must walk miles to bring water home to their families. Because of the lack of purified water they are forced to gather their water from the same streams and rivers where they bathe, do their laundry and water their animals. Resorting to drinking this unclean water often leads to chronic diarrhea from water- borne diseases and a high infant mortality rate.
In June of 2005 the Mustard Seed Peace Project and our desire to address the need for clean water for the people of the Ixcan region of Guatemala was presented to the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women in Springfield, Illinois. This organization voted to help fund a clean water project for the people of this region. The first phase of this project will be to build a well on the property already owned by the Mustard Seed Peace Project. This well will provide water that has not been contaminated by daily use, to the people of the community of Virginia as well as neighboring communities. In April of 2006 construction of that well began.
Mustard Seed Peace Project will partner with Helps International who will deliver the filters,train the people on the assembly and maintenance of the systems as well as monitor
the success of the filters. Your donation of just $50.00 is tax deductible and can be the difference of life or death to a family in rural Guatemala.
SOLUTION: ONIL WATER PURIFIER SYSTEM
The Onil Water Purifier System, Manufactured for Helps International is a practical solution for safe drinking water at a very affordable price. Using a simple two container system, this filtering system has the capability of providing 10 gallons of safe drinking water every 24 hours. It is made of food grade polyethylene with a ceramic element that never needs to be sterilized or boiled. Because this element is impregnated with environmentally safe silver it does not allow bacteria to grow. You just simply clean the filter with a clean damp cloth..
WHAT DOES THE ONIL WATER PURIFIER REMOVE?
Independent lab test verify that the filter removes 99.99% of particles between .5 and .8 microns and 100% of larger particles. This means the water filter removes parasitic bacteria and pathogens such as e. coli, klebsiella, cholera,shigella, salmonella and giardia.
In February of 2006 the Mustard Seed Peace Project along with Dr. Frank Miller, D.D.S.M.D. of the Washington Overseas Mission group made our first dental/medical mission trip to Guatemala. We were able to treat the basic dental and medical needs of the people of the communities of Virginia and Bem Pec while also supplying them with dental and personal hygiene items. We treated over 100 people and pulled well over that many teeth.
While in Playa Grande we met a young man, 15 years of age who had lost his right hand in a fishing accident. It is common in this area to fish using homemade explosives. He was requesting help with a prosthetic hand. Upon our return to the states I was contacted by a local woman who builds prosthesis. She had heard of the work that the MSPP was doing in Guatemala. With her help we were able to schedule an appointment for this young man with an orthotist/prosthetist in Guatemala City. On March 21st, 2006 the orthotist/prosthetist began working on a prosthetic hand for the young man. Through funds granted to the MSPP by the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children, (FIMRC) Sergio received his prosthetic hand in September of this year.
School Lunch Program for the Youth of Ben Pec
In March of 2006 the village of Ben Pec presented the Mustard Seed Peace Project with a need for funds to supply 100 school children with lunch for a school year. At the small cost of $400.00 a year this project was picked by the confirmation youth at S.S. Peter and Paul Catholic School as their community outreach program.
Education Sponsorship Program
Unlike the youth in the United States, many of the youth in the villages of Guatemala never have the opportunity to learn to read or write. Statistics show that Guatemala is a country that ranks among those with the highest rate of illiteracy. The national census of 1998 reports that the illiteracy rate of the country is 78% and 71% in the municipality of Playa Grande, Ixcan. What MSPP has found is that many of the villages in the Ixcan don’t even have schools. This means that the youth must travel to the city for their education adding a great economic expense to their families. Due to the poverty in this region even the $200.00 to $300.00 a year that it costs to educate a child seems insurmountable.This cost would cover their education, transportation, room and board, schools supplies and uniforms.
In an attempt to address this situation MSPP is working with the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate and the Catholic parish in Playa Grande, Cristo Redentor on an education sponsorship program.When we initailly began this program MSPP was able to fund the education of 12 youth. For the 2009 school year we have received requests from 49 youth wishing to attend school. This program will be set up to partner a youth with an individual in the United States who will provide the funds necessary to educate that youth for a specific length of time. In return the youth is required to maintain good grades and provide some pastoral service in their community. If you would like to sponsor the education of a child or just make a donation to this program you may do so through this website.
The Trees of Hope is a multifaceted project for the women living in the village of Virginia in the Ixcan region of Guatemala. The Ixcan region is said to be one of the poorest regions in Central America. The women of this village have expressed a concern about their participation in the economic development of their families and the nutrition of their children. MSPP met with the people of Virginia to discuss their idea of planting an orchard on the 11 acres owned by MSPP.
The concept of the project is that the fruits grown in the orchard could be used for their own consumption and any surplus sold at the market for a profit. They have already taken the initiative of purchasing 40 fruit tree saplings and planting them on the property. While the main focus of this project is the economic development of women, the issues of nutrition of the family and deforestation will also be addressed.
Several of the steps needed to make this project a reality have already occurred, the relationship that has developed between MSPP and the people of the village of Virginia, the land purchase by MSPP, the planting of the fruit trees.
The first few years brought many unexpected difficulties. The flooding of the fields during the rainy season and lack of sufficient water during the dry season ended with several of the trees perishing. With the understanding that the surviving trees would take several years to produce fruit the women began researching a program that would create a more immediate source of income. One that would help sustain them until the trees begin to produce results. After discussing several possibilities the women decided that they would like to raise chickens. Using the eggs and chickens for their own consumption and selling the excess at the mercados will help address some of the nutritional and economic issues that plague their families.
To help with this project MSPP turned to an organization called Mary’s Pence. Mary’s Pence is a grassroots organization that directs donated resources to small women’s projects. Through our relationship with Mary’s Pence, MSPP was able to present to the women of Virginia with the opportunity to participate in a new model of community lending created by Mary’s Pence called an Espera Fund. An Espera Fund is a community lending pool for women. The fund is owned and managed by the women who are involved and designed with their specific needs in mind. Each loan is used for an income generating project with the terms and interest set by the women themselves. Mary’s Pence supports each network by supplying them with start up funds and administrative costs for the first year. They also, continue to support the network by providing a Fund Facilitator who will visit the women 2-4 times per year to evaluate the progress of the network.
In February of 2011, MSPP funded the transportation cost for two women, Francisca and Maria to travel to Santa Cruz del Quiche from Virginia. The purpose of this trip we to meet with two other networks of women who are beneficiaries of Espera Funds. The women gathered together and shared their ideas and concerns, their r hopes and their dreams. They discussed the benefits of working together for the common good, how to create a business plan and how to develop a sustainable business. But possibly most importantly they became part of a larger network of women working to make changes in their lives, the lives of their families and even their communities. Francisca and Maria returned to Virginia and presented the plan to the rest of the village. Today, 35 women in the village have agreed to participate in the Espera Fund and have begun creating their own businesses.