To start this off (mostly since this will be my only blog post for the week), I would like to take a few sentences to explain how awesome our hotel is. Although there is an awning-type roof covering the doors and walkways, the majority of the space is open to the sky and completely filled with fountains and plants. Last night we ended up sitting out in one of the many outdoor sitting areas, surrounded by flowers, tea and the sound of fountain and played cards until we all were passing out from exhaustion. This of course, was around 10PM Guatemalan time. Around then, we all got to go to our respective rooms (boys and girls are seperated, don´t worry parents ;)) where we all even have our own beds! And as most of you know, this is an extreme rarity in the frisbee world. In general, I am in love with this hotel, but it doesn´t even compare to how much I´ve enjoyed the rest of Guatemala so far.
|So many plants!|
To start today off, we all woke up around 7 to eat the breakfast provided by the hotel. We enjoyed a wonderful buffet full of eggs, refried beans, plantains, and fresh fruit. Needless to say, that is another reason why I love this hotel. Afterwards, we were all issued matching Safe Passage shirts and began a day very appropriately referred to as ´sponge day.´ We basically were given as much information about the Guatemala City garbage dump and the work Safe Passage has been doing as they could fit into a single days itinerary.
|All decked out in Safe Passage gear!|
To start off our tour, we were brought to the main Guatemala City cemetery, which overlooks the city dump. Entering the cemetery gave us all a very good sense of the disparity in wealth between the rich and the poor in Guatemala. While there were large, decorative tombs dedicated to specific families, there are also large walls crammed with as many coffins as possible for the less fortunate. Not only are these grave sites a little crowded, the are also only for rent! That basically means that families will only rent a space for a year or so until they can no longer afford it. These are the types of families that end up working in the dump and that Safe Passage is trying to help.
Right after navigating through the cemetary, we ended up at this ledge that overlooked the dump. From there we could see several dump trucks, hundreds of people and tons of trash. Everyone working in the dump spends hours sifting through the trash to find recyclable or valuable items, such as metals or plastics. These workers then recieve their income by selling these materials to interested buyers. Of course, digging through trash is no where near ideal working conditions. The dump is surrounded by vultures, bugs and foul smells and there are many health risks such as respiratory diseases.
|The dump from afar|
After leaving the dump, we were brought to several of the Safe Passage facilities. We toured their preschool as well as CRE, which is the center for the children in public schools. Families must apply to get involved with these programs, and are selected based on need. Therefore, the kids involved in all aspects of Safe Passage are being given several tools (such as food and tutoring) to help improve the way of life for families in these communities.
|There are even several art initiative such as the graffiti club.|
Although the majority of the day was learning about the program, we were actually able to start our first bit of volunteering by helping prepare and serve lunch at the cafeteria!
|One of our token vegetarians touching lots of meat. She even ate some of it!|
We ended our tour at CRE by finding out about several of the initiatives that have been started by various volunteers at the hotel. Safe Passage provides several opportunites for the parents as well by holding literacy classes and providing the students of those classes with work opportunities such as jewelry making (I´m sure there will be pictures of the jewelry soon). In general, the work that this organization does is truely amazing, and this blog post doesn´t do it justice and everyone should come down here to experience their own sponge day!
As for now, we are about to go get dinner and watch game 7 of Heat/Pacers series. Seems we aren´t too far from U.S culture...
Stay tuned for tales of our first ultimate class tomorrow!
(all pictures thanks to Amelia, our group-appointed photographer)