By Kaley Fehr
Last Friday we traveled to Panajachel, a city on the edge of the beautiful Lake Atitlan. We began the week by getting an awesome landscape view from above the trees on a zip line. The rest of the week was dedicated to working with Solomon’s Porch, building a home for a local Kaqchikel family, but more importantly we were there to build relationships. The family was incredibly welcoming, very grateful to us for coming and showed great hospitality throughout the week.
Together we worked hard and got a lot done. We moved bricks, wood, and dirt. We dug a three metre hole, dug trenches, and poured concrete. We even chopped cinder blocks in half with machetes. Nevertheless, we also spent time with the family’s kids. All of them loved to play soccer; even the neighbouring kids came to join for a game during our lunch breaks. They were also eager to help out in any way they could to contribute to the building of their home. The father, Juan, worked hardest of us all, always with a smile on his face. Before leaving, a few friends and I sat down with some of the kids and shared a memorable moment teaching each other words from our native languages. To end our last day of dirty construction work we cleaned off with a water fight. Spending our last moments together in laughter, we dumped buckets of water on anyone who wasn’t fast enough to get away.
Leaving was more emotional then I had first anticipated. Words couldn’t express the gratitude each member of the family had, and for us as well, as they had taught us so much about love and thankfulness. With this project we were left feeling like we had made a real impact. It was an honour to be the first group and lay the foundation. Knowing that there are people living in worse living conditions than us and seeing it first hand are always two very different things. Going out with the purpose to serve, we learned how much of an impact even a small action can make. This was made particularly clear when we had the opportunity to go look at a completed house built previously by Solomon’s Porch and compare it to the family’s former house. Porch does their best to help each family they work with to establish a sustainable way for them to support themselves. Their impact is widespread and long-lasting. In total this week of work was a meaningful and memorable experience. After an emotional goodbye, we took photos and now await news of the home’s completion.
The weekend was spent at a ‘hippies paradise’, a hostel called La Iguana Perdida across Lake Atitlan. We enjoyed our free weekend with swimming, hiking, morning yoga, and delicious meals…even salsa dancing for some of us. It was nice being back in community living and having some freedom to explore. It was a refreshing way to enter back into Spanish classes and life in San Juan del Obispo.