What a year this has been for all of us! I am writing from Dallas, locked in place as are all of you. Restaurants are closed, streets quiet and our office building basically deserted.
The American Airlines flight’s Captain told me, my Sunday flight was the last AA flight out of Guate and as of today we cannot get back to Guatemala until all the bans are lifted.
HELPS operations are continuing during this period. We have the approval of the Guatemalan government to continue operations. Our ONIL stove factory is producing stoves and water filters. The corn program is on schedule for the year. Staff in both Guatemala and Dallas are working either in the office or from home. (I am doing the deposits so if you have something that gets messed up, blame me).
We are continuing our upgrades of the older ONIL stoves with the new inserts. Most of our US/Guatemalan community development teams that couldn’t go to the villages, asked HELPS staff to install these new stoves/water filters in “their” villages.
We had the Dallas, Michigan, Los Angeles, Oregon and Emory (new) medical teams do their fantastic work as they normally do! Their construction teams as a few others, also installed stoves/water filters in the homes in their areas. MN’s medical team was a few days out but had to cancel due to concerns over quarantines. Bakersfield and San Diego were all set to go but will have to wait until next year.
As for Guatemala, the country is closed to foreigners. Nobody can get in or out. A total curfew is in place from 6pm to 4am. Meetings are limited to five people or less. Non-governmental organizations, NGOs, have to have specific permission by the government in order to operate. There are no public nor private transportation systems. Private planes are still allowed but the commercial airport is closed.
There are 90 virus cases that have been confirmed to date and 2,000 are quarantined, mostly people from other countries. Guatemala is administering 20 tests per day and are finding 8 new cases of the virus per day. There is the expectation for higher infection numbers in the next few weeks.
The local villages are handling it differently. Some are putting chains across their entrances/exits while others are less stringent. This week the President is closing the beaches, pools etc., for the Easter week.
It has been very hard for the Guatemalan business community as businesses are closed in both countries. I am especially aware of the businesses that work with HELPS. I know the hotels have real problems and are suffering through this most important Easter season. They are great people who hire a large portion of their staffs from the villages around Antigua. Next year, you might consider a family vacation in Guatemala.
I cannot tell you how disappointed and sad our volunteers and leadership are, over the teams’ cancellations. The leaders FOUGHT for their teams!!! Generally, they weren’t worried about the virus per se, but it was the work quarantine issue that was the real problem. However, when I talked to them the overreaching emotion was their sadness for the people that were waiting or traveling to our teams in those local “chicken buses” with their referral paper clutched in their hands hoping that this year would be their year. Our people could imagine the folks that had heard the team’s ads over their radios or saw the banners in the streets only to hear that we weren’t coming. It was a true disappointment of the heart for everyone.
And I know that both the teams and our patients will come back. Each one needs the other and for each location and for each team, will be drawn the sick, the broken, the pain filled, the blind, the lame and the hopeless to that location, each hoping for their miracle. It will also draw the volunteers who have tasted God’s pleasure and know in their hearts that purpose is worth the price of “admission”.
Finally, in my “locked in” status, I was thinking about our situation. As I sat at my desk and I noticed that the cleaning crew had placed my wastebasket on the right side instead of the left of my desk as it has been for a quarter of a century. We are used to things being “in place” and it is unsettling when they aren’t. This is a trivial example but, in many ways, demonstrates that in our lives, we take so very much for granted and now find our “wastebasket” has been moved. We want it back on the left side.
May this virus remind us to be appreciative of what we take for granted. May we also be reminded that our patients who have seen us in the highlands for twenty five years, expect for us to be there. What a responsibility God has given us.
You all do such a wonderful job of supporting HELPS in a myriad of ways. Remember when ordering on Amazon to use smile.Amazon.com with Helps as a beneficiary.
In this Easter season that represents hope for mankind, pray for our staff, our finances and the Guatemalan people during this time. May God bless the USA, Guatemala, our families, our staff and volunteers.
Founder + President