We are almost a month into our project in action. I want to dive into the details!
First off, I want to thank everyone that has chosen some level of involvement in this project. We have people sharing the stories on social media, donating, and others cheering us on and praying for our endeavors. We appreciate it all!
We have completed our fundraising for the initial phase of the recycling project. This initial phase included establishing the kid's club, cleaning garbage, and installing a new public garbage can in our community every week. We were also able to provide beautiful cotton club t-shirts to each of the children!
I want to highlight some of the hidden pluses that are surfacing from our program. There are many noticeable positive results like creating environmental awareness in children and less garbage on the streets and beaches than before. However, I would love to share about the "little extras" that are proving to be extremely rewarding! These are things that we hadn't exactly expected but are encouraging to see take shape.
Positive Economic impact
Because of some donations from readers like you, we have integrated meals into the program plan for the first three months of the project. This part of the program has meant that a local lady has had the opportunity of earning an extremely fair wage. She cooks a weekly meal for the 20 people involved in the club every Wednesday. During our first meeting, she asked us to pass on a thank you to all those making this possible. "It is making a difference in me and my family's life. It is a huge support to many mothers and fathers that cannot provide more than one meal a day to their children."
The project has hired Braulio, a soon-to-be father, to collect the garbage from the newly installed cans regularly and dispose of the trash adequately. We were personally approached for work by Braulio when his wife was experiencing complications with her pregnancy. He was very eager to do something extra beyond his regular Tuk Tuk taxi shifts to try to provide. The reality of San Juan is that it is in an awful situation economically speaking. Like any town that depends on tourism for a large chunk of its income, Covid has hit hard. As a taxi driver that regularly picked up foreigners and tourists from the dock, Braulio has experienced a difficult start to his adult life and career after investing his life savings (pre-covid) into a Tuk-Tuk.
We are so proud to say that Braulio has regular part-time work that he can depend on through the project. We hope to grow his garbage route to the point of full-time employment.
Perspective: when driving a taxi all day, Braulio says he can regularly earn 10, but "up to" 15 dollars a day. He told me this with pride. Imagine what we can do for his family by providing a sustainable (and relatively speaking very high wage) of $25/day as a collecting and sorting manager!
We are considering him into phase 2 of The Giving Experiment's "PlasticCo." project. Braulio's drive and passion for helping with this project, thus far, has been beyond impressive.
The project in a nutshell
For those just joining us, we are a family of 7 that has decided to move to Guatemala to push the boundaries of what people see as possible within a large family. We are a Canadian family who got tired of watching documentaries about the lousy environmental state of the world. We came with nothing to lose and are giving it all we've got to create a new sense of hope in our own lives and the lives of others. THIS is our effort at THAT.
We came to Guatemala not sure of where we would be helping, and we came to observe. The garbage and overwhelming pollution problem spoke to us loud and clear. So here we are!
Together with a group of local Mayan women, we founded "Ninos para un Mejor San Juan."
This kid's club is phase one of our long-term goal of establishing a recycling facility where we will essentially make adult-sized lego bricks out of recycled plastic to build beautiful, fun, and daringly different houses out of recycled garbage. As everyone in San Juan faithfully says: "If it is God's will," We will clean this town. We will provide stable jobs. We will provide meals for children in need. We will do our part to put San Juan on the map as a community that sought positive change and found it.
This week in the kids' club.
Today we took a step with the kids towards looking at garbage differently. One of the things our leaders of the group keep repeating is that waste can have value.
It is one of the fundamental shifts in thought that we need to establish in this new generation of consumers if we are to win the battle against plastic waste.
Together with the children, separated into teams, we collected and sorted the garbage by color. Once we completed the collecting, we made a "color by numbers" volcano in the sand with the trash.
A new perspective for the kids: Garbage = free art supplies.
Over the next few weeks, we will remain focused on the "color collection teams" and will integrate art and creative expression into the program.
We want to grow the group.
The potential is massive here. Many hands make light work. Word is spreading about what we are doing, and we have been approached by many parents asking if their kids can join the club. Although we would love to expand and increase the impact, we will remain committed to the initial group size, at least for one more month! However, we would like to start fundraising for phase two as of now.
Sneak peek on phase 2: Renting a facility to start sorting the garbage collected and saving precious plastics. This phase will be the official start of "PlasticCo."
Beaded bracelet sales to support our cause
True to our original plan of supporting local artists with our presence here, we have purchased a large order of hand beaded bracelets from a local cooperative. The coop is very happy with the new partnership! Now, please help us get rid of them! These bracelets are for sale for $15-$20-$30 (depending on width desired). You can be purchase one (or 10) by simply donating here with the word "bracelet" - and your mailing address, in the donation drop-down comment section. We have finally found a decent shipping method. If you would like to take part in helping us fundraise, we would gladly send you, your school, or your youth group a large number of bracelets to sell on behalf of our project. Would you please get in touch if you want to help? We are not doing this alone!
Thanks again to all! In this day and age, reading through a whole 4-minute blog post takes extreme dedication and interest! ;0
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Owen Dargatz is a Canadian writer living in Guatemala with his wife and five children. Owen writes about the adventure of packing up their family life in Canada and of giving a year of their life to focus on volunteer work as a family. Who knows.. it may just lead to more years in Guatemala, fluent multi-lingual children and a world with a bit less trash on the beaches. Here's to hoping!