Sunday, November 30, 2008

15th Birthday party, Christmas celebration, and a talent show!

Tonight was an important night at Casa Shalom! We had three celebrations - the first was the quincienera celebration for Florentina and Enma. A quincienera is a 15th-birthday celebration and is similar to a sweet-sixteen party, but a much more important custom in Latin America. The party signifies a girl's transition from childhood into womanhood. Flora and Enma both turned 15 during this past year but were never given parties by the previous director - Director Jorge Mario wanted to make this up to them and in photo 1, he plays the traditional role of the father escorting his daughter to her party.

Our second celebration was a Christmas party. We had a traditional dinner of tamales, and lit Christmas lights on the "tree house tree" on Shalom's property. Photo 2 shows the lights and in photo 3, Vinicio and Alejandro pose in front of the tree, all dressed up for the big occasion. Part of the Christmas celebration was a fireworks show! Many of the kids had never seen fireworks and were in awe of the show, which was donated by a local man who owns a fireworks company. In photos 4 and 5, Jose Ramiro and Ana and Jose Marcelino and Antonio watch the fireworks! The last portion of the celebration was a talent show - both kids and staff participated in everything from instrumental performances to singing to dramas to poetry recitations. In video 1, house dad Josue shows off his great guitar skills. In video 2, Edwin and Cesar show off their soccer tricks. Video 3 shows part of the fireworks show and video 4 is of Enma and Florentina during their special ceremony.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pacaya Volcano - Elevation 8,373 feet

Yesterday, 23 kids from Casa Shalom, along with 8 adults (including Jessica's parents and Brent, a former missionary to Casa Shalom) hiked the Pacaya volcano. 8,373 feet high, it was an incredible challenge for everyone, but the majority made it to the top! Brent started the Pacaya hiking tradition several years ago, but everyone said this year was the most difficult due to recent lava flows that covered a usually-accessible road up the mountain. It was no easy trek - it took nearly 4 hours from the bottom of the volcano to the crater and the last hour and a half hand-over-hand climbing up dried lava. Standing on the edge of the crater looking down into the volcano was an incredible experience!

Photo 1: A beautiful plateau after a 45-minute hike through the woods up to the volcano. Photo 2: The boys in front of the Pacaya volcano they later climbed. Photo 3: Jessica and her parents in front of the volcano Photo 4: Flora didn't like having her photo taken while climbing on the lava! Photo 5: Edwin the mountain goat Photo 6: The ants go marching one by one up the dry lava Photo 7: A view from the top of how far we'd climbed Photo 8: The fiery crater Photo 9: Rocks near the crater were yellow from sulfur Photo 10: Jessica the Sherpa Photo 11: The boys didn't enjoy the smell of the sulfur on the edge of the crater Photo 12: The group that made it to the top!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday's Featured Child

This week's Featured Child is Karen Alejandra, who goes by Alejandra. Alejandra is 14 years old and is a self-described tomboy! Rarely caught in a dress or wearing make-up, Alejandra says she likes to read mystery novels and to play basketball when she has free time. Alejandra has lived at Casa Shalom for 3 years - when she was 11, her mother divorced her father, gained full custody, dropped her off at the orphanage, and has never returned to visit. Alejandra isn't able to live with her father, who is disabled.

If you are interested in helping Casa Shalom provide Alejandra with all she needs to become a strong young woman (like good food, school supplies, medical care and medicine), please contact us at:

This photo of Alejandra was taken today at the summit of the Picaya volcano, which we climbed today with most of the Casa Shalom kids ages 13 and up. Watch for volcano photos and video tomorrow!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

We celebrated Thanksgiving at Casa Shalom with all of the children! With the help of Jessica's parents, who are visiting for a few days, we purchased and cooked 6 turkeys, totaling 97 lbs of meat, along with 100 pounds of potatoes, dozens of ears of corn, gravy, and 10 cakes. Thanksgiving photos to come soon!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

San Jose Rio Bravo Suchitepequez

As I mentioned yesterday, we traveled today to the town of San Jose Rio Bravo Suchitepequez, about 2 hours from Casa Shalom. We traveled with a pick-up truck full of food and Marco Tulio and Marta, the businessman and his wife who are heading up the relief effort in San Jose. While there, we weighed and measured the height of about 140 kids, trying to determine the extent of their malnutrition. Mothers arrived with kids of all ages and stood in line to have their child measured and to receive a ticket which would allow them to receive food which we had brought. In addition to this extra food, on December 1st, the local church where we worked is beginning to serve breakfast to the local children 7 days a week, using food that we purchased with donations! It was honestly a difficult day - the children were very sweet and happy, but their extreme poverty was obvious. Many were dirty, barefoot and extremely skinny. If you look closely at the photos below, you will see that although thin, many of the kids have swollen bellies due to extreme parasite infections. We are in the process of trying to get some anti-parasite medication donated for this community, so please keep that process, and the health of these children, in your prayers.

We also visited the local school, which just received a concrete floor last month. Prior to that, the floor was dirt. The school is open-air, with as many as four grades sharing a classroom. There are no chalkboards and no textbooks. Please keep this local church in your prayers as they endeavor to start a feeding center to help the children of this community.

Photo 1: A mother waits in line with her little boy.
Photo 2: Little Maria was our shadow all day. She followed us wherever we went! Photo 3: Maria, who lives with her mother and 4 younger siblings, has a swollen stomach because of a parasite infection. She was among the worst cases of parasite infections that we saw. Photo 4 and 5: More kids wait in line to be measured and to get food. Photo 6: An older mother waits with her baby. Photo 7: A little girl drinks coconut juice out of a plastic bag - a real treat! Photo 8 and 9: Two of the toddlers who will be receiving daily breakfast at the church Photo 10: Jessica and her little shadow, Maria Photo 11: An infant gets weighed Photos 12 and 13: The local school Video: The number of mothers and children lined up to receive aid was incredible. They waited for many hours to have their children measured and to receive food.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Food Aid

A few weeks ago, we mentioned a nearby town called San Jose where there is an extreme famine. 3 children have recently died of starvation and we were looking for ways to take action. We were blessed to receive donations of over $1,700 to purchase food for this town. We recently went to Club Co, Guatemala´s version of Sam´s Club and purchased carts and carts of beans, rice, sugar, oatmeal, and salt. Please keep us in prayer as we travel to to San Jose tomorrow to distribute the food to these needy people.

Photo 1: Josh poses with Marco Tulio (right), the businessman who is sponsoring the project to help get San Jose back on its feet, and Edgar, his future son in law. Photo 2: Jessica pushes a cart full of Incapairina, a popular nutrition drink. Photo 3: Josh with another cartful of Incapairina. Photo 4: A cart full of beans, sugar and salt.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Vacation Bible School water day

As promised, here are the photos and video from Casa Shalom´s Vacation Bible School water day! Enjoy them! Photo 1: Elia´s war paint is from a flour from a game where the kids had to dunk for objects in flour water Photo 2: In the "Shower game" the kids had to pass a water- filled bucket with holes over their heads. Max and Vinicio didn´t appreciate the cold bath. Photo 3: More kids in the shower game Photo 4: Carlos is drenched by the "shower" Photo 5: The most popular game was the mud pit -Alejandro, Edgar, Jenny and Hector do the army crawl! Photo 6: Edgar is one happy, dirty kid - Evelyn is equally dirty but less happy. Photo 7: Sonia didn´t hesitate one bit to crawl through the mud, as evidenced by her clothes. Photo 8: I feel bad for the washing machine when Karen´s clothes go through Photo 9: Julio, Alex and Alfonso post-mud pit Photo 10: Karen and Maria play shave-the-baloon Photo 11: Eddy Photo 12: Jose Marcelino is one dirty toddler! Photo 13: Santos is really excited to be clean Photo 14: Soapy hair! Photo 15: Josh the barber makes a soap beard Photo 16: Guatemalan slip-and-slide!
Video 1: The kids had water balloon fight with bags full of kool aid! Video 2: Water slide!