This Sunday marked the 37th annual Coban Half-Marathon. Kenyan Peter Cherouiot took first place with an impressive time of 1:03.51 . The marathon is the largest event of the year in nearby Coban; thousands of tourists and locals gather to watch, cheer, participate, and celebrate the event. Work as of late has been a half-marathon in itself, full of projects and traveling. These have included a world map project with the local school, a flossing lesson, a dental workshop with 450+ children at the Chicoj School, a latrine maintenance and importance presentation, and the construction of two bottle schools.
Salmar- one of the two communities participating in the SPA Latrine Project
Luckily, no teeth fell out and the students were receptive to adding floss into their daily hygienic routines. Cardboard tooth costumes and all, Luis, Winfrey, and I put on a half-day dental workshop at the Chicoj School, focusing on the functions of a healthy mouth, proper brushing techniques, the negative effects of sugars and candies, and preventing plaque build-up. Each of the thirteen classes then practiced brushing, which will become daily habit- each class is building holders to store their brushes. It was refreshing to work with teachers who want to be change agents in bettering the practices of their students. Each student is paying money, a mini-investment, to promote a sense of ownership and worth in their brushes and toothpastes. This money is being reinvested into school projects, specifically in this case- world maps. Special thanks again to Drew University- Luis Pena, Liverpool Annex, and everyone else who has donated to this secondary project.
Nick- Captain of the project
This past week, Nick and I traveled up to northern Alta Verapaz with the PC Security Director to check on the current status of the two bottle schools being constructed in two rural communities. It was awesome to see the advances in the projects, the communities coming together to build a place for learning (and learn about inorganic trash), and directly spend some time with the families and community leaders. One family in San Francisco, one of the two communities, provided a feast of tamales, a chocolate drink, and adorned the hut area with palms. This generosity and showing of respect, especially in a community and area that has so little, was one of those feel-good cliché moments in Peace Corps- but nevertheless brought a smile to my face. Although the area is currently off-limits, we will be returning for the inauguration of each school at the end of June with PC Security. Again, thank you to Liverpool Annex, Kayla McAndrews, my Mom, and everyone else who has helped in funding the schools through Hug it Forward. The communities appreciate it!
This week we will be holding a three-day community tourism workshop, mainly with members of Vivienete Verapaz (www.vivienteverapaz.com), our alliance of ten community tourism sites in the region. Objectives of the trainings and meetings include business plan writing, forming of a mission and objectives, product/service analysis, and marketing/promotion. Hopefully the event will move us forward in planning for the future, forming a cohesive vision, and understanding how to achieve that. Only ten months remain in my service here in Guatemala, but like any race, every step counts until the finish line.