Day 4

Today was our first construction day and our first day to feel like we really are making an impact. After yet another delicious breakfast, we had a quick yoga session and then went on our way to start the work. Prior to this morning we had no idea what we would be making but we knew it was going to be very rewarding and tiring. We met three farmers, Timoteo, Gabriel, and Eduardo, and went to our site.  Our job today was to make a concrete floor for a coffee patio, which is where the farmers dry the coffee beans in the sun.  The farmers who do not have  house large enough to process the coffee in their homes, they often have these separate places where they process and work with their coffee. We started with an area filled with rocks and weeds and dirt and not much organization. We began by wheeling in dirt and then combining with cement to make concrete. This was especially challenging because our instructors did not speak English and so we had to piece together their instructions on what to do, We then formed assembly lines and poured the concrete and worked it until it laid nicely. There are many steps to creating a floor and we got to experience each of them.  It was especially cool to see how our group came together and communicated and collaborated as a team.  Around noon, we took a quick lunch break at la casa de Timoteo, and had our new favorite meal, this rice and beef stew with horchata to drink. I swear every meal gets better and better. During lunch we got to learn a lot more about the coffee cooperative and the founding group that runs it. After lunch we went back to work until 4pm and got way farther with the floor than we ever expected. Now, the floor is just about finished and only need a few final touches tomorrow. Tomorrow morning we will be back at the same site but we do not yet know what else we are doing. It felt great to work and get to visually see our progress and impact on the project.  When we got home in the afternoon, we all went to the tienda to buy some ice cream. There were many different kinds and it was really fun to check out the different types. Ann and I bought a type of mango that Nikki had told us about from her experience last year. This type of mango is super rare and you prepare it by squishing it in your hands and then cutting off the top and sucking out the fruit. We tried eating them at home and it was hilarious. It was very tasty but very messy and hard to eat.

For dinner we met with another farmer and ended up teaching him charades. It was tons of fun and we laughed a lot. Now we are all applying ample amounts of aloe and trying not to fall asleep because we are exhausted from a hard days work! Tomorrow we have another day of work and sun and we couldn’t be more excited!


This was our patio before we started.


 The group working together to mix cement

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Our end result for the day.


Each night we are trying to take a picture with our dinner hosts. This was Fredy y Fredy Jr.


This was our group ( minus Nicole) with the farmers that we worked with today!

Finally a few more favorite moments from some group members:

Sam: : ” My favorite moment was probably connecting with the lady in the market the other day. It was really cool to get to talk to her and have her be so receptive to speaking with us!”

Ann: ” My favorite moment is from today, actually. I thought it was so great to see all of us come together as a group and really experience true team work!”

Now, we are off to bed before more hard work tomorrow! Hasta Luego!

Day Three

Today we were working in our own backyard. The Lower 9th ward (where we are staying) was hit the hardest when the levees broke losing a lot of the houses and most of the wildlife. We drove down everyblock and asked people if they wanted us to plant a tree in their yard. They were all so thrilled that we were out there planting trees in their neighborhood. We did not think it was such a big deal until we started to REALLY look around the nighborhood.Its eerie when you look at blank lots with just a slab of concrete on it knowing that someones house once sat there. People had lost everything they owned and some had even lost their lives right wherre their houses stood. 

The nighborhood; 10 years later is slowly starting to get back on their feet. The first convienience store has opened up since Katrina hit. People in this area had to drive for miles to the closest grocery store in order to get anything they needed. Now they can pick up simple things right around the corner from their house. It isnt much yet, they werent even able to break a twenty when we went into buy some ice cream. 

Along with the houses, schools were also greatly damaged in the storm. They are currently re building a charter high school in the nighborhood. The school system was never great and was letting down the people of New Orleans since the 50s. They found this as a new beginning to re construct the school system, majorly installing the charter school system.

Tomorrow we do more planting trees around the neighborhood and volunteer at an animal shelter! 


Team Member: Jessica Singer

My name is Jessica Singer, and I am a sophomore nursing major at UWO. I absolutely love volunteering, helping people, and making a difference within my campus and community. I am so excited and fortunate to have the opportunity to attend this trip, to be able to travel, while impacting a community that is really in need of the help. Yesterday was definately my favorite day. Volunteering, going on a Hurricane Katrina Tour, and listening to the story of a survivor of Katrina, I felt like I was really able to experience the tragedy, and make a difference in the lives of those who still live here.  I was also excited about experiencing the culture, and learning about the different lifestyle in the south. Going to Congo Square, and the parade over the weekend, definately fulfilled this.  It is crazy that we have four days left. I am most excited about seeing the impact we can make volunteering in the ninth ward. There is no way to describe how much help is still needed, even after ten years. With this all said, my experience in NOLA so far is indescribable. Volunteering, experiencing culture, and making new friends, I am having the time of my life.  


Day 2: Projects and Painting

Another great day here in the sun! We started off our day getting a tour of the beautiful city of El Progresso. Our awesome guide Amanda showed us the government building, a local high school, a supermarket, murals around the city and a photo gallery of the history of El Prgresso. 

Our team broke up in to two teams. Missy, Bailie, Sam, Allie, and Teegan worked with OYE scholars and other local kids at a school planning and started painting this years mural. Ashlee, Jayna, Gracie and Steph all worked with an OYE scholer named Oscar on planning this years educational campain on sustainablity.

Today we have learned so much about this culture and are meeting so many awesome people along the way :)


The group outside of the mayors office on our tour.


Sam and one of the local boys who told her she was pretty! (even in English)


Allie learning some Spanish from an OYE scholar.


The girls working hard on getting the wall ready for the mural.


Jayna doing some prep work for the sustainability project.


Steph and Gracie hanging out at the OYE office with Oscar.


“Mi mejor amigo, Israel” “My best friend Isreal- Gracie PS Mom I have peanut butter bon bons for Erin


Day 3


Day three in Guatemala has been one of the best so far! Last night we ate dinner with a farmer for the second time, but this time we were able to converse much more. We did not have a translator with us so it was up to us to combine our broken Spanglish to communicate. The farmer we ate with, Friolan, was very talkative and interested in what we had to say. We told him of our day in Antigua and he told us tons about a volunteer hospital in the area that helps people get the medical attention they need for no cost. It was the first time we really got to share stories with one of the Guatemalan people and we all had a great time. I really enjoy when we don’t have a translator because, not only is it good practice for us to learn new words but it also allows for hilarious stories when we get words wrong. After dinner we played some bonding games before we wrapped it up and went to sleep.

This morning we woke up around 7am to prepare for breakfast at 7:30. A few of us went to our roof earlier to see the sunrise, but ended up getting to see Volcano Fuego erupt instead. This eruption was not a dangerous one, it is very typical for Volcano Fuego to spew smoke each morning and it was so awesome to see. Some of the farmer’s wives came to make us breakfast this morning and it was delicious. They made us french toast and fruit and it was very good. We then got ready before departing for a day of coffee picking with some farmers. We hiked for about 20 minutes up the volcano ( the not active one) before entering Miguel’s ( our farmer escort for the day) plot of trees. Because this is the end of the harvest there were not many berries on the branches, but we were told we were very helpful because this time of year the picking is more tedious to get the good berries off the branches. We picked berries for a few hours and got to speak with the farmers and hear lots of information from our translator, Jane. The farmers were very receptive to answering our questions and were very excited about teaching us the coffee process. Picking berries was very fun it was very cool to get to experience what the farmers do each day. Around 12pm we headed back down the volcano to town for lunch. We ate with our other escort, Gabriel. They served us a rice and chicken dish that was really good. We have yet to have bad food here. After lunch, we returned to Miguel’s house, where we learned about the coffee processing. After farmers pick the berries, all of the processing occurs in their houses. Since many of the farmers are related, they will often either live in the same home, or gather in one to do the processing.

It was particularly interesting because they had each stage of the coffee processing ( takes about 2 weeks after being picked) for us to see. We each got to try using the Punpero, or this bicycle machine that ground the beans out of the berries. The farmers then walked us through the many steps that it takes to turn the beans into coffee. In the final stages of the lesson we got to roast actual beans, which Miguel’s wife did on the stove and then grind the beans by hand. We were each able to physically try the various steps of the process and it was such a unique experience. Once the beans were roasted and ground, they put the coffee into boiling water and we were able to try a cup of the coffee. Oh my goodness, that was hands down the best cup of coffee many of us have ever had. I truly don’t know if any others will ever compare. The entire experience of getting to see the coffee from berries to the cup was so incredibly fascinating, we may never look at a cup of coffee the same way again. The farmers then gave us some coffee to keep and we were able to purchase some from them if we chose. This was particularly interesting because all of the money we gave them, went straight to their pockets. After learning yesterday how little profit typically goes to the farmers, this was especially rewarding.

We then went back to our house and got to sit down and speak with the executive director of De La Gente, Andy. He is one of the founders of De La Gente and was fascinating to speak to and listen to his experiences, advice and wisdom. After that we had some down time before another dinner with a farmer.

Tonight Hermando and his family hosted us for dinner. He walked us to his house with a few of his children. I got the chance to speak to him the whole way and learn a lot about his life. He had seven children, which is pretty typical for families around here. He learned to speak some English through a program that De La Gente supplied the farmers with so it was very exciting that he got to practice his English, while we practiced Spanish. There was a lot of Spanglish going on and we had some great conversations. This dinner was particularly special for Anna and Carly because they are very passionate about their Catholic religion and tonight we had a religious surprise. During dinner Hermando’s wife walked outside with a candle and we asked what she was doing. He told us that they were performing the Stations of the Cross. There were many groups of families and they set up the various stations around the streets. People sang and prayed in groups by these altars. IT was very powerful to see and such privileged to be a part of. Even for those of us who aren’t Catholic, it was fascinating to experience. After we watched some of the groups come by we returned inside. Carly and Anna got to learn the Sign of the Cross in Spanish and they taught Hermando and his family it in English as well. This was one of my favorite things to see because bridging the cultures together is one of the best experiences ever. Both our group and the family really got to bond over this and even the children enjoyed this experience. As we walked back to our house we got to pass by more of these ceremonies and soak up more culture.

We are really coming together more as group and really getting to know one another. I have attached some photos of the coffee process and our experiences today.


More quotes from our group members about their favorite things so far:


Chau: ” I really enjoyed the authentic breakfast yesterday morning at the hotel. It was very good!”

Carly : ” I loved getting to see Volcano Fuego erupt this morning!”

Nikki: ” Being able to able to experience this from a leadership perspective and to get to see the group experience this as well. I love that we have a really open and communicative group” ( she went on this trip last year and returned with us as our student leader)

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March 2015
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