August, 2014 By Ryan Lanese and Kevin Macpherson
On August 2nd along with Xela Aid, members of Art Ambassador for a Colorful World arrived in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. It is fitting that we aimed to connect such a place with art. The environment is a living canvas, from the lush greens rolling over the mountains, the endless fields of maize, to the beautiful hand made garments worn by the Guatemala women. After the scenic drive, we settled in to the Hotel Modelo, a quaint and beautiful spot. At breakfast the next morning, we are told by the owner that he is the fourth generation of his family to run the hotel. A legacy lasting since 1916! At that moment, any pangs of homesickness were immediately assuaged.
A 45-minute bus ride separated us from San Martin, the village where our friends at Xela Aid have been doing incredible work for the last couple of decades. They have turned previous despair in to a treasure trove of opportunity and hope for the future. We arrive at the clinic, the hub of activity. Upon exit we are swarmed by women and children. They give hugs and joyous greetings. There is something that can almost be described as magical about the affection we received by people we had never met in our lives. Though I had come with the intention of making an impact, it quickly became clear that the impact was to be made on me.
We were immediately set on the work to be done. The doctors had hundreds of patients from all around that had come to see them. The patients were plagued with ailments such as bronchitis, amoebic dysentery, and a plethora of other issues stemming from the lack of access to clean water. An unfinished house for Julia and children awaited running water, furniture, and a fresh coat of paint. Finally, many eager children were excited for the art activities planned by Kevin and the other members of the group.
The first three days went by quickly. The house was coming along, the doctors saw patients as quickly as they could and did as much as their supplies allowed them. The children delighted with the new friends and fun of the art classes. A mob of young children followed Kevin around. The childlike aura of curiosity that surrounded him as an artist immediately made him a friend and mentor. The same respect was given to the many Xela Aid workers, who consist of teachers, doctors, and translators. In the short time they have been in San Martin, they have led many children to a better, educated life. The children aspire to attend the university and become leaders of the next generation. Some have even come back to work for the same cause that changed their life.
As this was written, we were only three days into our trip, and we felt we'd gained a lifetime of experience. We are all certainly humbled, and plan to let this fabulous experience drive us as we finish up our work in San Martin.