Empowering students in Guatemala: A service expedition preview
Watch an exciting discussion with Advancing Life Foundation Chair, KimMarie Larsen, and ASEA service expedition volunteers as they engage in an inspiring conversation with Jon Berininger, Co-Chair of Cooperative Education. Get an exclusive inside look at how our donations are helping students in Guatemala, the impact of funding a new Spark Reading Program, and the exciting development of a new computer lab for young students. Be part of the conversation that sparks positive change and empowers communities. Watch now and be inspired to make a difference!
Navajo Nations 2022
In late August eight expeditioners, braved the intense heat of Arizona to build two of four hoop houses donated to the Navajo Nations. These hoop houses will provide fresh produce to families and communities where there aren’t grocery stores near by to have access to nutritious food. Families do not have the funds to pay for the gas required to drive the hour or hour and half to the grocery store and they don’t have electricity to be able to store food in a refrigerator. Having the ability to grow fresh produce allows them to not only improve their diets and gain better health but can become an economic resource to sell the surplus.
Expeditioners cleared the soil in the hoop house of rocks, weeds and leveled the ground. Footings were poured, metal struts were installed, walls were built and fabric was stretched across the structure. Raised beds were built and filled with soil, to provide each hoop house with the proper start to grow food. During the week of service, and cultural exchanges the bonds of friendship and trust was formed and hearts were opened as they began to build understanding and respect for one another.
To start this expedition, volunteers first learned about the Cambodian growing cycle, with hot and wet weather most of the year, followed by an extremely dry season. Plants such as cauliflower, green onion, and bok choy were chosen for their versatility, nutrition, and inclusion in a variety of different meals within local Cambodian culture. After understanding the need for gardens, the volunteers then helped dig and plant several gardens for locals.
The main purpose was to make clean drinking water available to the local residents, people who live under the constant risk of water-borne illnesses. And while volunteers weren’t digging the wells themselves, the work they did was in support of the effort. (Well construction is reserved for the locals; the Foundation pays their salaries for installing the wells so that they will know how to maintain them for the long term.)
Most of the Advancing Life volunteers arrived with infant-care supplies to donate, and they assembled kits for a local medical clinic located in a remote village, where 80 babies are born on average each month. The mothers who can’t afford to deliver there—the $15 medical bill is too high for most—are in dire need of supplies for their babies. The kits provided cloth diapers, receiving blankets, hats, and more for the newest little ones.
Volunteers also visited a medical clinic, where they met patients who had become ill from drinking contaminated water. On one particular morning, the first group of expeditioners happened upon a unique opportunity to serve. They were able to help a family move (not just their belongings, but their actual house)! The family had gone from a studio-sized apartment made of tin sheets and lumber to a newly built two-story, cement home.
Attendees – February
Attendees – March
On the third year of expeditions to Ecuador, volunteers began expanding the vocational campus by working on the center’s second building. This new structure would hold new student classrooms and a kitchen. The tasks for the week were to dig holes for the main support columns, create rebar forms for the footings and structural columns, and then level the ground for pouring the floor of the building. By the end of the week, three of the four sections of the floor had been poured and the holes and their structural columns were ready for their footings.
Volunteers worked each morning until lunch and then spent the afternoons participating in cultural events. One afternoon they learned how the locals process coffee beans, make sugar from sugar cane, and make bread.
Attendees – June
Attendees – July
On the second year of expeditions to Ecuador, the trip included 46 participants and 40 hours of construction time, all of which were dedicated to one dream-fueling project. The participants ranged in age from 14 to 67 and had countless opportunities to interact with those living in the region, 44 percent of which depend solely on agriculture.
The expedition team’s main tasks supported construction of the workshop, which would be used to teach auto-mechanical skills. The team spent four to five hours a day constructing brick walls, digging drainage trenches, pouring sidewalks, and completing the perimeter fence. Other tasks included preparing roof panels, moving boulders to make way for trenches, and pushing bricks up steep hills. This year’s expedition brought the project to 20 percent completion.
The people of the Intag region were also present and actively helping with the construction. Everyone, from high school students to mothers with babies on their backs, came out to do their part. Their participation in the construction proved vital as it helped the community build a bond with the school and realize that the Inta-Kara Advancing Life Center will be for everyone seeking education, not just those considered privileged.
After a year and a half of planning, the hard work of building the Inta-Kara Advancing Life Center, a regional vocational school, began in 2017. The task at hand for the first expedition group was building a 100-meter (328-foot) fence along the perimeter of the school. Brick loads were hauled from place to place, large rocks were moved and removed, hills were climbed, and trenches dug. The work was grueling and required everyone to be in tune with one another to get things done in a short time. All the while, volunteers stayed focused and humble as they worked alongside locals.
Local young boys drove from a school over an hour away to help with the project, with the hopes that one day they might have the opportunity to attend the vocational school and take their education further than they ever thought possible.
As work on the fence progressed, so did volunteers’ relationships with the people they were working with. Participants also had opportunities to interact with the community. Women and girls of the surrounding towns gathered for some education on feminine hygiene, and they were supplied with reusable personal-care packs.
Rose Mary Skinner
Dr. Rob Ward
Marianne Krarup Harild
Dana Scott Lane
Susan L. Stanger
During the first expedition, the team was able to build four water cisterns, 12 outdoor stoves, and eight chicken coops, while offering English classes for 40 single mothers. ASEA Founder Tyler Norton was in attendance on that trip and shared a personal message of inspiration with the people of the community.
Since that time, 120 families and more than 770 people have directly benefited from donations and services provided through the ASEA® Advancing Life® Foundation. The main road into the community—a dirt path five years ago—is now paved with concrete. The tin roofs of the community buildings have been upgraded to concrete. Diets lacking vegetables and protein now include eggs, nopal cactus, garden vegetables, chicken, and lamb.
In the English classes that ASEA taught on their original expedition, 12 of the 40 original students have since finished high school, six have gone onto university studies, and two have been working at businesses in the city.
One of the women from this community went to Peru in December of 2021 for the women’s empowerment conference sponsored by CHOICE Humanitarian. She was one of the speakers and shared how she developed her community and lifted them out of extreme poverty. Because she has seen the effects on her village, she is now an example for other women and empowers them to change their lives.
In addition, two neighboring communities, San Antonio and La Salamanca, have seen the village’s changes and committed to doing the same thing. Now, those two communities are following along the same path as La Rincon. The Foundation’s presence and dedication to this village has a rippling effect in the region where they visited.