Guatemala, known to some as an idyllic vacation destination, is also a nation with a significant unequal distribution of wealth and, as a result, a vast number of the population struggle to meet even their most basic needs.
Almost ninety-one percent of Guatemalans live in extreme poverty; with little or no access to adequate food, water, shelter or education. Many children are required to work long hours outside the home in order to help care for the family and thus, are unable to attend school. Forty-one percent of children do not attend school and only fifty-five percent are literate.
It is because of these issues that thirty year old Juli Conard has felt a strong pull toward missionary work.
A wife and mother of two young children, she has been committed for more than ten years to improving the quality of life for others through her numerous volunteer and church-oriented pursuits. Her dedication and enthusiasm is infectious and she has gathered a group of both youth and adults to join her on this, just her second mission-based trip, to provide assistance to those in need.
“We are so blessed to live in a community that cares not only for its own, but for others in far off places. This community is so generous that it literally enables the Mission Team to go out to better a community that is not theirs, for people that they don’t know” states Juli.
Her first foray into missionary work took place last August when she accompanied a group of twelve youth from Greenbank to Mississippi for a week-long home building adventure to the hurricane Katrina ravaged region.
In talking about Guatemala, Juli states, “This project is still in the early stages, and already we are seeing that this mission is bigger than any of us anticipated. The work is greater, the need is greater, and the heartwarming excitement from the Guatemalan hosts is simply overwhelming.”
Mission from August 2009 in Biloxi Mississippi, participants - back left, Kyle Albers, Heather St.John, Bill Conard, Ashley Fulford, Jordan Larmer, Kathleen Baird.
Front left, Rachel Wittenberg, Juli Conard, Lee Garrett, Randie Seeney,
Jennifer Rahm and Kerstie Millar
“They need our help, and we are helping them in a way that other organizations often overlook,” she says.
The team’s wish list includes the most basic necessities of life, that in Canada are taken for granted every day. Their intention is to provide as much support and relief as possible, all the while encouraging a self-sustaining environment.
“We want to offer a hand up, not a hand out,” Juli said.
The goal of the fifteen person “Mission Team” is multi-faceted. Together, the group are hoping to provide opportunities for those living in poverty to change their current circumstance, offer education, alternatives and simply, to make a difference. Leaving on April 30th, they will have ten days to change the face of poverty in Guatemala.
Upon their arrival, the “Team” will run a local soup kitchen, feeding over one thousand people. They will then visit a medical/dental clinic and a local hospital, providing support and supplies to newborns and their mothers. They hope to distribute clothing to more than one hundred poor families and conduct workshops for women focused on building skills and a sense of empowerment and self-worth. The group then plans a visit to a local school where they will distribute school supplies, play with the children and paint a number of the rooms.
The ten days in Guatemala are sure to be crammed with activity and most certainly a sense of accomplishment.
The Mission Team are so appreciative of the support of Scugog residents and are counting on your continued support to meet their fundraising goals. Thirty thousand dollars are required to make this trip possible and to ensure the supplies required are available. They have raised two thousand dollars to date and have a number of fundraisers planned where your participation is paramount.
Soup and salad luncheons will be offered for a monetary donation of your choice and held at the Greenbank United Church on the last Sundays of January, February and March.
There will also be a fun-filled evening at Class Act Dinner Theatre, date to be announced. A Guatemala Gala is being held on February 6th, beginning at 7pm at the Scugog Community Centre. There will be a live auction, 50/50 draw, games, raffles, cocktails and appetizers and a dance. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. You may contact Juli at 905-985-2006 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to order tickets or for more information.
The Mission Team is also hosting a “Wellness Show” being held on February 20th from 9am-6pm at the Scugog Community Centre and will feature 30 booths of health-promoting products and services. There will also be a number of practitioners, motivational speakers and workshops to enhance your sense of well-being and all in support of this amazing cause. Suitcase donations are also being gratefully accepted; they will be filled with supplies for the trip and left behind to be used as bassinets for newborns.
Juli and the Mission Team are working hard to do what they can to improve the lives of those less fortunate, and it’s simply not possible without the support of our community.
“The community’s support provides our volunteers an opportunity to grow, learn and change their outlook on life forever. We as a Mission Team are indebted to this community for their continued support, and are very grateful for the opportunity to serve others,” says Juli.
Scugog time and time again has proven itself to answer the call when needed. We hope to see you at one of the fundraisers where you can meet the team and talk to them about their upcoming Guatemalan adventure.
By Tammy Horvath
Focus on Scugog