A Mission of Love volunteer group of 20 headed to Tecpan, Guatemala, this week to continue work on the "House of Dreams" hospice. The group will be putting up the walls for the new structure that began earlier this year. The hope is to complete it by year's end.
"This is a mighty big project for the dying children and I truly am trying to stay focused on making this Mayan Mission of Love a success in honor of the sacred children in need," said Kathy Price, founder/director of Mission of Love.
The plan for a hospice came last year when Mission of Love made a medical trip to Guatemala to perform cleft palate surgeries on young children, giving them a chance in life. While there, the team noticed the number of dying children who have nowhere to spend their final days with proper care. At that point, the decision was made to build a hospice for these children.
Mission of Love founder/director Kathy Price of Austintown, poses with a Mayan family in Tecpan, Guatemala, as they check out the donation of a weaving loom that will be used to make blankets and traditional clothing for the Mayan people.
In January, work began in the Mayan community of Tecpan, Guatemala, at the Mayan site, "Iximche." The location is 7,200 feet above sea level atop a mountain that also contained an ancient pyramid.
The first trip saw the construction of the foundation. The cement had to be mixed and poured by hand as access by a cement truck was nearly impossible.
The second trip was in March when the poles that serve as the framework for the building were installed. This week's trip will continue the work as the volunteers will be putting up walls and a roof to enclose the structure.
Price will be flying to Tecpan with 20 local volunteers from Poland, Canfield, and Austintown. Among the team is her husband Bob Price, who is not new to the work being done in Guatemala.
"This is going to be my fifth trip to Guatemala," he said. "My first was in 1996 when we visited Casa Guatamala, an orphanage on the Rio Dulce, in the Guatemalan rain forest."
The trip that year was a mission to put a roof on the girl's dormitory, which Bob described as a barn-like building. The orphanage was set in the jungle and it took the team six hours by bus to travel through the mountainous area. The bus arrived at a river and the team's only access to the orphanage was by boat.
The one thing Bob noticed that year was the fact the children were not that much different than American children when it came to their dreams and desires.
"The thing that impressed me so much about the kids was that when the girls moved back in (the dorm) they decorated their little individual spaces by placing teddy bears and dollies on their beds and pictures of their families on the walls," Bob said. "This was so striking because it was exactly the way our American daughters decorated their own rooms. When I got off that boat at the orphanage, I expected a National Geographic moment. I expected to meet strange and exotic people. What I found was that children in Guatemala are just like children in America, kids are kids. They just look a little different and speak a different language."
As for what the team packed this week, it covers a range of temperatures. Each of the 20 volunteers packed T-shirts and shorts for the hot daytime hours and sweatshirts and rain gear for the chilling nights and rainstorms.
Bob said what really makes the trip worthwhile is seeing the kids that have and will be helped through Mission of Love.
"The kids smother us with love," he said. "Their smiles stay with us long after we have returned to our split-level homes and warm beds. On a very selfish note, I come back home and feel like a Rockefeller because of all of the comforts that make us very, very rich in comparison with our neighbors. It is also very satisfying though, to know that you have touched the life of a child in a very positive way."