New lanterns for Guatemala

I spent yesterday (March 12, 2014) in the jungle of the mountainous region of Guatemala.  Richard Grinnell, COO of HELPS International and I started at 5 a.m. and drove 4 1/4 hours out of Guatemala City to Coban. From there we got in a truck and drove another hour and a half.  We then left the truck and walked to the village of Sejalal and visited eight homes of families who now have a solar light, a clean cook stove and a water filter.

Cook stoves and water filters in the homes are thanks to HELPS International, our wonderful NGO partner here in Guatemala. I witnessed transformed lives to be sure.   More time to farm and work. Better health. Fewer burns.  More studying.  And cleaner air.  I wish I could bring all of our donors here or to Rwanda to see the result of their donations.  In fact, I’m considering taking a group to Rwanda this summer.  Let me know if you’re interested.

Today I’m sort of waiting for my insides to explode because yesterday I foolishly yet politely ate and drank everything I was given as a guest in the rural families’ homes – from watermelon (filtered I was assured) water to chicken soup, which I drank and sweated through (spicy) while the surviving chickens ran around my legs under the table on the dirt floor. All eight families with whom we visited couldn’t have been nicer or more appreciative.  How can you turn down their hospitality?  Their one request when I asked if there was anything they’d like changed about the lantern?  They want an additional one and were willing to pay for it.

I have meetings with HELPS and a visit to another part of the country before heading home tomorrow. HELPS is a wonderful organization who has been working in Guatemala since 1984. They sell rural families clean cook stoves and water filter systems.  They are so pleased to now be able to offer these families solar lanterns, too.  This is exactly the type of partnership we’ve envisioned. Piggybacking on an in-country NGO’s existing work.  Their COO Richard Grinnell had an American father and a Guatemalan mother.  His older two children are at Lehigh.  He straddles both cultures well and really gets what we’re trying to accomplish and sees the synergies with our organizations.  HELPS has been around since 1984 and is based in Dallas, Texas.

I should have a draft of our revised business plan to send you in a few weeks.  I needed to have these face-to-face pricing and structural discussions with HELPS to plug in the correct numbers and goals.  The goals I present to you will be rather aggressive.