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6-30 update

June 30, 2017

I write this final summary for our 2017 SHGO international relief trip to Guatemala from home here in Worcester. After 9 days of being wet, hot, and tired from walks through the Guatemalan jungle and a very long night of air travel back to the U.S. last evening - we are all safely home and preparing to return to our varied routines. For those SHGO travelers who’ve never been to the community we support in Guatemala, expectations for the trip were perhaps initially uncertain but after 9 days of living with and becoming immersed in this remarkable indigenous community in west-central Guatemala I have no doubt that we have all become more appreciative of the many small, and large, privileges we enjoy here in America. We all also learned many lessons from our friends in Loma Linda: the beauty of living with and in harmony with nature; the simple pleasures of “family” and how each member of the village supports each other; the value of a hard days work; and how a positive attitude and good humor can transcend even the most difficult hardships. These were but a few of the valuable life lessons I am reminded of each time I visit Guatemala or any of the 8 countries we support around the world in respect of our Seven Hills staff who come from all over the world. And so, we have to ask ourselves, “what did we accomplish and what value does it bring to Seven Hills or the world?”

Through our work in Loma Linda, we support over 35 families with basic needs such as food, medicine, and education for their children. This effort alone touches over 350 individuals in this remote village of 1200 people. We’ve introduced beekeeping and honey production as a small sustainable business for the community to engage in so as to supplement their coffee bean production. And perhaps most importantly, we’ve extended a hand of comfort and friendship to people who are in need and through that effort affirmed one of the guiding ideals and values of Seven Hills Foundation. Over these past 6 years taking different SHGO teams to Guatemala I’ve seen the community of Loma Linda change. Their economic struggles to survive today are more severe as they try to cope with the coffee plant disease called ‘roya’ which has resulted in the total collapse of their economic base. They are trying to introduce new disease resistant varieties of coffee plants but that takes years to bear fruit with questionable market demand for their variety of coffee bean. Our work in Loma Linda has always been an effort to grow the local economy which will in turn benefit the social requirements of their society (healthcare, education, governance, etc.) as well as the environmental concerns. This is the same approach We’ve taken in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Liberia, Haiti, Jamaica, and Bangladesh where SHGO now serves the poorest of the poor. If we can uplift a community economically through sustainable efforts we can in turn positively influence the social and environmental aspects of the community. “Charity” is not a sustainable effort; economic and social partnerships are and so this is our approach at SHGO.

What is needed now in Loma Linda, Guatemala? Given the collapse of the coffee market we need to increase our $300 per year ($25 per month) child sponsorships from 35 today to 45 over the next 6 months. These 10 added sponsorships do not come from Seven Hills; they come directly from individuals or groups connected to Seven Hills as private donors. Ten more $300 per year sponsors will support 10 more poor children and their extended families for a year. This initiative is a temporary stop gap and gives Loma Linda the time necessary to create profit generating businesses. We have also committed to assist them in identifying other business opportunities from which the community can earn a living. Honey production, natural spring fed mountain bottled water is another business opportunity we are researching on their behalf, creating a local transport business which would eliminate the need for ‘middle men’ when bringing their goods to market is another economic opportunity we are assisting them in exploring.
Seven Hills Global Outreach is a very modest effort to address just a few issues around the world - all of which find their root in poverty. We began as a simple effort to support our staff who have come from 57 countries around the world. From that small idea we have grown to serve more than 17,000 men, women and children in poor nations by providing economic development assistance, clean wells and sanitation, schools for children, medical clinics, microfinance loans and other supports. All of this is largely done through the donations of others outside of Seven Hills. I could use your help if this work resonates in your heart. In Guatemala I need to find 10 more child sponsors; in Sierra Leone we need to hand dig 9 more clean water wells and community toilets; in Ghana we need to expand our honey production efforts; in Kenya we support a school in Kibera for 350 children an an orphanage out side Nairobi which is home to over 400 parentless children; and more efforts in other countries.  If you know of someone, or a group, interested in supporting a child and extended family in Loma Linda, Guatemala for $300 per year, let us know.

And so to our Guatemala 2017 SHGO team - Keisha, John, Juan, Spencer, Kellee, Sue, Annalena - I want to thank them, and the families who supported them, for the sacrifice of their time, money, hard work and sweat. They made a difference in the lives of the many people they met in Loma Linda. And finally, how could I not end this trip by saying “muchas gracias” to the wonderful people of Loma Linda who have welcomed us all into their homes and hearts not as visitors but as ‘familia’. See more pics taken on this 2017 trip to Guatemala on our social media sites in the days to come. Thanks.

Dr J -

6-27 update

June 27, 2017

We have been quite literally out of contact for the past several days while working in Loma Linda due to the severe weather and earthquakes which occurred before we arrived and while in country. Today, we are leaving behind the wonderful village of Loma Linda and the people there with whom we have been working with since 2011. Its been both a joyful as well as sobering experience for our team. Our efforts in Guatemala over the past 6 years have been to try to help stabilize the economic hardships of the people in this remote mountain village. Cell service is sporadic or nonexistent and hardships are a way of life here. But even though people live a simple subsistence farming life, they are filled with a joy that is often missing in our fast paced modern life in Massachusetts. We left with the assurance that we would continue to support the 1200 villagers in 3 ways: First, to find up to 45 individual or organizational “sponsors” who would be willing to support 1 needy child and their extended family by contributing $25 a month ( $300 annually). Secondly, we committed to raise up to $7500 to rebuild their only school building which was severely damaged in the recent earthquake. Bathrooms for the children need to be rebuilt and the facility upgraded with metal columns to withstand future earthquakes, and third, assist the community in developing new agricultural products which can sustain the community over the years ahead. Coffee growing in Loma Linda has been the staple means of financial sustainability over many years but 5 years ago a deadly coffee plant disease called ‘roya’ has nearly eliminated coffee growing. Our efforts will be modest but may be the best and only opportunity for them. It has been a remarkable trip with children hanging into the arms and legs of our SHGO staff and Clark student (Keisha, Sue, Annalena, Spencer, and Kellee). I cannot tell you how much I appreciated the commitment and genuine concern shown to these people by John Altomare, Chair of our Seven Hills Board and Juan Gomez. The entire team walked for many miles through jungle, in both humid and wet weather, in our collective efforts to both experience Guatemala and help in what ways we are able. Needless to say, the team is tired, damp, and emotionally drained - but more than anything else, they have witnessed the beauty of our common humanity regardless of where on earth we live. The purpose of Seven Hills Global Outreach continues to reach out to support the poorest of the poor in 8 countries around the globe in small ways supporting economic, social, and environmental sustainability. In 2017 we are supporting 17,000 men, women, and children through our work and the support of our donors. And while our efforts at Seven Hills Foundation in America will always remain the focus of our attention and purpose, reaching out to several of the many countries from which our own staff have come only adds to the culture of who we are. Everyone is well and we return to Worcester on Thursday. More tomorrow.
Dr J -

6-24 update

June 24, 2017

Today, one if our SHGO team members dislocated his shoulder while we were traveling through the jungle. Juan Gomez took a good fall while sliding down an embankment. After getting him back several miles to Loma Linda we took him to the hospital and arranged for a flight for him back to the States tomorrow. Always in good humor, Juan took it in stride and is having his shoulder relocated as I write this. Get well our dear friend! Last evening we met with the beekeeping team from Loma Linda and heard of their progress with one of the economic development initiatives we introduced here 2 years ago. Our principal efforts here are to help sustain the community. They have many challenges to overcome as they transition from a coffee growing community to a community seeking alternative forms of revenue. Tonight we meet with 15 village leaders to discuss their efforts and needs. The photos today reflect our travels through the jungle surrounding Loma Linda. The people here are so welcoming and appreciative of everything SHGO has helped them with over the years.
Dr J -

6-23 update

June 23, 2017

Today we began our day by hearing of the various concerns within this small yet beautiful village.  Two years ago the coffee plant blight “roya” had decimated 40% of the village coffee crop and the associated income for the community.  Today we learned that the entire village coffee production has been terminated, as a result, leaving the village even more at risk of permanent failure. We also learned that the earthquake from just last week created significant damage to the only school forcing it to close. $5000 is needed to complete all of the repairs and we will try to assist in that effort, by identifying potential donors, upon our return to the U.S. Today we spent time planting bushes with the children which, when mature, can be sold in the market. The school children then took us on a trek through the wet but lush jungle to a river at the base of an active volcano. This afternoon we all serve as English teachers for the children helping them keep up with their studies although the classroom is now outside under a tree. Later tonight we plan to meet with the village leaders to talk about the economic condition here and how SHGO might be able to assist them in identifying new crop or other business opportunities. This is a remarkable village which survived the 30 year civil war between 1960 and 1996 where 200,000 people perished; 83% of them poor Mayan people from villages just like this one. They do not ask for anything and have been generous hosts to our SHGO team by opening their homes to us. Our hope is to return this gesture of goodwill in whatever humble ways that we can.
Dr J -

6-22 update

June 22, 2017

We awoke this morning to a slight earthquake in Xela (magnitude 6.7) and have arrived safely in the village of Loma Linda 3 hours southwest of Xela. It continues to rain but our SHGO team is undeterred to make the most of our time here. Loma Linda appears to have fallen on difficult times since my last trip to this rural community of 1200 people in 2015. The challenges faced in Loma Linda are similar to those in other poor communities; lack of jobs and economic development. However, through our local partner and hosts, Pascual and Rosa Rafael, they remain hopeful for their collective sustainability in this beautiful country. The photos accompanying are of our arrival in the community, the central church which serves ad the heart of this largely Catholic community, and some of the local surroundings. All is well and we look forward to our meetings with the community leaders later this evening and tomorrow. We will hopefully also be viewing the water sources for the community far up the mountain. Our team of Sue, Annalena, Keisha, Juan, Spencer, Kellee, and John are real troopers.

More tomorrow.
Dr J -

6-21 update

June 21, 2017

After a long and bumpy flight from Boston we arrived in Guatemala City late last evening to heavy rain. The flight was followed by a 5 hour van drive up into the Sierra Madre mountains through more rain and wind finally arriving in our first stop in Guatemala; the city of Xela. Today has been spent acclimating to the culture, the city of Xela, and the altitude of the western highlands of the country. Tomorrow early morning we leave for our destination - the rural mountain village of Loma Linda. Seven Hills has been working in support of Loma Linda since 2011 when a group of Clark University students and I came for the first time. Loma Linda is a small plantation community of approximately 800-900 men, women, and children who live a subsistence life growing coffee and other indigenous crops. Our efforts are focused on economic development with our local partners culminating in 2016 with the beginning of a bee / honey business for the community. This effort was funded by one of our key SHGO donors, Honey Drop Beverages, based in the U.S. Their donation has allowed the villagers within Loma Linda to establish a number of bee hives which is now producing an abundance of honey which is sold both locally, and to a wholesaler. This small income is significant to this poor village. Additionally, through individuals - both staff members and volunteers at Seven Hills - we have been able to support a “child & family sponsorship program” for 35 of the poorest children in the village. For $25 per month we support an entire family in terms of education, medical needs, and food supplement. Tomorrow our real work begins in Loma Linda. Several of our SHGO team will be teaching in the village school, others of us will be cutting a trail into the jungle, and still others will be working in the coffee plantation area. It is rainy season here in Guatemala and so it’s been rainy and will probably not stop until after we leave on the 29th. Though the weather is not good - our spirits are high and we look forward to offering whatever help to the women and children in Loma Linda that we are capable of. Please look forward to my next update tomorrow when we return once again to the children of Loma Linda, Guatemala.

Thank you,
Dr J -

SHGO Trip to Guatemala

Update from Guatemala

June 20, 2017

From June 20-29, 2017 our Seven Hills Global Outreach team returns once again to rural Guatemala to further our humanitarian work in the mountainous jungle village of Loma Linda, located in the highlands of western Guatemala. Our SHGO efforts in Guatemala began in January 2011 with myself and 8 Clark students and 2 SHGO staff. Over the past 6 years we have worked to assist nearly 1000 children and families through joint economic development and child sponsorship efforts. Loma Linda is almost fully reliant upon growing and harvesting coffee beans, but over the past 5 years a disease called “roya” has decimated approximately 40% of the coffee beans produced in this part of the country, significantly impacting the poor in Loma Linda. In search of a self sustaining way to assist the small village, in 2015 we helped fund - along with our U.S. donor - partner ‘Honey-Drop Beverages’  - a honey bee colonization program with the intent to produce honey for sale both on a retail and wholesale basis for the community. Thus far, we are cautiously optimistic that Loma Linda can augment its meager coffee crop with this new ‘cash crop’ - honey!  If successful, an entire community of families can be uplifted through the creation of their own financially sustainable business, supported through our work at Seven Hills Global Outreach. Our hope is to assist our Loma Linda development partner, Pascual Rafael and his local ASODILL nonprofit, to create a honey “cooperative” in Loma Linda and hopefully join with other local indigenous villages in establishing a source of revenue, which will diversify their incomes and assure a future for their children and society. This is our hope - to reach out to people of the world connected to us through staff at Seven Hills Foundation and lend a hand so that others can be uplifted through their own work and self determined efforts. 

I’m traveling to Guatemala with a wonderful group of Seven Hills staff, community volunteers, and a Clark University scholar. This June 2017 trip includes Kellee Kosiorek, Spencer Gale, Sue Cox, Keisha Berry, Annalena Eckton, Centro President Juan Gomez, and Seven Hills Board Chair John Altomare. Once again, the purpose of the trip is to both examine the connections between locally empowered economic development - social development - and environmental sustainability. Additionally, we hope to introduce a locally run, financially sustainable opportunity (a ” Honey Cooperative” Model) to a community which is desperately trying to survive and thrive. My fervent hope is that each member of the 2017 SHGO Team to Guatemala” comes back with new insights and experiences which will help shape our collective understanding of what can be done to help uplift the poorest of the poor. “If not us, then Who? And if not now, then When?”

Look for my regular trip updates here at our Seven Hills Global Outreach website.

Dr. David A. Jordan

Dr. David A. Jordan, DHA
Seven Hills Global Outreach