I wish I could pinpoint the moment that I knew it was a place I needed to go. I have had the desire to travel to Guatemala and Central America since my early 20’s, but until now the opportunity had never presented itself. I am thankful it finally did.
As a firm believer that life is full of chance encounters and opportunities my husband Paul and myself chose an opportunity and founded Unika in 2011. Since opening our doors we have had the privilege of meeting many people, but who knew it would be one of these chance encounters that would lead me to my Guatemalan Journey. The world works in mysterious ways!
A big thank you to one of our fashion photographers Luke Liable
for randomly suggesting I take a look at some new warehouse space and in turn introducing us to Ron of Guatemala Conexions
. It was in my first conversation with Ron, in which the topic of Guatemala came up and I was thrilled. I knew right then and there that this was the opportunity I was waiting for. Ron explained to us about the amazing projects and volunteering the group were apart of in Guatemala and I knew we had to be a part of it, so I told him: “Next time you go, we have to come!”
And then we got the call... we are leaving in April, do you want to join us?
Ummmmm, YES of course we do! And so the journey began.
The group may have spent a small time wondering who the heck are these people? As our first impression involved us showing up at the wrong hotel in Vancouver but after a small detour we were warmly welcomed by the founders and board members of the group, our soon to be travel buddies, with smiling faces and open arms. After an early night and early morning we handed our lives over to “Ranger Dave” - organizer extraordinaire and zipped off to the airport for a full day of travel and getting to know our fellow travellers. We were amazed to learn Stan and Grace, the founders of Guatemala Conexions
, have been fostering connections with people in Guatemala since 2001. What an amazing group of people and so easy to travel with.
At YVR - Gathering the Troops @ 5am!
We made it! La Aurora Int’l Airport, Guatemala City. After collecting our many bins of donated medical supplies we cleared customs without too much trouble and headed off into the night. It was bittersweet to learn we discard so much unused medical supplies, what a waste, but to be able to take it and give to those who are so in need was a blessing.
As we reflect back it is hard to recall where the days of our journey left off and started. Our days were full of travel by bus, boat, Flete (back of the truck) Tuc-Tuc (taxi) or on the lid of our medical supplies as we made our way from the main city to the town of Panajachel, on Lake Atitlan in the Western Highlands. Stopping in many towns to deliver medical supplies, meet the local partners, tour hospitals and check on the many projects Guatemala Conexions is a part of.
Our experiences were many and the typing could go on, so we will leave room for the photos.
We were excited to see TOMS giving in action. Guatemala is one of TOMS major giving locations.
Dr. Francisco using the donated medical supplies to give vitamin shots.
Dr. Francisco standing in front of the future Hospilito being built in partnership with Guatemala Conexions.
A day at the market!
Buying products made by the women's co-operative in Chuk Muk.
A trip to Pana would not be complete without a visit to see the world's most entertaining barista, Mike @ Crossroads Cafe. Trust us when we say "entertaining."
I had the amazing privledge to learn a "little" about back strap weaving from Evelyn's mother. This is how they make their Huipils (the common traditional hand made garment) one shirt can take up to 2 months to make, 5 hours a day.
A stack of Huipils (wee-peels).
A joyous performance of "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes."
Gregorio and Candelaria, owner of the Spanish school Jabel Tinamet grew up locally, and worked themselves through school, then started this successful Spanish school for foreign language students. They are intent on giving back to training the next generation with values, leadership, and scholarship for those who are willing to work hard.
Are you thinking about learning Spanish? Check out their online Skype lessons and meet the scholarship students face to face.
We have a quote that sits prominently in our home which reads,
"Happy is not a destination, it is a way of life."
I believe this more than ever, after having the opportunity to share many moments with the some of the most beautiful smiles you have ever seen. Guatemala truly has touched my heart and left me wanting to go back.
Check out our Guatemalan Mini Market in-store now. All the proceeds will go to support future volunteer trips and the artisans we met in Guatemala.
If you are interested in volunteering or know someone who might be please have them contact us!