Panajxit, the village where we are building a school through the Sienna Project, is a small farming community in the mountains of Quiché, Guatemala. The building where the children currently attend school is a rented adobe with deteriorating walls, an uneven dirt floor, and no natural light. We are building the school with a local team of volunteers and when we complete the structure, Panajxit children will learn in a school with three large classrooms, plenty of natural light from windows, and fully-equipped playground with swings, seesaw, and jungle-gym. The community itself will own the building rather than renting.
We have had wonderful interactions with the children here. With me on this Sienna Project trip are three All Souls Children’s Choir alumni; Libby Billings, Laura Hailey, and Maddie Butler. They have been teaching the children choir songs and by our second day here, children have been breaking into song. We can’t help but to sing along with them. This is a short video of Laura and Libby teaching children the song, One Day by Matsiyahu.
Music has brought us closer to the people of Panajxit and we’ve found other ways to take a break and have some fun together too. There’s nothing like a race to the finish line or playing soccer, even with the ball being a two-liter bottle.
A few families here are master weavers, creating beautiful fabrics and textiles called Ikat, pronounced ēkät. They’ve shared the entire process with us, which includes dying, binding, and weaving threads to creating extraordinarily colorful and complex Ikat fabrics.
On our rides into the village from Chichicastenango, we’ve talked as a group about what this experience has meant to us. The experience has been life-changing for many and the personal impact has been deep. As we rode along sharing our stories, tears filled our eyes. It has been such a fulfilling and incredible experience doing this work in this community of wonderful and gracious people. Their way of life is so different from our own but we have so much in common too. Regardless of our differences, we share the love we have for our families and children and we share strong hopes for our futures.
We have one more day of building before the new school is complete. Many in our group from All Souls have expressed how it will be sad to say goodbye to our new friends. Our hearts will be strengthened with the joy that our efforts will help more children to learn and could have a positive impact in this community for generations.