usquerou q'eqchi' adjective (i spelled phonetically here…):
1. very good. awesome.

my time serving with singular humanitarian volunteers was totally usquerou. like i mentioned in an earlier post, i was a bit skeptical about the genuine impact and effectiveness of this project. but, with our seven days in the polochic valley, i was really truly impressed with the true good that was done and the efforts that were made to ensure that aid was sustainable. i always feel on trips like this that those serving are blessed much more than those served, but in guatemala last month i really felt like we made a good dent of impact as we were enriched from our trip. on both sides of the service the world was made better. i’m so glad to have been part of that!

i was selected in may to be a “service leader” for singular humanitarian experience (SHe), which means i get to help the organization with development for the next year (a few hours a week as a volunteer). after going on an expedition (which was free for me thanks to my new position!) i am so pumped to work with SHe. it’s a really fantastic idea and it is changing the world.

the 40 of us stayed pretty busy up in the polochic valley (a bumpy 8-hour drive from guatemala city) working on several different projects. we had doctors, dentists, teachers, businesspeople and just general good-doers in the group – super rad people. since i’m not a specialist, i got to help on several of the different projects and i was glad for the overview. here’s a run-down on my week!

day 1 – dental clinic
our two dentists and their revolving team set up make-shift dental offices in the different villages. the main work was pulling teeth, which gave enormous relief to so many, and training local dentists.

our commutes to the different rural villages all week was by cattle car.
the cattle car rides were perhaps my very most favourite part of the trip.

our makeshift dental clinic. i got to help with sterilization … and more …
we had two dentists on the trip and they pulled out about 75 teeth a day. on the left you can see two of the rural dentists, who are now well trained in extracting teeth and other procedures.

the kids loved to come and watch the clinics, and i loved getting to know them without language.

and i pulled two teeth! dr. erikson was a great teacher. when else can i pull a tooth? i had to do it.

the line was always stretched out the door and around the corner,
and for a while i served as “bouncer” to keep things orderly and hang out with the kids.

a peak at the medical clinic next door.

day 2 – construction
last year the foundation was laid and this year we put up the walls for the polochic region’s first-ever hospital. here the rural health promoters and dentists that volunteers have trained can work to help the community get and stay healthy. it is a revolutionary building for this area – super exciting.

this was our view from our campsite. gorgeous, eh? notice the cement foundation on the far left, and the stacks of white dry-fab walls? that was our project.

we worked alongside the locals right at the base of that lush mountain in the morning mist.

the village boys came out everyday to help with construction since their school was cancelled so that we could sleep in it! we made good friends with these kids and learned a lot from them. sweetest hearts.

wiring the walls together was fun, then tedious, but we kept going with music and interactions with locals who came to see the progress on their hospital.

and every once in a while an improptu futbol game sprang up. look at that landscape!

progress was slow but sure!

day 3 – teaching workshops
our teachers went to different villages to train local teachers who have never had any kind of professional development tools. the day i went on this project, there were teachers that came from 20 different villages far and wide to our workshops. they were so eager to learn, and were given skills that can really improve their classrooms and impact in the community.

i got to work with susie (high school teacher in d.c.) and angela (translator) to present a lesson on classroom management. the teachers were so excited about our material!

wherever we went, the word spread that the gringos were around and kids came up to play and interact. while the teachers worked in the secondary school, i got to keep these kids busy and i loved that cultural exchange and human connection.

cattle car-ing home after a day of teaching!

each one of these stellar teachers were honestly inspirational to me!
i loved talking to them about their jobs.

day 4 – day of rest (next post!)

day 5 – back to construction

2 of my bffs on the construction site – susie and marvin.
the boys worked harder than we did!
i came down early from lunch and two kids just walked up to me with tools and wire in hand and looked at me like - “hey! let’s get to work!” they were diligent but also really, really fun.

roberto and my glasses. love that kid.

by the end of the last day, this is what the hospital looked like! amazing!!

day 5 – medical clinic
our medical personnel taught health & sanitation classes and treated patients who came from all around to the different villages. our doctors and nurses taught local rural health promoters procedures that they could perform long after we left. i’m guessing the medical clinic saw at least 100 people per day.

our last day we went to a village the opposite direction of where we had traveled previously.
we had to walk down this jungle path to get there, and i loved it!

i taught 2 health & sanitation classes. every individual had to go through this course in order to be seen by the dentists and doctors. i taught about hand washing, water purifying, diet balancing and shoe wearing. the double translation (english –> spanish; spanish –> q’eqchi’) was interesting… and kind of fun.

carlos, one of the rural dentists, taught the people how to brush their teeth.
kristine, one of our nurses, taught the village midwives about safe practices and tips.

the dental clinic operated at the school next door, and the lines were long!

to keep the kids entertained while in line, we painted nails. even dentist brandon came out to give it a go!

i got to hang out with these beautiful people while they waited to see the doctor. we did nails, blew bubbles and took/looked at pictures. again, i loved making connections without language.

the awesome medical team – gringos and locals.

these girls walked us out of the village up the jungle path. aren’t they beautiful?

on the construction site we taught the boys the word “awesome” and they taught us the word “usquerou.” our seven days in the majestic polochic valley were both.


  1. Girlfriend, I am amazed at the things you do. How lucky and blessed you are!!

  2. I wonder if we could find people who look as happy as these kids and adults in the US. I'm sure they all have their issues but they just look so happy even though they have so little.

  3. Thanks for the bff shout out! Love your pictures. Love our experience.

  4. Char--this is incredible. I am amazed and totally jealous. So glad you got to do this!