A group of 25 men from the community have just returned from a life-changing trip to Guatemala to help with the build of a hospital.
For decades, aid teams from Huntsville have been travelling to the small community of Nebaj, a small Indigenous town in the El Quiché department in the western highlands of Guatemala, where there is a significant amount of poverty and alcohol abuse.
The most recent group, calling itself Gen 2, comprised mainly father and sons pairs who wanted to do the trip together.
“Since I don’t get to see my son Cody as much as I used to, it was really fun to spend the week together working towards a common goal,” said team member Dave Hiscox. “I’m still processing how the trip affected me to be honest. We definitely left a piece of our hearts there in Guatemala. It was very moving but it’s amazing to see the success that these trips have brought their people.”
The trip was lead by Dr. Greg Stewart, a former missionary in Guatemala, who has led or been part of bringing over 40 different teams to the area, many of them physicians providing medical aid. This particular group was solely construction-based.
The project they participated in is the ongoing build of an extension to the community hospital. When complete, the building will be two stories high and provide all the medical care that the town needs including rooms to perform surgeries.
Each day, the team took a five-minute walk from where they were staying to the build site to begin brick-laying. Without a mixing machine in the community, all mortar had to be mixed by hand by volunteers.
The Guatemalan nationals who were also working on the site predicted that the Gen 2 team would lay around 1,500 cement blocks over the duration of their stay, but more needed to be ordered as the men ended up laying over 3,500 blocks.
“No one there was trying to one up each other or has any selfish ambitions. We were all there just to help and we worked as a team,” said Hiscox.
As the locals didn’t know much English and the Huntsville team didn’t know very much Spanish, each team worked together on the job site to teach each other bits from their native language.
Each afternoon Dr. Stewart brought a few men from the Gen 2 team to different houses in the community that needed extra help or were struggling to make ends meet.
“We were in a home where there were three generations under one roof,” said Hiscox. “The only breadwinner in the family was their teen son and as he can only get a couple days of work a week what he makes barely covers the bills and food. We brought them a month or two worth of food to help tide them over.”
Team member Daniel Bradbury added, “I was affected by the admirable contentment of the Guatemalan people we met and were there to serve.”
In the past, Huntsville teams have also worked on the build of an alcohol rehab facility in Nebaj.
“We had a number of men on the team who were there on another trip 15 years ago and they noticed some definite improvements in the community,” said Hiscox. “However you still see the severe affects of alcohol abuse. It was very moving and emotional to see them come back after all these years.”
A notable connection on the team was between Dr. Stewart and many of the young men who took the trip this time. For many years he coached the Huntsville High School basketball team and a number of those boys, now men, joined him for this mission trip to Nebaj. Later in their week in Nebaj, they held a Team Canada vs. Team Guatemala basketball game where Stewart got to coach his boys once again.
“This trip definitely made me realize I want to make more time in my personal schedule to go back,” said Hiscox. “I would love to go back every year. This particular group of missionaries had such a strong sense of accountability and they’re very self sustaining.”
Photos courtesy of Cody and Dave Hiscox, and Charlene Stewart
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