Let Hope Begin Here, Guatemala

I have a “cousin” whose father was a fraternity brother of my dad. Scott started doing missions work through his church in Lubbock, which set up a small orphanage near Guatemala City that specializes in sibling sets while the children are in the foster care system.

The Blue building is the school; you can see the three water catchment tanks we installed. In the back is a brown storage room that the villagers built between our visit two years ago and now. There is also the beginnings of a community garden

Scott wanted to start doing more and approached the Ministry of Energy, who gave him a faxed letter he had received from the president of the village of Guayabales, Octaviano Santos. The upshot of the letter was that the village felt abandoned by their government and they were asking for help. They have no paved roads, no electric lights, no running water, no health clinic, and a primary school but no reliable teacher.

They had lost an entire season’s corn crop because of a nearby hurricane and were in a food crisis.

The village had been praying for years for some sort of relief because they realized how tenuous their situation was. They cried out to the government and the minister Scott met handed the letter to Scott.

Scott went to the village and met with the folks there.


They wanted a women’s and children’s clinic. They wanted education, especially technical secondary education. They wanted a system for women to be able to contribute to village economy.

Scott spent the next two years trying to engage World Vision, Habitat for Humanity, Heifer International, Peace Corps and others. Octaviano had already explored all of those but nobody works in this area.

So now we are it for awhile. Scott committed to 20 years (he was 53 at the time). Certain projects would require two generations but would be worth doing.

Scott and friends set up a 501(c)3 so that people could make donations directly for the benefit of the village without having to go through a secondary organization. The name of our group is Let Hope Begin Here, Guatemala.

Scott described how what he is doing stems from just a willingness to do what he could. “If I were in their situation I would hope that somebody would do something to help.” He has. Even inspired by Sir Edmund Hilary and John Wesley.

Today 8/13 we are going to the village of Guayabales, Santa Rosa, to make introductions of Nick Parker Ph.D., who is a specialist in aqua biology, and Daniel Clayton who is a professional photographer and videographer. We will listen and tell them what we have in mind.

  • Talk to Scott Melgar of MS farmer 3rd generation in Guatemala
  • Look at abandoned tilapia tank
  • Plan out rest of week
  • Interview widow of man who fell through the bridge, leaving her and six kids

Daniel filmed Octaviano telling story of Guayabales

Octaviano and his 89-year old uncle, Scott on left

In 1940 his father, Juan Pablo Santos, had 12 kids (7 male), and with another man who had 14 kids, came to Guayabales.

Oto’s siblings: Abel, Gregorio “Goya”, Candelario,  Octaviano, Alejandro, Carlos (RIP), Ercilia, Lilia Araceli, and Rosaura

1980 family moved to Petén. Civil war began. When Oto was 17, the Santos brothers were conscripted into civil patrol in Petén for three years and finally left because of violence. Carlos was killed there. Returned to Guayabales.

Family reunions for either Christmas Eve, New Years and Holy Week


Oto and Martha have ducklings, and one duck has built her nest in the bread oven, so we aren’t have bread these days. Also they bought two piglets to raise so they’ll have some pork later on. Marta has planted a beautiful flower garden since I was here two years ago.

Gregorio with his apiaries

Hiked jungle path up the hill to Goyo’s to show Nick the bees. He now has 60 hives. He was trained in a government school to learn how to manage the bees. It’s a success story. His son works alongside Goyo.

Saw Goyo’s wife whom I recall is nearly blind. I asked how her glasses are working for her. Great! She told me. And she wears them whenever she goes out.

Inside the nicer classroom

Stop in San Isidro to look at school which needs painting, especially inside. Request for some educational lettering on inside walls. Already has nice roof and one room has desks. Minuscule library and poor lighting (no skylights or translucent panels as we installed at Guayabales). Reliable teacher who shows up 5 days a week (lucky them. In Guayabales the teacher shows up once a week and stays only two hours).

In San Isidro, we met O’s mother’s brother Benito (?) who is 89, and other kin on mother’s side.

Inside newly constructed church in San Isidro

Within the last six months the community has built an 800 sq ft church with cinder block and a nice metal roof and metal rafters, not a stick of wood. Decorated with hanging paper ornaments.

En route to an abandoned tilapia tank near Cuilapa. Passed by a hot sulphuric (stinky) lake. The continuation of this road takes you to a volcano. Never found the tank and had to finish the drive in the dark and in the rain. Oto joined us for dinner at La Esperanza.

My activity tracker tells me I did 183 minutes of exercise today, 100 of those by bike. Ha! That would be the amount of time we bounced along in second gear up and down the roads. I am also reported to have done 145 flights of stairs. (-:

About the Author

Jane Ragsdale

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Jane Ragsdale (Mrs. Dick Howell) is the director of Heart O’ the Hills. She was a Heart camper and counselor, and served as program director from 1978-87. She has been one of the owners since 1976, and director since 1988.

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