Catching Katy

Reads, Eats, & Everything Else


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Whistle While You Work

Tuesday, May 25
Work day 2. Same walk, work, lunch, and more work.

Work day 2

When we left the work site, we took a tuk-tuk past the hotel to Panabaj to see the old hospital. I am amazed that 5 years after it was covered by the mudslide, you can still see the mud line on the side of the building.

Old Hospitalito Atitlan in Panabaj

By that night we were the only guests at the Posada. After another delicious meal at the restaurant, we borrowed a guitar and our many talented musicians took turns playing and singing. It was a great time.

Music night


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Work Hard to Play Hard

Monday, May 24

Work day number 1. We set off for the trek from the hotel toward the hospital. It was about a 30 minute walk, so we worked up a good sweat even before setting a hand on a shovel or wheelbarrow.

Walking to the hospital - Work day 1

We got to the site and went straight to work. Our assignment for the day: sift black sand through giant sifters, shovel the sifted sand into wheelbarrows, then move it to another pile on the site. This is sand used for mixing cement. The men usually mix cement by hand, but this year had a cement mixer. This is the only piece of equipment they have and I know it was a huge deal for them to get.

Work day 1

We took about an hour lunch break, making our own PB&J sandwiches and chips. We worked again into the afternoon for another few hours before calling it quits.

Lunch break

On the way back to hotel, we stopped for a little treat of frozen chocolate-covered bananas (yum!). We dragged our tired bodies to the chairs and hammocks in front of our house. Most of the group went for a swim in the pool and some relax time in the hot tub. Meghan and I took showers then hung out near the pool until dinner time.

Choco-bananas!!

Lots of porch sittin'

Pool time

Everyone met up together for dinner at the hotel. It was a delicious dinner every night. Everything from chicken, fish, pasta, and steak.

Dinner and games


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Santiago Atitlan

A little background about where we were working and the purpose of our trip!

Hospitalito Atitlan was originally opened in 2005 in Panabaj, just outside Santiago. Sadly, in October 2005, just 6 months after opening, Tropical Storm Stan hit the lake area full force, causing massive mudslides to completely cover Panabaj and the hospital. Hundreds of people were killed and buildings and houses were useless. Within days of the tragedy, the hospital relocated to a former hostel on the other side of Santiago, where it has been operating ever since.

In March of 2006, our group of PSF undergrads took our first trip to the area. We worked to build houses for some families who had children with physical disabilities, whose houses had been destroyed in the mudslides. They were being built near the relocated hospital. We visited Panabaj and the old hospital, and the devastation was incredible. We also visited the “tent city” where survivors had been relocated.

Old hospital in Panabaj 2006

Visiting families

Workin hard for some houses 2006

It wasn’t long before new land was purchased and designs were started for a new hospital. In March 2008, PSF undergrads traveled to Santiago again for our second trip. The medical storage building had been built, but the rest was flat, cleared land. We worked digging ditches for the foundation and a retaining wall along a hill. Between dirt, rocks, and stumps, we worked harder than I think any of us had ever worked in our lives.

Old hospital 2008

Workin hard 2008

The houses we helped start, now finished! (2008)

In March 2010, another group of PSF undergrads made the trip again, continuing work on the hospital. Then on May 22, 2010, our group of PSF alums and friends, 10 total, went again to help. I was blown away by the progress made, with no machines, only incredible man-power. Where we saw flat and dirt in 2008, there was now a 2-story structure with walls, ceilings, a roof, and wiring. We take our machines for granted, but these men work with their hands only. Yes it may take longer, but the results are awesome.

Hospitalito Atitlan - May 2010

Inside Hospitalito Atitlan - May 2010

Phases 1 and 2 of the hospital are scheduled to open this November, in which there will be clinics, an emergency department, 2 operating rooms, and 2 labor/delivery rooms. The next phases will include education rooms and offices on the second floor.