Fall 2017 Newsletter

We are proud to present our Fall 2017 Newsletter. As some of you know, our current Executive Director, Jeff Hassel, is preparing to leave Guatemala and go on to new adventures. In this edition, Jeff shares some of the achievements he is most proud of as ODIM's Departing Executive Director. You will also meet Amy Holly, a courageous woman who will be the next to lead our organization, and learn about the journey that brought her to our community.

Enjoy reading our news!

ODIM Community Gatherings in Colorado, Kansas, and Texas

 Meet International Programs Manager Yaneth Cholotio in the U.S.A.!

Meet International Programs Manager Yaneth Cholotio in the U.S.A.!

At least once a year our Executive Director Jeff Hassel visits the U.S. to connect with church congregations who have supported us financially and through service trips to Guatemala. This year, we are excited to be changing up the normal routine by sending someone new—Yaneth Cholotio, our Manager of International Programs. We are always looking for opportunities to promote the professional and personal growth of the local leaders on our team—and Yaneth is one to take advantage of every growth opportunity she discovers in her life. Both she and the rest of the team are enthusiastic that she will be sharing her personal story of growing up in San Juan, and promoting ODIM's mission and work.

All of our volunteer teams from the last few years know Yaneth as the kind, astute, and smiley woman who has patiently and supportively guided them through their service experience and helped them connect with our communities and learn about their culture. But our friends who have never been to Guatemala haven’t yet met Yaneth—in fact, this will be her first time ever traveling outside of Guatemala! Yaneth is excited—and we are excited for her! Always the volunteer coordinator, now it’s her turn to explore a foreign culture, learn new perspectives, share her story, and be a champion of ODIM’s impact on lives.

“I’m excited for this coming experience to have the opportunity to experience other cultures and meet new people. I look forward to sharing the good work that ODIM does, and to encouraging the people I meet to join us in improving the lives of people in San Juan and San Pablo La Laguna.” — Yaneth

Yaneth’s Agenda of Visits

Friends in Colorado, Kansas, and Texas are invited to share in any of the events they are able to attend. Come meet Yaneth, learn how you can help support the education and medical programs in San Juan and San Pablo La Laguna.  A love offering in support of ODIM’s work will be taken up at each.

Event in Breckenridge, Colorado

Sunday, Sep. 3 Father Dyer UMC 7:00 PM
Yaneth will speak briefly in regular Sunday morning services. In the evening, there will be an educational event regarding life in Guatemala. The documentary "Living on a Dollar" will be shown, followed by a learning session with Yaneth. 

Events in Kansas

Tuesday, Sept 5: Eudora UMC  7:00 PM
Wednesday, Sept 6: Topeka FUMC 7:00 PM
Sunday, Sept. 10: Wamego FUMC Sunday morning services 8:30 & 11:00 AM
Sunday, Sept. 10: Emporia FUMC 6:30 PM

Events in Texas

Tuesday, Sept. 12: University Park UMC, Dinner Event 6:30 PM
The evening will feature a silent auction with contributions from Northaven artists as well as a delicious Mexican food meal provided by women from Christ's Foundry UMC. RSVP Here
Thursday, Sept. 14: FUMC Denton (In Miller Center), Dinner Event 6:00 PM
Yaneth will share her story, and dinner will be catered by El Chaparral Grille in Denton.  
Sunday, Sept. 17: Argyle UMC Sunday morning services

For more information about any of the above events, email Yaneth at volunteer.coordinator@odimguatemala.org

Mother's Day: A Beautiful Story of Hope

Written by Amy Porter

Josefa is a 30-year old indigenous Maya woman from the town of San Pablo, on the shores of Lake Atitlán. The youngest of six children, she grew up in a big family, with aunts, uncles and cousins nearby.

photo credit: anna watts

As a young girl, Josefa dreamed of getting married, having a house and children.  In 2007, she married her husband, Domingo. They moved in together with plans to begin the family they had always dreamed of. But while her friends, brothers and sisters began having babies, it didn’t happen for Josefa.

“After we married, we wanted a baby. After a year, nothing had happened.  Another year, still nothing... When I saw my brothers and nieces having their children, I didn’t feel good… I felt so anxious... was I going to be a mother, or not? I felt lonely, and desperate.”

Josefa and Domingo began to save their meagre salaries to see a specialist. With Domingo’s job as a labourer, earning $5 a day, and Josefa cleaning houses for even less, it wasn’t long before they simply couldn’t keep up the payments for the expensive private doctor’s visits.

Finally, Josefa heard about ODIM’s clinic in San Pablo, and came for her first consultation.

Dr. Georgina remembers this day. “When I first met Josefa, she was incredibly upset at the idea of never becoming a mother. She complained of pain in her abdomen, so we referred her to a hospital for scans, and we provided low cost treatment including ultrasound scans here at the clinic. We helped Josefa begin a diet and exercise regime, which she and her husband embraced together. We wanted to ensure that Josefa's body was as healthy as possible, ready to carry a baby."

Months later at a follow-up appointment, Dr. Georgina gave Josefa some incredible news – after ten years of hoping, praying and dreaming of this day, Josefa had finally fallen pregnant! Josefa was delighted! But now, she and her baby really need our support. 

"Thanks to God, and to this clinic, for my improved health and this pregnancy… I’m so grateful, because it’s been a miracle for us. I found hope here!" - Josefa

Childhood malnutrition in Guatemala

Guatemala has one of the highest child malnutrition rates in the world, at 49%. In the majority indigenous region of Sololá, where San Pablo is located, the rate is estimated to be much higher, at 72%. Widespread poverty and lack of access to education contribute greatly to this trend.

When a baby is deprived of vital nutrients during its first 1000 days of development - from conception to its second birthday - the consequences are often severe. Malnutrition inhibits healthy brain development, resulting in cognitive impairment. The effects are also physical - 50% of Guatemalan children under the age of 5 suffer stunted growth as a result of malnutrition. The consequences of childhood malnutrition are also far-reaching. Low levels of educational attainment commonly lead to difficulties accessing skilled employment and drastic losses in earning potential.  Individuals who suffer malnutrition as infants are more susceptible to chronic illnesses, which can diminish quality of life.

Healthy Mommy & Me: a holistic approach

Josefa is enrolled in our Healthy Mommy & Me initiative, which focuses on these vital first 1000 days of life. By combining dedicated healthcare with practical support – health check-ups, nutrition workshops, cooking classes and a mother's support group - ODIM aims to give women all the support they need to raise healthy, happy babies. All the women also receive support with birth planning and a safe birthing kit which helps safeguard women from the risk of childbirth-related complications, including maternal death. This is particularly vital, because San Pablo is located 90 minutes from the nearest hospital, by local tuk-tuk, boat and bus.

When ODIM's first group of Healthy Mommy & Me participants graduated in 2017, after over two years in the program, 71% of the babies achieved normal, healthy growth rates. This is proof of the profound difference that our program has already made for women like Josefa, and their babies!

Our Healthy Mommy & Me staff have encouraged Josefa at her monthly check-ups, dispelling her worries, and provided prenatal vitamins and fortified food supplies. She is looking forward to joining our new mom's support group once her baby is born, and has high hopes for his or her future:

"I wish many things for my baby… One day, I’d love my son or daughter to be a nurse, or a doctor, if God wills."

How can I help?

We can’t help people like Josefa without supporters like you!

Thanks to you, we can offer medical consultation and treatment at highly subsidized rates, making healthcare accessible to those who suffer most from the poverty which grips these remote communities. 

Become one of ODIM’s first ever Health Allies with a monthly donation to support our work.  We’ll keep you updated about the exciting work your money is supporting!



“I’m so grateful for the clinic, and all the people who send funds and medicines. I hope they’ll continue to do that, because our resources are so scarce. This clinic really helps us.” - Josefa

Josefa would love to hear from you.  You can send her a personal message of support by emailing us at odimguatemala@gmail.com, with “Message for Josefa” in the subject line. 

Photo credits: Anna Watts

A New home, a Better Life

Catarina and Nicolas are a couple from San Pablo, la Laguna who have been married for ten years. They have two kids, Paulina and Pablo. Nicolas works as an agricultural worker in the nearby fields and is paid a day rate when there is work to be found. When we met them, the family was living in a small room with a leaking roof. During rainy season, the kids told us they would have to bail buckets of water from the house to keep it dry. Nicolas' asthma would flare up, exacerbated by the damp, cold air in the house. Sometimes his asthma attacks would become so bad he couldn’t work, and was unable to provide for his family. When we learned about the family's situation, we decided to improve their home by building another room for them and fixing the one they already had.





Last November a team from Living Water United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa started to work on the home. In January, a team from Wamego United Methodist Church in Wamego, Kansas finished it.

The family is so happy to be in their new home. The kids told us, "It can rain as hard as it wants, we are not worried about it anymore!"

A huge thank you to our friends at Living Water UMC and Wamego UMC for helping to improve the lives of Nicolas, Catarina, Pablo and Paulina!

Diabetes Walk Together

Isabela, a diabetic participant in Caminemos Juntos, had a stroke in February that left her with facial paralysis. We were so sad when she didn’t show up to the classes because she has been very participative in the program. With the other club participants we decided to visit her at her house. She was overjoyed to see us and she told her daughter that they had to give a healthy snack to her friends from Caminemos Juntos. Her excitement inspired us to do a class at her house on March 18th. It was a joyful event for everybody involved, especially for her. We have been visiting Isabela and checking her blood sugar levels. She is improving and recovering her ability to speak. We are planning to host another Caminemos Juntos meeting at her home very soon.

At ODIM we believe that the support our programs provide reaches far beyond the information and medical services we provide participants. In our diabetes club, Caminemos Juntos, we also provide a space for individuals confronting a common health challenge to support one another. Isabela’s story provides us with a small reminder of how social solidarity can help aid recovery and promote overall health.

Dec. 1st, Giving Tuesday: Match your gift!


Last year, in the 24 hours of Giving Tuesday, generous people like you blessed the work of ODIM Guatemala with $22,500. Those gifts made possible (among many things) the launch of an initiative to combat malnutrition in mothers and infants that we call, “Healthy Mommy & Me.”

I invite you to join with us in this movement of generosity and encourage you to set a reminder on your "preferred digital device" to give to ODIM Guatemala at midnight (Central Time) Tuesday, December 1.

Why midnight? This is a global match and if we don't act promptly, Asia, Africa and Europe will claim the $1 million in match money before we even get up and have our morning Joe!

Click below on Giving Tuesday to bless ODIM:



Jeff Hassel
Executive Director

P.S. Here are the details:

  • In case the link above does not work, you can find us on the Advance by searching for “ODIM-Organization for the Development of the Indigenous Maya,” or by using our Advance project number: 3022039
  • The mission agency of the United Methodist Church has allocated matching funds dollar-for-dollar up to the first $1 million in gifts that will be made online through a program called the "Advance."
  • To qualify, your gift must be received between 12:00 a.m. and 11:59 pm (Central Time) on December 1, 2015.
  • Up to $2,500 per individual gift to ODIM will be dispersed as matching funds, up to a maximum of $25,000 in total match funds to ODIM.
  • ODIM will receive every penny of your gift.
  • Anyone can donate—affiliation with the Methodist church is not needed.
  • Your gift will be used impactfully where it is needed most, in service to ODIM's communities.
  • The Life of a Young Nurse Changes with her First Paycheck

    Do you remember the day you received your first "real" paycheck?  How did you feel?  I remember feeling on top of the world!

    One of my greatest pleasures at ODIM is when I pay our staff.  Our Business Manager, Pedro Mendez, and I count out the salaries for each employee (yes, CASH, as very few here have bank accounts) and set up a table with a chair for me and a chair for employees.  One by one, I invite them to the office, offer coffee, pay them, and then we do a "check-in" - taking a few minutes to talk.

    Last Friday, a recent graduate from nursing school received her first salary as a nurse.  She came to us as one of four students who practiced their skills at our clinics and distinguished herself as intelligent, personable and dedicated in her work.  As a result, we offered her a job. 

    When I paid her, tears welled-up in her eyes as she told me that many times she had promised her mom and dad to pay them back in some way for the sacrifices they made to put her through school.  Wanting more than anything to bless her family on her first payday, she said, "Today I will give this money to my parents."    In front of my eyes this young woman's life seemed to shift in the direction of being an adult and personally, I am grateful that people like her are working with ODIM.

    The mission of ODIM Guatemala is to serve our two communities via competent, caring, comprehensive healthcare and educational services.  We also are in the business of developing lives.  Thanks for your support.



    Jeff Hassel
    Executive Director

    Three New Team Members Each Bring Something Special

    I'd like to introduce you to the new International Staff of ODIM Guatemala.  These persons come to us as the result of months of searching for the right people to join us, and each brings strong skill sets and the desire to make a difference with ODIM in this remote place.  They will complement our capable Guatemalan staff of 30 full and part-time employees and I'm glad they are here!

    Jan Capps has joined ODIM as Clinic Administrator.  She holds a Masters of Public Health degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has over 20 years experience in community and public health, including two years in Guatemala as a Community Organizer for a health program in the Peten region.  Her career has focused on building local capacity and increasing healthcare access for the underserved, particularly for immigrants and migrant farm workers.  In particular, she developed a statewide network for immigrant victims of domestic violence, assisted communities to open and expand migrant health centers, advocated to state and federal policy makers to expand and strengthen health centers, and has secured and overseen numerous large federal and private grants.  She has extensive experience in popular education, the community health worker (promoter) model, developing systems and processes, policy analysis, program planning and evaluation, and nonprofit operations and management.  Jan also brings a data driven focus and a quality improvement orientation to the work. 
    Though originally from North Carolina, she has been living for the past 11 years in Seattle, WA with her 10 year old daughter, Solanes, who is accompanying her on this adventure.  




    Libby Sittley  recently arrived to Guatemala as the new Administrator of International Volunteer Programs for ODIM.  Libby received her Masters degree in International Relations from American University’s School of International Service in 2011 and spent several years working with unaccompanied minors in the Washington, DC area, monitoring their safety, access to mental and medical health resources, academic success and legal representation.   Prior to coming to ODIM, Libby taught English to college students in Micronesia! She looks forward to this new adventure with ODIM.




    Milton Ilovares  joins ODIM through the Global Mission Fellows Program of the United Methodist Church and will be working in International Volunteer Programs and ODIM Communications. Milton is fluent in Spanish and English. His life changed when, at the age of 13, his mother signed him up to volunteer with a team of medical missionaries through his home church in Honduras. Milton began to work regularly with mission teams as translator. Later on he started leading and coordinating teams of volunteers in Honduras. Milton developed a strong faith and a calling to serve after many years of struggles in his life. This calling has brought him to join the ODIM team to share his talents with our team and our communities.

    Please join me in welcoming these incredible new team members!

    -Jeff Hassel, Executive Director

    Mr. Mayor, Please Plug us in

    When you’re working in small-town Guatemala, sometimes things are hard to plan for. Who could have thought that a year and a half after the dedication of the San Pablo clinic that we’d still be buying electricity from a neighbor a block away and running it via a hefty electric cord? 

    For the first 7 months of 2015, ODIM Business Manager Pedro Mendez, tried his hand as a community organizer. His task: create unity out of a highly divided group of our neighbors and meet with the mayor to try and broker a deal in which the town would pay part of the cost, as there is an entire row of homes just below the clinic that also are without electric service. With our jerry-rigged system, we cannot run our ultrasound machine, refrigerator and kitchen equipment, or all of our lights. It looks like the total cost will be around $10,000 to buy right-of-ways, install utility poles, do the legal work and pay the electric company to connect us all.

    As this is an election year, Pedro counselled our neighbors not to do anything that would irritate the current mayor. To his chagrin, several of our neighbors painted their homes in the color of the Patriot Party, a rival political party. The negotiation process unceremoniously screeched to a halt. The good news for trying again in 2016: our neighbors read their tea leaves correctly and the Patriot Party won the mayoral election in San Pablo.

    ODIM holds no political affiliation and we seek to serve our often-divided communities evenhandedly. Still, we don’t work in a vacuum; what we often see is that in small Guatemalan communities where everybody knows everybody, complex and shifting alliances can move mountains. Although we advised against the move, we are hoping that the orange houses of our neighbors will help move electricity into our little part of town, powering our clinic to serve everyone in the town.

    Stimulating our Economy

     image from Prensa Libre

    image from Prensa Libre

    Although the economy is growing in Guatemala, rates of inequality and absolute poverty persist. A September 13, 2015 article in “La Prensa Libre”  (Guatemala’s largest newspaper) states that from 1996 to 2014, the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) grew between 2.4% and 6.3% annually (with the exception of 2009, in which it only grew 0.5%). Growth, however, does not necessarily mean better lives for the country’s poor. During the same years, the percentage of people living in poverty fell just 3% to 53.71% of the population, and the percentage of those living in extreme poverty fell just 2% to 13.33% of the population. (La Prensa Libre, September 13, 2015. Rosa Maria Bolanos. P. 3)

    ODIM operates in a rural part of Guatemala. In areas like ours, the rates of poverty and extreme poverty are even higher than those mentioned above. Here, the cost to feed, clothe, educate and maintain a family of five is about $807 a month. As of April 2015, the minimum salary was about $353 per month. However, most of the people we serve do not have salaried jobs. Many are agricultural workers. Cultivating the high-quality coffee for export many of us may have enjoyed, they earn about $5.35 per day. Work is highly seasonal, and for the months where there is no work to be found in the coffee fields, people must find other ways to get by.

    How do we respond?

    To start with, we offer healthcare and medicines at highly-subsidized rates that are affordable to the people in our towns. We ask patients that can to give about $1.35 for their medical consult and any medicine they need. This amount covers one-tenth the costs of what they receive. The rest is paid for by loyal friends like you, with much of our medicine brought by volunteer teams (who purchase them wholesale from Blessings International).

    We also provide work opportunities and consistent incomes to our staff. We pay a good wage and we pay on time. The monthly average salary for our full-time Guatemalan employees is more than 20% above minimum wage. We offer three weeks of paid vacation each year, a week of paid sick time or personal days, and free healthcare at our clinics. In addition, ODIM Guatemala offers scholarships for university education to all our full-time employees and bi-weekly continuing education classes for all 35 of our staff in order to improve our skills and our service. 

     Monica Leja, san pablo receptionist

    Monica Leja, san pablo receptionist

    While economic gains at the national level do not necessarily mean better lives for rural Guatemalans, organizations like ODIM can affect change at the community level. We are an economic engine in our communities, and we’re proud to be creating jobs, making healthcare affordable, and opening up educational opportunities that will help serve the community for years to come.

    -Jeff Hassel, Executive Director

    A Day in the Life of ODIM

    Back in July, we made a connection with the NGO “Unlocking Silent Histories”, a group that teaches young Maya people to use cameras and video to unlock the histories of their people. Borrowing from a LIFE magazine idea (A Day in the Life of the USA, Russia, etc.), I asked Unlocking Silent Histories to teach eight of our ODIM promoters the basics of photograph composition and we then set them loose to take pictures of every activity and all personnel of ODIM.

    The result was the “world premiere” Powerpoint presentation of A Day in the Life of ODIM, showcasing the 100 best photos selected from the 1600 taken. For the premiere, we served up popcorn and fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and watched the show after one of our regularly scheduled Wednesday afternoon training events for all staff.  

    -Jeff Hassel, Executive Director



    Why We Build

    Our focus here at ODIM is on building and maintaining quality health and education programs to serve the communities of San Juan and San Pablo La Laguna. Our primary projects are our 2 clinics, our dental clinic, health education programs and scholarship program. However most of our volunteers come down to work on constructing new homes, and won't see much of our other programs besides a short tour of our clinics. So it always felt to me that the construction of these homes is a bit disconnected from the rest of our mission to improve health and education. Interested in seeing the effect housing can I have on health, I decided to do some research into the subject. 

    A recent article published by NPR provided some incredible stastics. The first that stuck out to me is that just by switching from a dirt floor to a concrete one, there is a 78% reduction in parasitic infections. Gastro-intestinal illnesses are the number 1 killer in Guatemala, and are one of the most common issues we treat in our clinics. While we can give someone a medication that will kill a parasite, are we truly creating sustainable change if they go back to a living situation in which most likely they'll again become infected? The article, which drew information from a Mexican study in 2007, goes on to explain that switching from a dirt floor to a concrete floor, there is a a 49% reduction in diarrhea, an 81% reduction in anemia and a 36 to 96 percent improvement in cognitive development.

    There are of course many other health issues that come into play with low quality housing: poor ventilation which can cause mold or respiratory illnesses due to smoke, a higher prevelence of anxiety and depression and the dangers of having a structually unsound home in a region prone to earthquakes and mud slides. We at ODIM see health as the foundation which allows someone to build a better life. At the core of that is a belief in the power of prevention to create better health outcomes. Perhaps one of the most powerful tools of prevention we have, is building clean, healthy and safe housing for those people most in need. 

    The current home of the family in San Pablo that will be receiving the next home built by ODIM Volunteers.

    House completed in August by group from University Park UMC in Dallas, Texas

    That's why we're so thankful to all our volunteers, be they medical or construction volunteers, for their hard work towards improving the lives of the people of San Pablo. Better health is not just something provided by medical professionals, but is something we can all work towards with something as simple as laying a concrete floor. 

    -Joel Enright, Volunteer Coordinator

    Interested in bringing a construction or medical volunteer team to Guatemala? Please e-mail Joel at ODIM.VolunteerCoordinator@gmail.com