|Lined up for a welcoming ceremony, Acul girls showcase their traditional garb. The red skirts are particular to that region of Guatemala, while the embroidery is specific to the village.|
It’s the third year these businesses have partnered with the families in Acul. Owners and staff from Alderidge Construction have made trips to their partner community in Guatemala since 2016; a year later joined by Stattonrock Design & Build. In 2018 they joined forces with Balzer Brushing and Ferguson Moving & Storage. This past October, the four companies hosted a fundraising event: Comunidad. Comunidad means “community” in Spanish, a fitting name for the event centered around building community between Canadians and Guatemalans in Acul.
Comunidad is also about business owners intentionally connecting with other local companies. Instead of just writing cheques to end poverty in Acul, the four businesses envisioned Comunidad as a way to include other local businesses with the meaning and purpose they have found through their partnership with the Guatemalan community.
The formal gala kicked off with a family-style dining experience provided by White Table Catering. As the night progressed, guests bid on silent auction prize items—ones which local businesses donated. The hilarious Cliff Prang also hosted a raucous live auction, selling off scenic flights, a jet boat tour, a skydiving experience, and other items generously given for Acul’s cause.
|The Mennonite Jazz Committee serenades guests for the evening.|
It’s uncommon for businesses in the same industry to work together without competition. Randi Dueck of Stattonrock Design & Build explains, “In our industry, you’re doing your thing, holding your cards close, keeping your secrets.” The Duecks, however, saw a broader vision for their lives and their business. For them, their partnership with Acul meant cooperating and sharing with other businesses in the industry. It also meant that their work and personal lives began to merge. Randi says, “It all became one. And because we’re self-employed, it’s our lifestyle. It needs to have God as the centre and focus.”
At Alderidge Construction, business owners Mark Shatford and Erik Toews grappled with a similar desire for purpose within the company. Their organization employs several people who once had a passion to be involved in ministry who have since settled into a comfortable routine work.
Erik explains, “We have all these bible college guys. [From] CBC, Bethany, Briarcrest, Trinity Western. They thought they were going to be in ministry. How do we keep these guys excited about a job that they [didn’t plan] to be involved in?” Alderidge Construction has since been passionate about involving their employees with the mission of ending poverty in Acul.
“We wanted people to have direction and to feel like they were part of something, not just putting in a punch card,” Mark says. As a result, members of Alderidge Construction have made the annual trip to Acul in Guatemala to experience the transformation happening there.
Thanks to this faithful group of businesses, the community in Acul is well on its way from stuck to thriving. Laura Balzer from Ferguson Moving & Storage recounts her experience during a visit to Acul. Describing the FH’s women’s savings group program there, Laura says: “When they first initiate these programs, women are scared to come, they feel like they don’t have anything to offer.” But like their community, the women of Acul began to gain a sense of hope.
|FH's community training programs have armed women with confidence and leadership skills.|
“In time, they were able to make eye contact and practice writing and reading without fear of making mistakes, and [when] we got there they were presenting to us foreigners with confidence, proud of what they’ve accomplished. We were all so emotional and proud of these women for what they were able to do for their community,” says Laura.
Plans are in the works for the next Comunidad fundraising event, and businesses are increasingly interested in partnering with overseas communities. Transformation in Acul is ongoing.