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Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity

February 10, 2013

Guam – Friday, February 1

I was up early again, but I made good use of the time, and tracked down a couple more places to call about donations. A little later I got in touch with the lady in charge of the local Senior Citizen’s Nutrition program, which is pretty much like a Meals-on-Wheels program. She gave me some detailed directions and said her location wasn’t far away from where I was. And then I called the Habitat for Humanity office, and the lady there also gave me very detailed directions – using only one road name and landmarks!

I visited the Meals on Wheels place first, and found them upstairs in a building behind a restaurant. The volunteers were busy cooking the lunches and it smelled good! I spoke with Betty, the director of the program, who’s been working there for 14 years. She said they deliver almost 1200 lunches all over the island every day. Plus they have about another 700 senior citizens who are able to come in on their own for a meal. Feeding 2000 people a day on a small island is way more than I would have expected. She told me part of the reason so many senior citizens need help is the high cost of food, and the fact that younger family members sometimes leave the island to see if they can make a better living elsewhere, and that sometimes leaves the older people in a situation where they need assistance.

Then I made my way to the Habitat for Humanity office, and met Andrea, who has a lot of enthusiasm for helping numerous non-profit organizations. When she found out what I was doing, she was happy to share her knowledge of local non-profit aid organizations, and I got some good leads of groups who can use some help, but don’t have a website, so I wouldn’t have known anything about them if I hadn’t stopped here. I was really happy to get some of this information, and a couple of the organizations appealed to me right away. The local Habitat for Humanity doesn’t have a lot of funding, but over the years they have built about 25 houses. They are now starting to do some teamwork with another organization which should greatly increase the numbers of houses they can build. There are many families who live in sub-standard housing, and bit by bit they’re trying to help. Concrete homes and stores are the preference here – concrete can withstand the earthquakes and typhoons better than wood homes, or older ones made with corrugated aluminum. The concrete can be painted, so there’s a variety of colorful buildings. Andrea also told me about the need for safer bus shelters, which are also better if they’re concrete, and she’s helped with painting some of them, and has helped clean up school areas and stuff. I spent quite a bit of time there, and learned a lot, and got some good leads for future donations.

Since I was meeting my friend Lisa from Samoa for an early dinner (she had to come to Guam on business for a week after Samoa), I decided to postpone my drive around the southern end of the island until tomorrow. But I had to get some walking in, so I set off along the pretty Tumon Bay area again (there’s a shortage of sidewalks in many other areas and I’m not trekking through the steep jungle terrain by myself where the snakes are!) and passed all the hotels and resorts, and then I went around a bend in the road where I’d turned around before, and discovered the sidewalk went on and on, and there was another whole part of the town I hadn’t seen! I was astonished to find that stretch of the road was home to just about every designer store I could think of – Gucci, Prada, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Coach, Rolex, etc. etc. I found out later that Guam doesn’t charge any tax, and is duty free, which makes prices for all these designer items lower than they are in many other places. It was just kind if unexpected to see all of this after spending the morning hearing about so many local people who are in need of food assistance and adequate housing. Guam is far away for North Americans and Europeans to come shopping, but the Asian countries are only 3-4 hours away, so it’s a convenient flight for them. That all made for a good long walk, and then I went back to the hotel and found a message waiting for me from a newspaper person, and an email from a TV reporter! I played phone tag with the newspaper person (Andrea from Habitat for Humanity apparently used to work for a newspaper) and set up a time with the TV reporter for Monday (she’s married to one of the national park rangers I met on Wednesday – also originally from Michigan).

Then I drove to Hagatna (pronounced like Aganya – I had some pronunciation troubles here again!) to meet Lisa and we had some good salad and lasagna and then got frozen yogurt for dessert. It was fun catching up with her again and comparing notes about what we had seen and done, even though she’d been busy with work and I’d only been on Guam for a couple days. We chatted for quite a while, and then she had to pack for her flight home, and I went back to the motel to get organized for a donation visit in the morning and then a drive around the island.
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