Meet the UPAVIMas

Guatemala Connection

We will soon be welcoming five women from the UPAVIM cooperative in Guatemala City to Downers Grove. They will be here from October 3 to 11, staying with DGFUMC families and participating in the life of the church, including worship, Sunday School, UMW meetings, etc. They will also see the outreach activities of our congregation, such as PADS and Family Shelter Services. They will be accompanied by Brian Tyler, an American working for Sister Parish, the organization that coordinates our connection to Guatemala.

Aldina Antonia Velasquez NavarroAldina Antonia Velásquez Navarro

Aldina Antonia Velásquez Navarro was born March 1, 1959 in the town of el Carmen Palestina de los Altos Quetzaltenango.

At the age of 9 she began to work to help with her family. She has eight children, four boys and four girls, and has sixteen grandchildren. She is the survivor of domestic abuse.

In 1988 she met Barbara and Richard Fenske. In 1989, she participated in the first Sister Parish delegation in Guatemala to La Esperanza. Through this experience she has become a great supporter of Sister Parish and other communities in Guatemala.

After leaving her education for a number of years she graduated high-school in 1998. She notes her participation in UPAVIM as her saving grace. She is one of the original founders of UPAVIM and works in the daycare. She is a active member in her church and community. She enjoys encouraging other women in her community to continue their studies regardless of their age.

Tirsa Verena Lopez MoralesTirsa Verena Lopez Morales

Tirsa Verena Lopez Morales was born in September 11, 1973 and has been a residence of El Mezquital for 30 years. She is a mother of two children a 19 and 12 year old. Her sons name is Billy Brandon Javier and Genesis Sara Abigail. She has been divorced for 5 years and is a survivor of domestic violence.
At the year of 15 years old she began her studies. This was due to family problems. In UPAVIM she has had the opportunity to receive training in computer skills, Basic English, accounting, and also learned to drive a car. UPAVIM has been a blessing in her life. She now has the opportunity to provide education to her children and pay for her house.

She is very committed to her church and community. Her post in UPAVIM is the Wharehouse Coordinator. She is very excited to participate in this trip and is counting the days until she comes off the plane and finally meets all those from First United Methodist. Her goals for the future are to continue studying English, become a licensed translator, provide education to her daughter, and to make improvements on her house.

Milca Abimael Lopez EscobarMilca Abimael Lopez Escobar

Milca Abimael Lopez Escobar was born in November 16, 1977. She is married and has 3 children. Their names are Eliézer, Miguel, and Daniel. Her goals are to meet and share her life experiences with the congregation of First United Methodist.

Milca has been working in UPAVIM for 5 years. She describes her experience as “beautiful and a pleasure.” She states “UPAVIM has helped me in personal develop and also as a mother.”

Blanca Estela PerezBlanca Estela Pérez

Blanca Estela Pérez was born June 4, 1963 in San Salvador, El Salvador in a town called Soyapango. When she was one year old she moved with her parents to Guatemala. Her mother died when she was 16 years old. After her mothers death she began to work and continue her studies. After the death of her father years later she began to work in a daycare where she met her husband.

At age 20 she had her first child. That same year she became involved in UPAVIM working in arts and crafts. UPAVIM has taught her to value herself and abilities. She now has three children. She is a very joyful person and has a grandson who 3 years old. She has never been in a airplane and is very happy to be traveling. She is waiting for the opportunity to meet the people in Downer's Grove and wishes blessings to all those that helped to make this trip possible.

Engrada Bethel Gabriel GasparEngrada Bethel Gabriel Gaspar

Engrada Bethel Gabriel Gaspar was born August 18, 1978 in Guatemala City. At age 7 her father died in a accident. Her mother and her began to work in order to maintain her family. She has a 16 year old daughter and two sons that are 11 and 9. Their names are Marlene, Luis, and Gael.

She has been working in UPAVIM for 8 years and is the Vice President UPAVIM. She feel proud to be a member of UPAVIM foremost because of her personal growth and the opportunity to work from home.  Her goals for the future are: to continue working to support her kids with their studies,  to take advantage of the opportunities that UPAVIM provides, and be able support the growth of the organization, her community and country.

She is very happy for this opportunity to travel and especially to get to know  and share with the community of First United Methodist.

Brian TylerBrian “Alejandro” Tyler

Brian “Alejandro” Tyler will be accompanying the delegation as the Guatemala Regional Coordinator of Sister Parish, which promotes intercultural and ecumenical understanding by establishing linkages between churches in the United States and faith-based communities in Central America.

Sister Parish participants travel as peacemakers, opting for and identifying with the poor, being one with Christ and thus reflecting the quality gifts of a shared spirit: a deeper faith, a broader vision, a greater understanding of important issues, and new relationships.

Brian is a Memphis, TN native who obtained his B.A. in Global Studies from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He joined Peace Corps where he served in a small Kakchiquel town in the highlands of Guatemala for two and a half years. His primary work in Peace Corps included project development, technical training, and conducting community analysis. Through his work, Brian has become connected with Guatemala in a very real way and now calls Guatemala home with his wife and child.

Copyright © 2018 First United Methodist Church, Downers Grove. Please report any problems to