German Chub Choc

These posts are about German Chub Choc, a Mayan Q’eq’chi human rights defender who sustained a spinal cord injury in 2009 from an unprovoked attack by a private security guard hired by HudBay Minerals, a Canadian nickel mining company, which had a history of brutalizing his community El Estor. Since the attack, German Choc has become a powerful advocate in pursuit of justice from HudBay.

Update from El Estor & brief history of this blog for new readers

I’m very flattered to see that the number of people who subscribe to my blog has grown these past two weeks–I’m guessing in response to my post about Michael Brown’s death. There are many ideas in that post that I cut out in an earlier draft, and I am planning to revisit these thoughts in an upcoming post. In the meantime, I would like to give my newer readers some background for why I began this blog, and provide a much needed update on the community of El Estor, Guatemala.

In 2012, I attended the Guatemala Human Rights Commission’s (GHRC) fall speakers tour where community activist Maria Choc spoke about how the Canadian Nickel Mining Company, HudBay Minerals, had brutalized her community–how its security forces had raped eleven women, murdered community leader Adolfo Ich, and shot and paralyzed a young man named German Chub Choc. My accounts of the history of El Estor and Maria Choc’s talk can be found here and here. I was very moved by Maria’s talk–her description of the atrocities El Estor had experienced, and how the community was fighting back through a lawsuit against HudBay Minerals and resiliently rebuilding their lives. I wanted to do something, and when a member of the audience had asked, “what can we do to help?” Maria stated that the community needed funds for a wheelchair and German’s ongoing medical needs, as well as startup capital so he could independently operate a corner store.

Coming from a disability rights perspective, raising funds so that German could experience greater independence and inclusion appealed to me. I set up an Etsy store and created this blog as a forum to explain how and why I was selling my handmade crafts. I also wrote about issues intersecting with my project, like the Affordable Health Care Act’s effect on people with disabilities, and reflections on social justice. I soon discovered that making felt purses is a very inefficient way to fundraise, even more so when no one buys them. The organization Rights Action, which works in solidarity with Central Americans to improve human rights, launched an appeal to fund a home for German and his family.

Since then, my blog has undergone some shifts, but remains a forum where I, as the no longer misspelled tagline states, share resources and reflect on issues pertaining to social justice, human rights, and disability. Included in this catchall, is news about German Chub Choc and El Estor, which can be found here, and now I have a few updates.

1. Mynor Padilla, the former head of HudBay security, responsible for shooting German and seven other people, and murdering Adolfo Ich, remains in jail. I am sad to report that German is being harassed by people agitating for Mynor Padilla’s release, and German is experiencing health problems from conditions associated with his spinal cord injury. Rights Action. “Hudbay Minerals: Stop the Harassment in Guatemala Concerning Mining Related Criminal and Civil Lawsuits.” August 22, 2014.

2. The people’s court in Canada held a mock trial for the El Estor lawsuit against HudBay, and the verdict was guilty. Under-mining Guate. “HudBay Minerals Declared Corporate Criminals in People’s Trial.” May 8, 2014.

3. The documentary film Defensora, which tells the story of El Estor’s lawsuit against HudBay Minerals, was screened in Canada on April 22, 2014. The trailer is included in this link. The Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN).” April 22–Defensora Screening.” March 25, 2014.


New and Noteworthy: Awesome blogs from my friends & Defensora debut

The Blogs

1. The Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC) visits a Qanjobal community in Omaha, NE:

2. The Health Equity and Policy Blog:

3. Feminist Collective Blog:

4. Two Disability Rights Blogs: Claiming Crip: and Dealing with Dyautonomia:  are written by my two talented friends who interned with AAPD (American Association of People with Disabilities) this summer, and share their thoughts on disability theory, rights, and policies as well as their personal experiences.

Defensora Debuts in the US

The Documentary Defensora, about the Mayan Q’eqchi’ community El Estor’s resistance against mining in Guatemala, debuts in the United States. The link to the Defensora website is here: and my pots tagged German Chub Choc detail the awe-inspiring courage of the El Estor Community with a focus on German Chub Choc, a Mayan Q’eqchi man who sustained a spinal cord injury after he was shot in an unprovoked attack by a security guard from HudBay Minerals.

New and Noteworthy: Steps to justice in El Estor, ADA turns 26, and interacting with people with disabilities

1.  Canadian Mining Company HudBay Minerals will be tried in Canadian courts for murdering, shooting, and gang-raping Guatemalans and My posts tagged German Choc describe how the Guatemalan community El Estor was brutalized by the Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals. Between 2007 and 2009, eleven women from the town of Lote 8 were gang raped, community leader Adolfo Ich Chaman was murdered, and German Chub Choc was shot in an unprovoked attack. Since these attacks, German Chub Choc; Adolfo’s widow Angelica Choc; community leader Maria Choc; and Rosa Elbria Ich Choc and Margarita Caal Caal, two representatives from Lote 8 formed a delegation to seek justice against HudBay in the Canadian legal system. I am so happy to report that as declared on Tuesday, July 23rd, their case against HudBay will proceed to trial in Canada!

2. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) turned 23 AAPD (American Association for Persons with Disabilities) 2013 Interns produced this YouTube video explaining how the ADA has affected their lives.

3. Excellent Journalist Tiffiny Carlson gives an articulate explanation of 10 ways to interact with people with disabilities Tiffiny’s list is great, and I couldn’t agree more with Number 10 “the golden rule.” A few years ago, I was at the Association for Blind Citizen’s Holiday Party, having a great time meeting and chatting with folks with and without sight, but when two blind acquaintances started walking toward each other each unaware of each other’s presence, I became tongue-tied, unable to say the simplest thing to let them know each other was there because I was wracking my brain for the right thing to say to prevent them from bumping into each other. As they both came to a stop, aware of each other when their canes touched, I awkwardly asked, “so what do I say when I see someone blind about to bump into someone or something? Both people turned to look at me and said, “you can say stop.‘”

My time in Guatemala

After returning from Guatemala, it feels difficult to find the suitable place to start describing my journey. Many shifts have occurred, both within my own journey, and in the world. A historic update that I will describe in my next post, Efrian Rios Montt and Jose Rodriguez Sanchez will stand trial for charges of  genocide.

Relating to the theme of hard-won justice, as I mentioned in my previous post, November 2012 also marked a journey for German Chub Choc. On November 23, 2012, German Chub Choc along with four other community members from El Estor traveled to Canada to seek justice in the Canadian Legal System for the harms HudBay Minerals committed against them. The other members of the delegation from El Estor were Community Leader Maria Cuc; Angelica Choc, who is the widow of murdered leader Adolfo Ich; Rosa Elbira and Margarita Caal, representing eleven women from the remote village of Lote 8. At the end of my post, I have linked to an article and two videos covering the delegation. These three sources all emphasize the great courage, patience, and persistence of the delegation for seeking justice in a foreign court.

My fellow students along with teachers, caretakers, and coordinators, standing in front of the Mountain School

My fellow students and I along with teachers, caretakers, and coordinators, standing in front of the Mountain School

To move onto my own journey to a foreign country, I studied at La Esceula de la Montaña/the Mountain School for three weeks. During those three weeks, I studied Spanish for four hours each day, and I ate all my meals with families who lived in two local communities, Fatima and Nuevo San Jose. The communities’ partnership with the School provides them with a stipend and gives us students an opportunity to learn about rural Guatemalan life. More than learn, I was tremendously humbled by the families’ hospitality and moved by their stories of how they came to live in the area. The residents of both Fatima and Nuevo San Jose originally lived and worked on coffee plantations where the plantation owners exploited them. After struggling for their rights to wages, both communities obtained hard-won victories whose terms required them to leave their homes and resettle elsewhere. I have written the full stories of Fatima and Nuevo San Jose as testimonies in English and Spanish.  The Spanish versions are in the process of being checked for accuracy by the communities, after which, I would be happy to share them on my blog.

I arrived at La Escuela de la Montana with a fifty pound tote bag, that one of the school’s caretakers, Ruben, generously carried from the Minerva Bus Terminal to the School’s Gate. The tote bag held 45 Spanish books, the majority of which were fiction and non fiction generously collected by my friend Agnes from the Racine Public Library in Wisconcin. I also brought books on the topics of Guatemalan and Latin American Human Rights donated by the Guatemalan Human Rights Collection, as well as Mayan story books and a Spanish translation of Louisa May Alcott´s ¨Little Women¨(Mujercitas), which my friend purchased from Guatemala City´s book fair in the Central Park (Parque Central).

I developed a plan to re-organize the various sections of the library in a classification system based on age level and Guatemala educational system. I chose this system after speaking with the library worker and Mountain School Coordinator and learning about the library’s goals to provide resources to help students with their homework and promote literacy among people of all ages.  The library implemented this classification plan in December, and books were easier for the community to locate and for the library worker to maintain. Now back in the United States, I am planning a fundraising and outreach campaign for the Community Library. I look forward to sharing updates on this project.

Learn more about The El Estor Delegation to Canada

1. The Canadian Channel CBC covered two news stories documenting the journey of the El Estor delegation to seek justice in Canada’s courts.  In addition to the five delegates, the story features Grahame Russell from Rights Action. CBC The National. “The Long Road.” and CBC The National.  “Seeking Justice”

2. Russell, Grahame. Rights Action. “Clashing World Views at the Crossroads.” December 20, 2012. Grahame Russell accompanied the El Estor Delegation to Canada, and recounts the experience in this thoughtful article. 

Learn more about The Mountain School & Otto Renee Castillo Library

1. La Escuela de la Montana. “Community Library.” December 26, 2011. This is the official website for La Escuela de la Montana (the Mountain School)’s Otto Renee Castillo Community Library.

Mi tiempo en Guatemala

Después mi retorno a Guatemala, parece difícil encontrar el lugar para comenzar a describir mi travesía. Hay muchos cambios, en mi travesía y en el mundo. Un cambio histórico que describiré en mi próximo mensaje, es que Efraín Ríos Montt y José Rodríguez Sánchez tendrán un juicio por genocidio.

En el tema de justicia, como dije en mi mensaje anterior, en Noviembre de 2012, German Chub Choc se embarcó en una travesía. El y otras cuatro personas de El Estor fueron a Canadá para buscar la justicia en el sistema legal de Canadá por los abusos que la compañía de minería HudBay Minerales cometió. Los cuatros otros, Los otros cuatro de la delegación eran el líder María Cuc; Angélica Choc, la viuda del líder Adolfo Ich; Rosa Elbira y Margarita Caal, las ultimas dos representaban a las once mujeres del Lote 8 que los policías de HudBay violaron. Al final de mi artículo, hay enlaces a un artículo y dos documentales que describían la delegación. Los tres describen el coraje, persistencia, y paciencia de la delegación por el acto de buscar justicia en un tribunal extranjero.

Para describir mi travesía en un país extranjero, estudié en La Escuela de la Montaña por tres semanas. Durante las tres semanas, estudiaba español por cuatro horas cada día, y comía todas las comidas con las familias que viven en dos comunidades locales que se llaman Fátima y Nuevo San José. Las comunidades tienen una relación con la Escuela en que las familias reciben un estipendio  y los estudiantes reciben una oportunidad para aprender sobre la vida rural Guatemalteca. Además de, estaba conmovida por la hospitalidad de las familias y sus testimonios sobre cómo se mudaron a las aldeas. Las personas de Fátima y Nuevo San José eran trabajadores en las fincas de café donde el dueño los explotaba. Después de una lucha por sus derechos y dinero, las comunidades obtuvieron la victoria que necesitaban y como consecuencia tuvieron que irse sus casa y encontrar una nueva comunidad para vivir. Escribí los testimonios de Fátima y Nuevo San José en inglés y español. Las versiones en español están  en el proceso de validación por las comunidades. Después, quiero compartir los testimonios en mi blog.

Llegue a La Escuela de la Montaña con un bolsa de cincuenta libras, y Rubén, un seguridad de la escuela la llevó de la terminal Minerva a la puerta de la Escuela. La bolsa tenía cuarenta y cinco libros dentro, la mayoría eran las novelas y los libros educativos que mi amiga Agnes recogió de la biblioteca pública de Wisconsin. Hay libros de los temas de la historia y los derechos humanos de Guatemala, que fueron donados por la Comisión de los derechos humanos de Guatemala. Mi amiga Kathryn compró los cuentos Mayas y las novelas en la feria en la Ciudad de Guatemala.

Creé un plan para reorganizar las secciones de la biblioteca en un sistema basado de la edad y el sistema educativo en Guatemala. Elegí ese sistema después de hablar con la mujer que trabaja en la biblioteca y la coordinadora de la Escuela. Ellas me dijeron sobre la meta de la biblioteca para dar los libros que ayudan los estudiantes con su tarea. Ellas quieren promocionar la alfabetización con la gente de todas las edades. En diciembre, la biblioteca implementó ese plan, y después los libros eran más fáciles para que  la comunidad los encontrara y para que  la bibliotecaria mantuviera. Ahora, estoy planeando una campaña para aumentar los fondos para la biblioteca. Espero compartir ese plan pronto.

Para aprender más sobre la delegación El Estor a Canadá

1. Dos documentales en la noticia de Canadá.Los documentas son en Ingles.“The Long Road.” and CBC The National.  “Seeking Justice”

2. Un artículo  en ingles por un director de Rights Action, Grame Russell, que acompañaba la delegación. Russell, Grahame. Rights Action. “Clashing World Views at the Crossroads.” Diciembre 20, 2012.

Para aprender más sobre la Escuela de la Montaña y la Biblioteca Comunitaria Otto Rene Castillo

1. La Escuela de la Montana. “Community Library.” Diciembre 26, 2011.

A new journey for EdgyAmelia

Over time the focus of my blog EdgyAmelia has expanded outward from its initial vision. I started my blog as a forum to share information regarding disability rights connected to the story of German Chub Choc. This blog began as a counterpoint to my Etsy Store EdgyAmelia, where I sold crafts to raise funds that would enable German Chub Choc, a Mayan Q’eqchi human rights defender with a disability, to live more independently.

As my posts on EdgyAmelia increased, so did my interest in learning more about the forces that shaped German’s life. Now, I have the opportunity to put this interest into action. For the month of November, I will study Spanish at an Immersion School called La Esceula de la Montaña/the Mountain School, located in the mountainous coffee growing region Colomba. I will also contribute my expertise in library services as a volunteer at the Mountain School’s Community Library. I am excited to report that donations from the Racine Public Library and the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission (GHRC) will add 39 books to the Community Library.

Following my month at the Mountain School, I will test out my newfound abilities in Spanish in a professional environment at Transitions Foundation, an organization that provides comprehensive rehabilitative, educational and vocational services to Guatemalans with disabilities. My interest in Transitions Foundation was sparked when I learned that German Chub Choc underwent rehab there, and grew when I met Co-Director John Bell during my delegation with GHRC.

To explain how my time in Guatemala will affect EdgyAmelia:

  • I have put my Etsy Store  on hiatus until my return to the United States
  • I will continue to use my blog to share my experiences in Guatemala, with an emphasis on Guatemalans with disabilities framed against broader issues in the disability rights movement

Although I have paused my blog posts from my most recent trip to Guatemala on the Guatemala Human Rights Commission’s Women in Resistance Delegation due to planning for my upcoming trip, my remaining delegation posts are outlined and forthcoming. I look forward to sharing my remaining stories from the memorable week.

As I draw this post to a close, I would like to circle back to the individual who set my journey into motion. In the past two months, exciting updates to German’s story have occurred. One such development is the arrest of Mynor Padilla, the private security guard hired by the nickel mining company HudBay Minerals, who shot German in an unprovoked attack in 2009. A second update is the upcoming release of the documentary film, Defensora, which chronicles German and his community’s pursuit of justice for the harms HudBay Minerals inflicted upon them. The trailer and more information regarding Defensora are available at this link:

Learn more about The Mountain School

Learn more about The Otto René Castillo Community Library

Learn more about Transitions Foundation

Highlights from GHRC’s 30th Anniversary Celebration and Update on German Chub Choc

From Left to Right: Rob Mercatante introduces the Alice Zachman Human Rights Defender Award, which Sister Alice Zachman herself presents to Alvaro Sandoval Palencia and Antonio Reyes Romero for their inspiring demonstration of peaceful resistance in their communities against transnational mining corporations.

Thursday, September 27, 2012 was 30th Anniversary Celebration for the Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC). GHRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, humanitarian organization that monitors, documents, and reports on the human rights situation in Guatemala, advocates for survivors of human rights abuses and works toward positive, systemic change in Guatemala.  GHRC is also the organization with whom I traveled to Guatemala on their annual “Women in Resistance” delegation. In the year since I have moved to Washington, DC, my awareness of the human rights situation in Guatemala and the tremendous scope of GHRC’s work has grown. Eager to express my appreciation for GHRC’s staunch solidarity and advocacy on behalf of Guatemalan human rights, and how the three staff members balance their intense work in two countries with tremendous expertise and kindness, I volunteered at the Celebration. I enjoyed meeting guests and connecting with friends and fellow supporters, all of whom “have Guatemala in their hearts.”

The Celebration culminated in the presentation of an award named for GHRC’s founder Sister Alice Zachman to Antonio Reyes Romero from San Jose del Golfo and Alvaro Sandoval Palencia from San Pedro Ayampuc. The two communities–San Jose and San Pedro–are engaged in peaceful resistance against the transnational mining corporations that threaten to take away their land and livelihood. Observing Tonno and Don Alvaro’s reactions to receiving the award from Sister Alice herself, was such a beautiful moment.

September 27, 2012 also marked the three year anniversary of the date that German Chub Choc, a Mayan Q’eqchi man from El Estor, was shot and paralyzed by a Mynor Padilla, a private security guard from HudBay Minerals and the date that Adolfo Ich Chamán, a community member from El Estor was brutally murdered.  A candle lighting ceremony took place in Guatemala City to commemorate Adolfo Ich on the evening of September 27th. Throughout the day, German Chub was on my mind, and having learned from people who have Spinal Cord Injuries that the anniversary of the injury date churns up strong emotions, I wondered how he was feeling on September 27th.

My concern and curiosity about German Chub’s feelings was met with an exciting update at the 30th Anniversary Celebration. Among the many supporters of Guatemalan human rights present at the Celebration was Annie Bird, Co-Director of Rights Action, the organization that raised funds to build German’s store and is now gathering donations to purchase land and a wheelchair accessible home for German’s family. Annie told me that on Wednesday, September 26, 2012, authorities had arrested Mynor Padilla, the former chief of security of the mine, for Adolfo Ich Chamán’s murder and the attempted murder of German Chub!

To share more about this news and what it portends for German Chub’s lawsuit against the mine, Rights Action has published a press release from KLIPPENSTEINS Barristers & Solicitors, the law firm representing Adolfo Ich’s widow and German Chub in their law suit against HudBay Minerals. I have copied and pasted the press release, published on September 28, 2012 below.

In James Rodriguez’s photograph from The Peoples’ International Health Tribunal, German Chub Choc declares: ““My life has changed completely, it is very difficult. But I will not give up. And above all, I will not remain silent about what happened to me.”


Toronto, Canada: Almost three years to the day after the brutal slaying of community leader Adolfo Ich at Hudbay Minerals’ mining project in Guatemala, Guatemalan authorities finally arrested the former chief of security of the mine, Mynor Padilla, on charges of murder and attempted murder.

While this is an important first step towards justice for Mayan communities harmed by Hudbay’s mining project, Hudbay has not yet been held to account and Canadian human rights lawsuits against Hudbay over the same allegations continue in Ontario courts.

“Astonishingly, Hudbay continues to argue that mine personnel were not involved in the murder, despite the fact that the brutal attack happened in broad daylight in front of witnesses who say Mr. Padilla was at the centre of an attack committed by a dozen mine security personnel,” said Murray Klippenstein, Canadian lawyer for Mr. Ich’s widow.

“It is time for Hudbay to own up to what happened on its watch at its mining project. Now that the man that Hudbay allowed to be put in charge of security has been arrested for murder, we hope Hudbay changes its unsupportable position, makes amends, and takes real, concrete steps to ensure that similar severe human rights abuses never again are committed at one of its projects.”

It is alleged that Mr. Padilla was on duty as chief of security at the Canadian controlled mine when he, together with other security personnel, surrounded, beat, hacked and finally shot Mr. Ich in the head in an unprovoked attack.  On the same day, Mr. Padilla is also alleged to have shot and paralyzed German Chub in a similar unprovoked attack.  Shockingly, Hudbay has confirmed that its subsidiary continued to employ and pay Mr. Padilla for at least a year after the murder while he was a fugitive from justice.

Hudbay continues to face three related corporate accountability lawsuits in Ontario courts which allege that poor management and oversight by Hudbay and its predecessor corporation led to the killing of Mr. Ich, the shooting of Mr. Chub, and the gang rapes of 13 Mayan women committed by mine company personnel at the Canadian owned and controlled mine.

“We hope that Mr. Padilla is swiftly brought to justice,” said Mr. Klippenstein.  “But as a Canadian company, HudBay still needs to answer in Canadian courts the allegations of human rights abuse at its mines.”

The first major hearing in the Canadian lawsuits is expected in March 2013.


Learn more about the Guatemala Human Rights Commission and the 30th Anniversary Celebration

1. Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA. September 29, 2012.

2. Guatemala Human Rights Updates. September 29, 2012.

Learn more about the peaceful resistance efforts in San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc

1. “Winner of 2012 Alice Zachmann Human Rights Defender Award Announced.” Guatemala Human Rights Updates. September 17, 2012.

2. Rodriguez, James. “2012-05. Third Month of Resistance Against a Radius Gold-owned Mine in Guatemala.” June 4, 2012.

Learn More about German Choc, Adolfo Ich, and the lawsuits against HudBay Minerals

1. Klippensteins, Barristers & Solicitors. Choc v. HudBay Minerals Inc. & Caal v. HudBay Minerals Inc. September 29, 2012. This link is to the official website of the three lawsuits–for Adolfo Ich’s murder, German Chub’s attempted murder, and the gang rape of 11 women from Lote Ocho against CGN, the Guatemalan subsidiary of HudBay Minerals.

2. Rodrigues, James. “2012-09. In Memoriam: Adolfo Ich Chamán.” September 27, 2012. This moving two-minute slide show commemorating Adolfo Ich is set to music played by Adolfo Ich himself. The Ich-Choc family provided the audio file to

3. Rodrigues, James. “2012-07-14. The Peoples’ International Health Tribunal: San Miguel Ixtahuacán 2012.” July 14, 2012. This powerful photoessay from provides powerful visual coverage of German Chub along with a delegation from El Estor speaking out at The People’s International Health Tribunal about the atrocities suffered at the hands of CGN, the subsidiary of HudBay Minerals.

4. Schmidt, Rachel, Adele Hinkley, and Lee K. Toepfer. Defensora. The upcoming documentary film”Defensora” documents the struggle of Mayan Qeqchi peoples in El Estor to reclaim their ancestral lands, to promote community development and environmental well-being, and to seek justice and remedy for the murder, shootings and rapes that HudBay Minerals committed. This link to the five-minute trailer is very powerful, and features German Choc speaking about his reasons for pursuing the lawsuit.

Pledging support for a home for German Chub Choc and his family

Although the focus of my blog has widened, I began EdgyAmelia as a place to share information about disability rights and human rights issues as they relate to German Chub Choc. German Choc is a young Guatemalan man of indigenous Maya Qeqchi descent. He lives in El Estor, a region harmed by HudBay Minerals, an exploitative Canadian nickel-mining corporation. In 2009, German was paralyzed when private security guards hired by HudBay Minerals’ subsidiary in Guatemala, CGN, shot him in an unprovoked attack.

I have described how HudBay Minerals’ brutalization of the Maya Qeqchi communities led to the attack in “German Choc is a Human Rights Defender–Intersectional Identities.”  German Choc will share his own story in the forthcoming documentary film Defensora. The moving trailer, which shows the people of El Estor’s struggle to attain justice against HudBay Minerals, is available at I encourage you to watch and share the trailer for Defensora through Causes, available at this link:

 Now, I wish to give an update on German Choc and his family, and share information about an exciting opportunity to support the Choc family’s self-sufficiency by raising fund for their home and land.

Update on German’s store

German Choc in his store, 2012.

Since January 2012, German has been operating a small corner store from a room in his home, where he lives with his wife and young son. The organization Rights Action, which funds and works with community human rights and development organizations in Guatemala, was able to raise the start-up funds for this store with support from individual donors and a small foundation.

Update on Choc Family

Unfortunately, German Choc and his parents are not able to sustain themselves financially. To help German Choc and his family live with greater economic security, Rights Action aims to purchase a small plot of land with a small home for German Choc to live with his wife, son, and parents. The Choc family would plan to build an addition for German’s store, and adapt the house and path to be wheelchair accessible.

German sits on the plot of land, by the bamboo walled home, where he hopes to live with his wife, young son and parents. July, 2012.

Rights Action needs help raising $22,500 for this plot of land and accessible home for the Choc family, and is seeking pledges from people to raise or donate $500 or more. The ultimate goal of purchasing the land and home is to help the Choc family acquire long-term economic self-sufficiency by providing a space where German can operate his store, and land where his parents can farm. To help the Choc family achieve long-term stability, which was violently taken from them when German was attacked:

  • I ask that you please share this post with your networks, and please consider making a pledge toward purchasing land and a home for the Choc family.
  • To make a pledge, please contact Rights Action Co-Director Grahame Russell via phone: 860-352-2448 or email:
  • Once Rights Action has acquired pledges near $22,500, Rights Action will send the entire amount to the Choc family, and ask the people who have made pledges to send Rights Action the amount they have raised.

German Choc and his family, 2012.

The Budget shows how pledges will be used to purchase land and a home for the Choc family

CANTIDAD/Quantity CONCEPTO/ Description PRECIO/Price
1 Compra de un lote, 30 x 60 metros + casita /Puchase of plot of land (approx. half-acre) + small home $15,000
1 Adaptacion y expansion de la casita, 1,432 pies de tabla / Expansion and re-modeling work on small home $5,000
24 Láminas de 10 pies / Tin roofing and building materials $500
  Mano de obra / Labor $2,000
TOTAL $22,500


Living with Spinal Cord Injury

Now that I have written eleven posts, a few themes have emerged. I feel most confident writing about disability rights issues because of my expertise in disability policy and advocacy. I feel most nervous writing about Guatemala and Guatemalans, not only because of my lack of knowledge but because I worry that I could misrepresent the complex stories of an entire country made up of approximately 14,757,316 people. I worry that my descriptions of painful histories of violence and persecution do not give enough credit to the resiliency and courage of the Guatemalan people.  For similar reasons, I have felt hesitant to write about another group who has a suffered great physical and emotional pain, and has persevered with tremendous tenacity–people living with spinal cord injuries.

Prior to researching funding opportunities for German Choc, I did not know much about spinal cord injury beyond its basic definition. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “spinal cord injury can be caused by any number of injuries to the spine, ranging from motor vehicle accidents, falls, sports injuries (particularly diving into shallow water), industrial accidents, gunshot wounds, assault, and other causes. The symptoms of a spinal cord injury are weakness and sensory loss at and below the point of the injury.”

If a person has a “complete” injury, he or she will have no sensation or ability to move at or below the injury, but if the injury is “incomplete,” the person will have some sensation or ability to move at or above the point of injury. This fact means that people with spinal cord injuries could be injured at the same level of vertebrae, yet experience great differences in their abilities to experience sensation and/or movement. I do not know whether German Choc’s injury is complete or incomplete, I simply know that he is paralyzed from the waist down when he was shot in the spine. His injury could be at the thoracic (chest) level or lumbar sacral (lower back) level.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to learn more about German Choc and how I could better advocate for funding his health needs. I have been corresponding with John Bell, who is the co-founder and Director of Transitions Foundation of Guatemala, which provides holistic health, rehabilitation, education, and job training services to Guatemalans with disabilities. John Bell and German Choc became friends while German was undergoing rehabilitation at Transitions. German needs several items for his medical and personal care, and this list is linked in the first Source Note.

In addition to learning more about German Choc’s spinal cord injury, I have discovered the diverse and vibrant virtual community of people with spinal cord injuries in the United States.  One of my favorite things about the disability rights movement is how technology includes and connects people who have traditionally been excluded, and the Internet is teeming with social mentoring networks, blogs, podcasts, and video archives where the spinal cord injury community convenes, shares stories, and motivates one another.

Present in the spirit of shared stories is humor, and  Teal Sherer, an actress with paraplegia has created  “My Gimpy Life,”  a webseries detailing her “awkward adventures as a driven actress trying to navigate Hollywood in a wheelchair.” The first episode “Accessible” debuted on July 31, 2012,  and it is linked in the Source Notes below for your amusement. Enjoy!

Source Notes

1. “Spinal cord trauma.” U.S. National Library of Medicine. June 16, 2010.

2.  Russell, Grahame and Annie Bird. “Special Fundraising Appeal–Health needs and Family Store for German Chub Choc.” Rights Action. November 16, 2011 

3. Spinal Cord Injury Information Pages: Quadriplegic, Paraplegic & Caregiver Resources.

4. New Mobility.

5. “My Gimpy Life.” Youtube. 2012.