Sunday, November 20, 2011

Glendy's Family

So far, the 12x12 Love Project is on house #60 something.  Each family has a story of their plight and it's nothing short of amazing how their lives are changed through a new home.  If you have ever been camping, you might be able to relate.  Imagine going from living in a tent with holes in the seams, during a bad rain storm and it's 52 degrees outside, to a concrete structure that keeps out the wind, rain and the cold.  It's something so simple and doesn't cost much, $3,000, but it makes a HUGE difference in the daily lives of families here.

The kids I see are what get me every time, especially Glendy.  I wrote about her before and you can read more here.  Not too long ago we celebrated her new home and it is the one that has impacted me the most.  We've gotten to know this family a little more and found out the dad left the mom (Maria) for another women - very common here, and she lives with her parents.  Maria has 3 children - Marvin, Glendy and Francesca.  Francesca is a typical, cute 2 year old, Glendy is the happiest, brightest 6 year old I have ever met and Marvin is quiet and sad.  He is a great, hard working boy but you can tell that something in his spirit is broken.  I am sure it has to do with his dad leaving.  He doesn't like school and loves to work with his Grandpa in the fields.  A few times Chris has asked Marvin to help him with something and he always says yes and you can tell that he loves to have the male attention as any boy would coming from a dad.  He loves his grandpa.  Grandpa Francisco has lived on the land his whole life - 85 years.  They were living in a house that was in pretty bad shape, with no running water and there was junk everywhere on their little piece of land, a few dogs and lots of chickens.  The transformation is one of the most extreme we have seen so far.  Now, their land is clean, has a new pila,  new bathroom with hot water,  new house and gravel to cover the dirt.  No more junk or a house that is falling apart!   We even got the kids some new,warm clothes.  

glendy and grandpa francisco taking old rocks to the revine
grandma and grandpa's new bed
opening the door to their new home

new bed for mom and kids
When we arrived to do the key ceremony, we found the family crammed in their 10x10 kitchen sleeping on the floor.  During the construction process, most families relocate their "home" or stay with other family members but we think this family stayed in their cocina.  We wondered about this but every time Chris would ask, the mom told us they were staying with family.  This wouldn't be too terribly bad but we had rain for almost 10 days straight so I can't even imagine how they did it.   This really broke our hearts but we are thankful that they have a new home with new beds, warm blankets, and no water inside. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Missing Out

 This was written on Halloween...

Sometimes it's difficult to be here when I know friends/family back home are doing fun things that we would be a part of if we didn't live here.   We miss out on alot and are still in the process of letting go of the life we had.  Today was Halloween and although it is not my favorite holiday, we would have had dinner with friends in our neighborhood and set out for a night of candy - good times.  If today were like any other day, I would have spent it thinking about what we are missing and what we would be doing if we were back in the States.  I'll be honest, these thoughts cross my mind from time to time but today was a little different.  Today was more like "If I had the choice of being back home with my friends and their families, doing the Halloween thing or being here in Guatemala, doing what I did today, which would I choose?" Before I could even finish the question I already knew the answer and without a second thought "Be here."  I wouldn't miss what we did today for all the tea in China or all the Junior Mints I would have eaten out of my kid's candy bag.

Today Chris was on his way back from visiting Caesar when a woman stopped him in the street and asked for a ride to the clinic.  He said yes so she ran to get her child.  Long story short, the day before, the little 3-year-old pulled scalding hot liquid off the stove and suffered 3rd degree burns on 15% of her body.  When she got into the car, she still had on the shirt she was wearing when the accident happened because it was melted into her skin and she was screaming in pain.  It is a very sad and very horrible situation.  The local clinic could not treat her and said she needed to go to a specialty burn center in the city so Chris set out for an hour drive to the city to find the center.  The team at the clinic was able to give her an injection for pain so the ride was long and quiet.  Initially the doctor told the family she would be in the hospital for 2 months but Chris went to see her dad tonight and he said it might only be 3-4 weeks.

Would I trade being back home and having fun with what we did today?  No, not today.  Honestly, I don't know what to do with all the suffering that surrounds us but we are humbled and thankful we get to be here and help.


People here have many needs.  One of the things we do to help is give out food.  I know what it feels like to be hungry but I have never gone without food one time in my entire life.  Here, it is normal for people to go without food because they have none.  Not just adults but kids too.  I couldn't really imagine a child going without a meal until I moved here and see them everyday.  Recently, we saw a 15-month-old who weighted 13 pounds.  The doctor told mom that the baby needed milk but the family can't afford it.  We meet so many families like this and ones who haven't eaten and don't know where the next meal is coming from.  Or all they have eaten is a couple of tortillas and some beans.  Eating is one thing and nutrition is something completely different.  People in poor villages eat to fill their stomaches, not to nourish their bodies.  This is apparent when we travel to the city where people have more money to eat better and see Guatemalans who are taller than the ones we see here in the villages.  We have seen 18-year-olds who are as tall as my 12-year-old and bottles for babies that are nothing more than water that has been thickened with flour and sugar - something to fill them up so they won't cry but not nourish their brains and bodies.  Formula is expensive as is milk.
corn flour for tortillas

 Our trips to the grocery store always include extra beans, rice, corn flour and other things.  We have a couple of families we help with food every month and always have things on hand to give people who knock on our door.  If we run out of our "stock", we head to our pantry or fridge because there is always food there.  If we give away most of our stuff, we can always go to the store and buy more but alot of people here don't have that ability - the ability to get food whenever we need/want to.   It's something very simple for us but makes a big difference for the people who need it.  When we lived in the States, we could collect food for food banks, give money to feeding centers, etc., but I never actually met the hungry people we were helping.  Here, we meet them and go to their houses.  I see them every time I go outside.
beans, rice, sugar
People also have medical needs.  Today we took a very sick lady to the national hospital.  The care is free but any medication she will need is not.  It's alot for a poor family to pay 200Q ($26US) for  medicine which seems to be the average people ask us for.  How can we say no to a need that some times is a matter of life or death?  Last week our friend, who has a problem with high blood pressure, had a baby.  She was in the hospital and in pretty bad condition but they didn't have the money to buy her medication.  Her husband came to us late in the evening asking for help.  It's hard to imagine but people here die all of the time due to lack of medical care and/or medication.  Things that are easy to treat in the US are death sentences here. 

 If you would like to help people here with food or medical needs, go to the 12X12 Love Project and click on "Get Involved".  There is an option for food baskets or if you would like to give another amount, you can, just put what it is for in the memo.  100% of the money you give will be given to a family in food or medical care.  Pass the info along to friends and family too - there are always people who need food and medicine.  There are sick and hungry people everywhere on this planet, not just Guatemala.  I would encourage everyone to help somewhere because there are people in need everywhere.