Saturday, January 11, 2014

Buying School Supplies for the First Time: Day 1,179

So, today I went to the grocery store with Edgar to buy school supplies for around 49 children.  I think I could wrap up this blog post right there.

At any rate, 5 hours and approximately Q6,500 later, we left the Bodegona with the majority of what we need for those 49 kids for the upcoming school year.  Most lists also ask for things like "A roll of toilet paper" and "a small towel;" so, since we were exhausted and very hungry after 5 hours, we just didn't get those things (yet).

Edgar and Ismael's father did me the favor of taking the school supplies out to their house today.

Tomorrow I'll leave right after church to head out to Los Encuentros to check over the lists and label the bags. I'll make a list of what is still missing and look for it in the market on Tuesday.

Also, on Monday afternoon, we're taking four children to the doctor to see what, if anything, can be done for them.  Two are "special needs," one is missing his left hand (never had one), and the other is deaf (and maybe dumb...and maybe not).

I think I noted today that at least the daughter of the woman who I mentioned in the last entry will be going back to school.  I could, however, have a "Maria Elena" in the program who I'm not thinking of.  (The mother's name is Maria, and I have the daughter listed as just "Elena," but most Guatemalans have two names, and if mother and daughter are both "Maria," then it would stand to reason that the daughter would go by "Elena."  Their is only one last name noted, but it is the same as the mother's.  However, there are lots of people with that last name in the program; it's like saying "Oh, there was a Johnson on the list.")  Whether this is true or I am mistaken, please continue to pray for this family with me.  I am still highly concern about the mother.

Also, in regards to running as low-cost of program as possible, I'll be noting the reusables which we are giving each child.  At this moment it would be highly time-consuming to ask each family if they have a pencil sharpener for each child (etc); so this year, from pencil sharpener to scientific calculator, I bought everything on their lists.  Next year, I am not buying another pencil sharpener, another pair of scissors, another scientific  Maybe if there comes a day that a family needs two calculators (one for each of two children), I'll have to get them another one, but I'm not made of money, and I have to be a good steward of the money which is given to me.  Of course, any new family which comes into the program will receive their whole list the first year.  That's really the only way I can be sure that they all have what they need for school.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tough Moment: Day 1,176

I know most of you are eager to hear about how today went.  Unfortunately, I'm still digesting it.  In fact, I wouldn't be posting at all except that I need all my prayer warriors, pray-ers, and people who will pray every once in a while if there is a good reason to to do some praying with me.

There is one family who I've been concerned about for a while.  It's the family of the single mother whose husband committed suicide about 3 years ago.  She has two children.  I've written about them before if you really want the whole background.  At any rate, I was afraid she would reject the program, and today she didn't show up for the meeting.  So, we showed up at her house after the meeting.  She saw us coming and hid in her house.  She did not want us there; she did not want to talk to us.  Only when we insisted did she open up the door a crack.  Based on her behavior, the following conversation that Ismael and Manuel had with her (in Kaqchikel), and something that Ismael commented to me later about something a friend of his who lives in that area told him, we are concerned that she is also a suicide risk.

The guys have given her 2 days to get the kids enrolled in school as part of the program (because that's all the time we have with school starting next week), and while I would ask that you pray she does that, I also want to ask that this woman either seeks help or that help comes to her.  I am not in a position to be able to help and give her the social support she needs, but I pray that a neighbor or someone comes to counsel her or be a friend or something.  In the 7 months since I first met her, she has slipped a lot; I don't think she has much further to go.  These kids already lost one parent, and I don't want them to lose another.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Humbled and Honored: Day 1,174

I am sitting here next to a binder which contains information on 45 families and scraps of paper with names scribbled on them for about 4 more families who we have not had the time to visit as part of the application process to the program.  This binder also contains 22 nearly blank sheets--11 edged in blue and 11 edged in orange--for the 22 families who will be starting this exciting journey with us on Wednesday.

And I feel greatly honored that God has selected me to head up this program and that these people are giving me the time of day.  And I feel greatly humbled because, middle-class or not, I came from a privileged life compared to these people.  I was provided for my entire life up until now.  I can't imagine what it's like to be an 11-year old selling gum on buses every day so that my family has something to eat.  So, I feel humbled because they know more about hard work than I think I'll ever know.

Just 36 hours to go...

Friday, January 3, 2014 Day 1,171


Yesterday, I purchased a small package of food for each of the 22 families.  These packages weren't all uniform size but rather slightly geared to family size.  I started with "normal" size based on a 2-adult and 3-school-aged-child household.  Families which were smaller (1 mother with her toddler son or 2 adults with their 3 children under the age of 4) were purchased a half-package size (which was actually a little more than half-size).  And families which were larger (a mother with two older-teen children caring for her parents-in-law, 3 school aged children, a toddler, and a baby) received package-and-a-half-sized portions.  All in all, that came out to Q991.50, roughly $124.  If we divide that cost evenly between the families (despite that they won't receive equally), it comes out to $5.60 per family.

Now we have the question of school supplies.  I sent out one of my helpers to find out the general cost of school supplies in the Solola area, and he reports that depending on grade level, they range between Q225/student and Q350/student.  Great!  So, let's take an average number of Q300/student and multiply that by the number of children in the program between the ages of 5 and 14 (and 1 15-year old who has been in school).

 x  57
(Q8 is roughly $1; so $2,137.50)

Yes, that's the bottom line for school supplies.  (And, actually, it is that Q300 that keeps a lot of children out of school every year.)  Now, thanks to the ongoing support of a private company in the US (who I'm not sure if they prefer to remain anonymous or would like the free PR and will therefore remain nameless for the moment), we'll be able to cover both costs at this time.  However, for their participation in and good grades from school, these children will earn points.  With these points, they will be able to "purchase" things for their families to improve the living conditions in their homes.  The problem is that these points aren't real money but real money is required to purchase these improvements.

My sending church has reached their limit of how involved they feel they can be in this project; so I'm trying to figure out who can partner up with me to either form our own non-profit or to team up with one that has similar interests.  Because, let's face it, the money I have received to help these people is enough until these people have earned the points to improve their lives, and with as driven as some of them are now that they've been shown a speck of hope, I don't think it will be so long.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Mission Moment: January Newsletter

Just a reminder: this is the newsletter article I write for my sending church.  I have edited it slightly for privacy purposes.

Greetings from Guatemala! I hope you all had a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year! For me it has been a busy two months. (Yes, apologies for my unannounced hiatus.) In December I did a lot of administrative stuff such as getting a new visa stamp in my passport. This has to be done every 6 months, and I've often handled it by flying for a visit in the US. However, this time, for various reasons including the price of plane tickets, I made the choice to take the bus to Belize instead.
I also made a trip out to Solola to see if the delegated work had been completed. Unfortunately, the letter which I wrote to Manuel (my other community contact) only made its way to him in the last couple of that schools are shut down for vacations. However, he said that most of the information wouldn't be hard to get once January gets here; so we'd decided on getting the families together on January 8th. We are starting with 22 families in 7 different villages. Due to travel distances, we'll be splitting the group in two based on where they live. (I actually just noticed that it works out perfectly even: 11 and 11.) One group will have a meeting in the morning, and the other group will have a meeting in the afternoon.
While I was out in Solola, Manuel took advantage of the opportunity to take me to go see David's family again (the little boy with the basket-making sisters who I wrote about in August). I am pleased to announce that Wendy, the older sister, will be going back to school this year. Her father changed jobs to have a more steady income, and the family hopes to build their own house this year so as to stop renting. It was a pleasure to see the family again. Although I didn't meet the father and David was with him, I did get to meet their older brother who I hadn't met on my first visit. They gave me a bag and a magnet as Christmas gifts. I find it so humbling when people who have so little still find it in their hearts to give.
Also, three of the families in the program have children with special needs. Two of those families will be receiving help via anothergroup. Their daughters will be checked to see what their situation is—I think it's Down's Syndrome—and their son will receive a prosthetic hand (if he wants it) for his hand that never grew. Both of these families are in Manuel's group of 11; so he made the decision to wait until January for all of that.
There is more exciting news for Solola. In January, the group of doctors for whom I usually translate (Children of the Americas) will be serving in Solola. The group has wanted to go to Solola for a long time, but because of the general distrust of outsiders, they have been unable to bridge the gap and gain clear communication with the hospital administration and government. Now that they have finally been able to get in, I expect that there will be a few more trips to the area as the needs are great.

The Care and Keeping of a Missionary
Thank you all for your continued support; the prayers really do help! For the month of January, I'd like to ask that you pray for these 22 families. Between these 22 women, they have approximately 89 children. (There are 89 “children” in the program, but some of them are caring for younger siblings who aren't officially their children, but are in their care.) Some of these children have never been to school; some of these children might not want to go to school. I have a 15- and 16-year old pair of siblings who never went to school; they don't know how to write their own names. I have a 10- and 11-year old pair of siblings who I also wrote to you about in August; I'm really not sure if they ever attended school, but I feel like this change will be difficult for them and their mother. (What I'm really concerned about is that she'll reject the program completely out of the unknown, but they are probably the neediest family I have.) So, please be praying for all of these families. They need your support.