Yesterday, I headed out to Solola once again. I had bought school supplies on Saturday and sent them with someone trustworthy going that way. This time I took my friend Genesis with me; she blogs over at Expat Mom if you want to read her stories of life overseas.
Sunday afternoon was interesting as we went to visit three families for possible inclusion in the program this year. The first family we visited was a lot further of a walk than we expected, but it wasn't any harder than I had experienced. The woman's story is that she was living with a man--marriage isn't common out in the areas where I work--and he decided to leave her and their daughter and go illegally to the United States to find work. He managed to do that...and also find an American woman to marry legally. He came back to present his new wife to his family before leaving again, and the woman called him out on it saying that he had, at the very least, a daughter to support. That daughter is now grown and married.
However, about 7 years ago, the woman took up with another fellow and had three children with him. According to her, he only recognizes the first two children as his own--meaning his name is on their birth certificate--while the baby, who is a year old tomorrow, has no listed father. This should, in theory, mean that the fellow vanished about a year ago. The second man was already married, maybe even legally, and decided to go back to his first wife. The woman says she receives no support from him.
And if all of that were true, then the big screen TV and the sound system wouldn't be such a problem to have found in the house. However, what we did find were men's shoes and men's clothing, not in a big bag as though she were a clothing vendor, but scattered around in a bedroom and the living room. Manuel is looking into the situation, but until it can be confirmed by outsiders that the man is gone, has been gone for a while, and is not supporting the family (and that that big-screen plasma TV isn't hooked up to Q150/month or more cable), we cannot take this family into consideration in good conscience.
The second and third families we went to visit were families which we had visited a while back. However, with one family leaving the area and another family choosing to not send any children to school this year, we had two empty places and I had these two families on my heart. Mostly our visit was to confirm that they still wanted to be a part of the program, update the information I had on the family, take a new picture of the family (which I lost when my hard drive died last January), and see if they had already bought their school supplies.
We added their school supply lists in with what we still needed to buy (things which had been out of stock when I bought supplies in Antigua the day before), and we headed to Manuel's house for the night where we ate dinner and then divided up the school supplies among the families. I was reading off the lists while the kids put the different things in the bag. They all have good educations and are going to good schools; so I decided to start doing the numbers in English. Then I started doing some of the items in English (glue, scissors, pen, etc); however, one kept tripping them up. I would say "pencil" and they would hold up a pincel, a paint brush. We got to bed sometime around 11 pm.
Today we had to buy school supplies for the new families and the supplies I didn't get in Antigua, give out supplies, and meet with the mayor. I met Andres Iboy (the mayor of Solola) a few years ago during his first term in office. I had started the program in another part of his municipality; he had heard about it and wanted to know if it could be offered elsewhere. So, he's always interested in hearing about the project, and in the time I have known him, he has never claimed that Educacion con Esperanza was ever his doing (unlike other politicians I have heard of concerning other organizations). However, I told Manuel that it would be better to have that meeting after our meeting with the families; we had too much to do beforehand. So, we went and bought school supplies and headed out to the meeting location.
All of the families were there and waiting for us. They were all happy to see us. They were all happy with their school supplies. And I got a sunburn. Manuel told them that if the first marking period grades were not adequate that he would start going around to the schools and talking to the teachers. One mother--whose kids tend to have good grades--wasn't pleased with that; she thinks that if other people start realizing that some families are getting help that all the families will demand to receive help as well. To some extent, I see her point, but at the same time, why do the neighbors think a white lady visits her family every year?
Near the end of the meeting, Manuel asked me if we were going to stay for lunch. I asked about the meeting with the mayor; so he called about that. The mayor wasn't available today, only the vice-mayor. Since that fellow probably has no clue who I am and probably wouldn't be able to have the conversations we need to have, I said that Genesis and I would head home instead; we both have responsibilities here. Besides, I already had plans to stop at my very favorite eatery in Chimaltenango for lunch. So, at the end of the meeting, Manuel dropped us off in Los Encuentros, and we headed for home.