Thursday, October 13, 2016

Visiting New Families: Day 2,187

Tuesday and Wednesday, I went with Zoila (the community leader in a new village) to meet families for inclusion in the program.  You never know who you're going to meet or what they're going to say, and this was no exception.

Zoila started me off with a real doozy.  The woman is a single mother.  Her commonlaw husband (with whom she has one daughter) was abusive and a drunkard; so she left him, taking the girl with her.  She was determined to find someone who would love her for her.  Eventually, she met another fellow, and they started going out.  Before long, she decided that he loved her, they had sex (once), and she got pregnant.  The man, insisting that you can't get pregnant from having sex once, decided that she had been cheating on him and sleeping around; so he left her.  She was depressed and didn't take care of herself during the pregnancy, and when the baby was born, he had a lot of seizure problems.  The woman didn't have money to buy medication, and the baby's father didn't accept that the child was his and therefore didn't give any financial support; so she borrowed money to pay for the medication.  The boy is now 2 and no longer has seizures, but she still owes the money.  And in the midst of being broke and having two children, she did apparently find a fellow who loved her for her and took him as her new commonlaw husband.  But the woman's mother decided to run the fellow off...a week before she found out she was pregnant again, and she has no way of contacting him to let him know he's going to be a father.  So, single mom of three, thousands of quetzals in debt, who can't get a job because no one will hire a pregnant woman and is receiving death threats for her and her children because she can't pay off what she owes; she's depressed about her current pregnancy and not taking care of herself, doing hard labor in the fields because it's the only job she can get.

I mean, we could have just stopped my work day right there.  Some people have mentally tiring jobs.  Some people have physically tiring jobs.  I have an emotionally tiring job.  We saw 7 other families that day--none quite as difficult as this one--and afterward I came home and slept for 2 hours.

Since I had to go back the next day, I took her some prenatal vitamins and some Incaparina (a vitamin-protein powder that is common here) before heading out to meet 6 more families.  In Educacion con Esperanza, I tend to not gift anything (outside of Christmas every year) because I don't want to create a culture of dependency.  However, there is a proper time and place for emergency aid, and I think a broke woman with hardly enough to eat who is depressed and creating a tiny human is an obvious recipient for emergency aid.  Once the baby is born, there will be time for other conversation and working to make ends meet, but for now, she just needs to be healthy.

I was talking to a friend of mine who makes cloth menstrual pads, and she thinks that's an employment which would be good for these women who can't find jobs elsewhere.  Sure, they can weave, but that market is pretty flooded around here.  I have another friend who grows loofahs, and she has mentioned the idea of loofah farming; however, that would only be a sure plan for the families that own their own land.

It's all a lot to think about.  As I continue digesting all of this, I'll share more stories with you from my visits.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Logos and Funerals: Day 2,180

Apparently, my day count was off by A LOT!  So, now it is fixed.  But the short version is that I complete 6 years here in less than 2 weeks.

So, after nearly 6 years, I've decided I should probably get important things like business cards which means having a logo which means making a logo which means designing a logo.  And since I'm not very good at drawing what I see in my head, I talked to an old high school friend about it.  I haven't heard back from her (but she wasn't optimistic that she'd be able to do it from where she's at anyway).  Today I saw an ad for someone who is here in Guatemala doing graphic design, and that's probably the more economic way of doing this anyway since living costs are lower here.  I sent her a message and she's optimistic about the project...and gave me a quote at the very maximum of what I can pay and still eat this month.  I might save half the money this month and then have her do it next month if I can't find anything more in the budget.

Also after nearly 6 years, I attended my first funeral in Guatemala yesterday.  I didn't know the young man (age 23) very well, but I taught his younger sister English for a few years, and she asked me to be there.  So, I went.  The funeral was 4 hours long, but it felt good to show up and support people going through the completely unexpected event of burying their son.  I was really nervous about going because I had never been to a funeral before, but fortunately (perhaps?) the young man who died was good friends with a young man who is associated with our family, and the deceased's family had asked him to be one of the people who carries the coffin; so, I attended the funeral with him and made the entire situation easier on both of us.

And then this morning my handsomer half called me to inform me that his uncle has passed away.  If he can get off work, we'll be attending that funeral as well; so I guess it's a good thing I got some practice going to funerals. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Mission Moment: October

I often get people who ask what I do here in Guatemala, and after explaining it to them, they often want to know if I can come to my project in their area.  So, a friend of mine who does fundraising for a lot of different projects sat down with me the other day and we crunched some numbers.  We learned that it currently only requires $250/month to add another location to the project; this amount may go up in the future if students start going to the university--but there are free universities in Guatemala if you’re good enough to get in--or saving their points to buy more expensive items as the point-money ratio is on a curve.
This provides school supplies to approximately 25 school children and food staples for 10-12 families, roughly 80 people.  Depending on the community leader and his or her level of initiative, this also provides secular and religious workshops for both parents and children.  For those of you who aren’t aware of how the program works, the students attend their normal community schools where they are given number grades starting in first grade.  Those number grades are then translated into program points which they can use much like money to purchase things from the program.  In Guatemala, a student needs to have an average of 60 in each class to pass the school year.  Because we know that accidents can happen, we push the kids to have a 70 in each class just in case that last marking period is a bad one.  (If they finish the school year with less than a 60 in 1-2 classes, they can take another test covering all of the material in that course from the whole school year.  If they have less than 60 in three or more classes, they have to repeat the school year.)  However, to earn a point, students have to get at least a 77-79 in a class; that lower range is a little flexible just because some kids just need to feel like they’ve accomplished something.  If they earn an 88, they receive 2 point in that class, and if they earn a 97, they get three points.  So, they’re actually earning the points which they use to buy the dry goods or shoes or school supplies or whatever else they choose to purchase through the program.

That being said, we’re hoping to add not one, but two, new communities next year.  Perhaps it’s a little optimistic, but as we’re not currently using all of our monthly funds, we do have some savings to hold us through until we get the ball rolling.  Even some Guatemalans have approached me asking how they can donate.  We’re planning on re-adding the other community I was working with in Solola the first year and perhaps adding a location in the town where I was living up until recently.  It’s all very exciting and I’m so glad that I can share this with you!