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.