Reminder: Mission Moments are the articles I write for my church newsletter back in the US; however, some content may vary slightly based on what I do or do not want publicly available on the internet and on being time-relevant as I write these articles about 2 weeks before they are published. October was a difficult month emotionally on both a personal and a professional level. After six years in Guatemala, I attended my first funeral (the older brother of a student); two days later, I attended my second (a family member). The second funeral caused me to delay my visits with interviewing new families by a day.
These visits were in a community where I had lived previously. We conducted the visits over two days (and still have about three families to visit who had scheduling problems the days we were doing the visits), and the second day we got up into the part of town where I used to live; it was a little entertaining watching the shift go from “Hi, Zoila” (my community leader) to “Hi, Annalisa.” That was probably one of the few “fun” spots in the two days. While there’s something enjoyable and beautiful about meeting new families and hearing their stories (when they want to share), the stories are, for the most part, quite sad.
Zoila didn’t go easy on me either. The first family we visited was probably the hardest one to hear. It was a young woman who just wanted someone to love her for her, owes thousands of quetzales in debt she accrued getting medical services when her second child was born with a seizure problem (which he no longer has), and is now three months pregnant with her third child by a third man (who is out of the picture because her mother ran him off). Her life has been threatened on multiple occasions as well as those of her children because she can't pay the debt. Her house is just a few sheets of metal nailed to some wooden posts, and she hangs a sheet where a door should be; the rain comes in between her roof and wall in the rainy season. (Fortunately for her, the rainy season decided to end a little early this year.) She believes that her second child was born with the problems he had because she didn’t have proper care while pregnant with him. When we passed through the next day, I brought her pre-natal vitamins and a vitamin-protein powder that is common here.
Many of the families I visited had children who had studied in the past and would like to go back to school but their family doesn’t have the money. One which has me thinking a lot is a family where the woman’s husband left her to go to the United States. He’s there now and no longer calls her or sends her money to help support their children (which, according to the Guatemalans, is the entire reason they go). The woman’s brother has stepped up to take the financial responsibilities of father. He quit his own educational goals to make sure she has everything. However, without an education himself, he weaves to earn money. While weaving can be quite lucrative, it’s very taxing on the body and is becoming less lucrative as machines try to imitate the weaving style of the artisans. I think I want to send him back to school as well. I haven’t done something like that before with someone who is grown, but that doesn’t mean I can’t.
The school year is coming to a close here in Guatemala, and I’ll probably have gone out to Solola again before this article is published. I’m excited to see how the school year went but a little nervous to find out which 6th graders will be pulled out of school because their parents are afraid to trust me and the project. Manuel and I have talked about having a private meeting with all the students who are finishing 6th grade to see if we can keep them in school. I don’t like going behind the parents’ backs, but Manuel is the one who suggested it, and since he knows his community, if he suggested it, I’ll be on board with it.
Wendy probably won’t be going back to school next year as her mother’s health continues to be poor. Mercedes is now 18, and Manuel is going to see if she wants to go back to school as she no longer needs anyone’s permission to do so.
Everyone has a story.