Thursday, August 23, 2012

Stove Donations Vital in Preventing Deforestation in Guatemala

Stove Donation (before assembly) with wood pile
I rarely link to other articles about issues in Guatemala. I know our readers have other more pressing issues than reading lengthy publications about problems in another country. I'm making an exception with this article, since it validates concerns our board members have had about deforestation in Guatemala. We see it first hand when we visit our Finding Freedom through Friendship mothers, and see the large stacks of freshly chopped wood. We hear the fatigue in the voices of the women and children who spend many hours a week walking into the woods and harvesting trees. We see valuable income going to purchase firewood if a woman is too elderly to chop her own. Every year I visit Guatemala, I am struck by how denuded the hills are, often to make room for scrappy crops of corn that occupies every vacant hillside that used to be full of trees.
Catarina is shown in front of her wood pile. Once her donated stove was assembled, Catarina's needs for wood decreased by 60%. Wood efficient stoves are a vital resource toward reducing the need for freshly harvested wood in rural Guatemala. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Finding the Energy to Move On

Today was one of those days that I needed for catching up. After hosting a large family gathering, my laundry room was full, the dishwasher was running non-stop and the dogs were in the mood for some much-needed attention. Flower beds needed weeding, the car was dirty and somewhere in the day, I had to find time for catching up on bills, correspondence, etc. 
Rosa, sewing despite blindness
Running a non-profit organization, and doing so without a staff or salary, requires passion, practice and persistence. I was out of all three of those when I woke up this morning. My "fuel tank" was empty. It looked like a good day to attend to the needs of my own family. 
I had recently sent the final payments toward our newest donated home. The construction is well underway and on-time for a finished home before the next rains come in. Rosa is a blind widow in remote northern Guatemala, and will be the recipient of this  gift from Finding Freedom.  In collaboration with Adopt-A-Village, Guatemala, we are replacing the "house" that Rosa inhabited. She will now have a concrete floor to replace the mud, and a stove that is suited for safety while cooking without the ability to see. Her walls will be waterproof, as will the roof. The house will be fenced for her safety. This latest effort on the part of FFF was well underway, or so I thought.
Rosa (second row, left) and children with food staples from FFF
My first call of the day was from the company that I used to send the final payment to Guatemala for Rosa's construction supplies. The company was suspicious as to who we are, why we were sending funds to Guatemala, and what our intention was for this money. The investigator on the other end of the phone line was not in the mood to hear about a blind widow who needed this house, and needed it soon. She had never heard of Finding Freedom through Friendship, and didn't really care to learn. Ultimately, they declined to send the money, and stated that they intended to send the transaction record to the FBI for investigation. I was still in my bathrobe, coffee in hand, and my plans for having a day off from the concerns of women in remote Guatemala suddenly evaporated.
Practice-Passion-Persistence. Suddenly I needed big doses of each: Practice from twelve years of working in Guatemala had taught me that nothing in Guatemala comes easy. Passion for working with our great board members to assist these women in raising their children in safe homes with adequate food suddenly got a jump-start, fueled by caffeine and anger. Persistence found me in my car, on the way to Western Union to work out the details of the transaction.
 If the FBI calls, I will tell them about Samuel, Rosa's son (above in red jacket), and how he is now back home with his mother after she was forced to send him away to live with another family because she could not afford to feed him. I will explain who we are, what we do, and after another cup of coffee, I'll find the energy to move onto the next challenge, because in Guatemala, there will always be one.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


This is Manuela. She is one of our original Finding Freedom through Friendship mothers. Born with a disability, Manuela continues to inspire us with her ability to quietly and competently do what her son,  elderly mother,  and mentally ill sister need her to do in order to survive. There are no disability benefits, no social welfare, no food pantry locations in rural Guatemala. 
This amazing woman washes clothing for people in the community who have disposable income, which provides her with a few dollars a week. Soon after this photo was taken, FFF was able to provide Manuela with an enclosure for her pilia (sink) that we purchased for her. No matter how strong she is, nobody should have to stand in the rain and mud to wash their dishes.