Thursday, September 20, 2012

When You Fly off to Guatemala....

When your flight to Guatemala is just hours away, insignificant things suddenly become more significant. The broken dishwasher gets the attention it should have gotten last week, when I was busy packing. The mailbox gets cleared, the refrigerator gets cleaned, the dogs get a bath. Potted plants are watered, lists made, relatives called and banking done. You hug your kids tighter than you have in months.
The reality is, that traveling to and within Guatemala is not the stuff of sissys. The airport is one of the more risky international landings for commercial airports. The water and food issues need due dilligence, the remote rural roads I will be traveling on are in poor condition following heavy rains, and there will be weather extremes from 30's to over 100 degrees, all within one weeks time. And did I mention that I don't speak a word of Spanish (yes, this is my 15th trip to Guatemala, but I just don't "get" the language). In summary, right about now, I'm finished distracting myself by cleaning and my nerves are releasing their energy into my feet, which can't stop jiggling. Here is my true confession: I have major anxiety when I travel to Guatemala. Not just a little nervousness. We are talking anxiety attacks and all of the physical manifestations that accompany them. It-is-no-fun.
So right about now I am daydreaming of what it would be like if I were a "normal" mom of three, wife of one, owner of two dogs. No international volunteer work to occupy my every free moment. No realization of how much help is needed in rural Guatemala, and indeed, worldwide. No need to feel like that just because I can make a difference, I should. How relaxing it would be  to attend local football games without my mind drifting off to whether Maria in Solola, Guatemala ate today or was even able to feed her children yesterday.  The oblivion of a lack of awareness would make such a peaceful life.
But that isn't the case, so I keep going. I weather through the anxiety attacks and in the end it is always worth it. On this trip, I will meet five of our Finding Freedom through Friendship mothers and will see firsthand the houses we built last year. My friends Barb and Jo will help assess each family for ways we can help bring the single women we assist into economical self-sufficiency. We will get to deliver these wonderful donated items from Kathy King's church in Lexington.
It will take about 24 hours to find my emotional ballast again. I'm not sure which FFF mom will help me right my emotional ship, but one of them will remind me, through her circumstances, that if anyone should be having anxiety attacks, it should be them. I get to come home eventually. They are living in poverty that is almost impossible to overcome. "Home" for them will always be a place of hardship, no matter how much we are able to help. These generous donations should offer a bright spot in their day.
Bon Voyage!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

2,000 miles of Difference

I took this photo on a recent holiday in Hilton Head, South Carolina. The beach was a child's fantasy of warm water, gentle waves, skim boards and buckets of sand being made into castles. This particular location is a popular family destination for families from all over the south east. This photo shows the ambiance of the island--relaxing, family oriented, healthy happy children who have few concerns. The little girl who was flying the kite was adorable in her pink bathing suit and sun hat.

Eulalia (below) has never seen a beach. She has no concept of a kite. Her "playtime" consists of
washing the family laundry, hauling firewood and walking long distances to her school when she is able to attend. When her mother died, Eulalia's father abandoned his children and Eulalia is now being raised by her 57 year old grandmother. With four children in her care, Isabela is bone weary and has no ability to generate an income or house her grandchildren.  A neighbor has agreed to host the family temporarily. The growth stunting that Eulalia and her siblings have suffered is not reversible with the current food available to the family.A washing machine? She has never seen one. Her sand bucket? It is the washing tub you see in the photo.
In partnership with Adopt-A-Village Guatemala, we will be building a home for this child and her family, while we continue to feed them critical food supplies monthly.
Finding Freedom through Friendship can't give Eulalia a kite, but we can help release her from some of the burden of chores and poverty so she is free to grow into a healthier young lady.