Monday, October 22, 2012

A Woman of Strength

Readers of this blog may sometimes think that the women we assist are downtrodden, faint of heart and lacking in strength. Nothing could be further from the truth, and in fact, working with them gives me inspiration as I see firsthand just how resourceful they are.
There is a popular reality show called Preppers. The series showcases different American families as they prepare, each in their own way, for what they conceive as a future catastrophic event. The participants of this show would do well to learn from the women Finding Freedom through Friendship assists.
When you are an abandoned woman with children in rural Guatemala, and there are no social services available to help you, you learn quickly how to make scarce resources stretch. Without electricity, one learns to work by dim light and get essential tasks done in daylight hours. When water is only available if you haul it from a nearby polluted creek, you teach your children to use little and use it well. One bed in the house means a mother becomes creative on how to keep children warm when they have to sleep on a cold moist dirt floor. Scarce food resources force the knowledge on which local herbs grown in nearby mountains to be used wisely, so that soup can be made to fill your children's stomachs. Leftovers at mealtime are not a problem. There is no food waste, no recycling of McDonald's garbage needed, no food container refuse. Recycling? Rural Guatemalans live this concept every day. Clothing is passed down until it no longer usable. Tree stumps become chairs. One blanket serves many. One traditional skirt is used until it is no longer usable.
When Lucia's husband abandoned the family, it was a catastrophic event for her. She was suddenly left with no income, no home, no land and no way to feed her children. Prepping for hardship felt familiar to Lucia, and she has done an amazing job of maintaining her family. She is a woman of strength.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Picture Tells Many Stories

Pictures I take in Guatemala usually tell more than one story. Much like the Finding Waldo series, a few pictures of a rural indigenous family will speak more with details than with words.
This family is no exception. Maria, the mother in the rear, is reaching out to touch her 2 year old, since she is often holding her or has contact with her in some physical way. Her toddler is in turn, reaching out for her bigger sister, and holding onto her sisters blouse. The eldest boy, who is now the man of the house since that his alcoholic father abandoned the family, stands ready to protect. The family is shy with an American women standing in front of them, the siblings do what families do in Guatemala when they are uncertain about a circumstance. They quietly, usually standing, start drawing close, all touching in some slight way. They watch, not unkindly but wary; the Guatemalans have a history of invasion and the collective consciousness does not soon forget. But the sweetest part of this photo is something you might not have noticed. Keep looking.......note the black stitching in the pink shirt on the toddler. Someone, most likely her mother, lovingly stitched this shirt back together for her.
Community of caring means nobody has to stand alone.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Clean Bones

Photos of chicken bones are not usually posted, if ever, on a blog. Bones are not necessarily a photogenic item, and blogs need to grab the readers attention with captivating and heartfelt visuals.
But these bones "spoke" to me when I sat next to the Guatemalan child who left them on her plate.
Frankly, I had never seen such clean bones. I'm used to the leftovers on American plates, which in most cases, a whole new meal could be gleaned from.
Sydney had never been to a restaurant, even though the one I took her to was only six miles from her house in north west Guatemala. She was overwhelmed by the choices on the menu, and when the waitress came to take our order, the entire family ordered what their mother did. I don't think they knew what to do with so many choices. Every bit of leftovers were packed up for home. Sydney even ate the ketchup. This photo looks like a slide from an anatomy class. In reality, it is a representation of what hunger looks like. When you live in a poor community, and you worry about where your next meal is coming from, you make sure you leave clean bones on your plate. They may be the last ones you will see for a long time. Protein deficiency among the worlds poor is a chronic problem with long-term health consequences.

Monday, October 8, 2012

You Be the Judge

I am five foot three inches and I weigh 134 lbs. Most women don't like to admit their weight. But in this context, it helps to know for comparison.
The woman in this photo is the mother of one of our sponsored single mothers. Her daughter's husband died soon after being deported from illegally entering the United States. Maria (in photo) has allowed her daughter and five grandchildren to live with her and sleep on her floor while they are homeless (the home/land was confiscated after the husbands death).
Maria now shares available food rations with 14 family members. I'll always feel tall when I stand next to her, even though in the states, I shop in the petite department. And I doubt that Maria will ever have a weight problem.
My hope is that by next year, we will have available funds to allow Maria's daughter to be in her own home and that so little food will not have to be shared by so many people.