Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Perspectives

These are my shoes, standing in my yard, amidst my flowers. And yes, I am sporting a pedicure, something I started doing for myself four years ago when my world spun out of control and I felt the need for self-care. It is a simple picture, but is says a lot about me. I have well cared for feet, I have extra money for unnecessary things like foot care and flowers. I have what I need and I have what I don't need, but think that I do.
These are Maria's feet. She has a pair of shoes but she saves them for walks up and down the mountain to harvest wood. She doesn't understand the concept of a pedicure, and she certainly would think that the thirty dollars to pay for one would be a big extravagance.
She works sixty hours on her weaving to make thirty dollars.
This (below) is her office:
When she weaves, she has to stop at dusk, because she has no lighting or electricity. Candles cost a few dollars a month, making them too expensive to burn unless absolutely necessary. She sits on the stump of wood when she works. Her craft is done in dirt, and it smells of wood smoke when it is finished. Because weaving is the main source of income for many Mayan women, the country is saturated with this product, driving the prices down. Maria's work is exquisite, but unrecognized.
Here is my office, nicer than any room Maria has ever
stood in. It has an intact roof, carpeting, climate control and lighting.  The awards on the wall were given to me during my years of service in Guatemala. But here is my best-kept secret. In our hearts, our board members know that the real award winners are the women we help. 
Put any one of us in a dirt floored hut with no bed to sleep in, contaminated water to drink and no electricity and we wouldn't last very long. Add a lifetime of hunger, lack of medical care and the inability to feed our children and we would be crawling our way out of the mountains of Guatemala. Staying there for more than a week wouldn't be an option. For Maria, there is no other option. She can't marry her way out of her position in life; she tried, but her husband died of tuberculosis. Jobs are not only unavailable in her village, but as an illiterate indigenous woman, she wouldn't qualify. So she weaves, and has her daughters do the same, because a dollar for several hours of work is better than no dollar at all. Her willingness to get up and face each day, with the multiple challenges involved, makes Maria, Candalaria, Rosa, and all of the women we help award winners.

                      

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Educating A Girl...Worth the Donated Dollars?

Each dollar we are gifted by our donors is precious. In fact, they are so important, that our board members volunteer their expertise, and we have no paid staff. We spend what we bring in, because having a reserve fund means that a child goes hungry, a mother remains sick, or a roof leaks onto the few belongings a family may own. As with most nonprofits, there are parts of our program that cost more than others. In 2012, Finding Freedom through Friendship spent $6,160 on the education of indigenous children in rural Guatemala, most of whom were girls.
 Representing 12% of our budget, one might wonder if this expense is worth the utilization of our monetary gifts. It is a very difficult decision as a board--do we feed more hungry children with our funds, or educate them so that they can someday feed themselves? At the core of this question is the perplexing issue of the quality of the rural Guatemalan schools our  sponsored children attend. Education in Guatemala is significantly under-funded and the cost of supplies, uniforms, transportation and fees is not provided by the government.
Of the estimated two million children in Guatemala who are school aged but do not attend school, the majority are indigenous girls. With limited economic resources, parents often choose to educate their male children. Girls, no matter how young, are needed in the home to help with childcare, housework and field work.

Within our tiny circle of concern, there are two families in Guatemala who have had to send their thirteen year old daughters to distant relatives houses as cooks, so that these respective girls could be fed. Education is a fantasy, not a reality, for these girls.  

The future of the next generation of females in Guatemala can't be secured by one little organization such as ours. But we can wish better things for Manuela (left, holding sister) who is not in our program, and we can continue to make sure that Marta (above,right)has what she needs to succeed in school. 
The illiteracy rate in the indigenous rate in the indigenous population of Guatemala is over 60%. The highest level of schooling any mother in the Finding Freedom through Friendship program has achieved is third grade. We want a better future for their daughters. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Reality in the Beauty


These photographs of two of our Finding Freedom through Friendship mothers were taken in northern Guatemala. Through the wonders of modern technology, our talented public relations volunteer, Rae House, created this beautiful postcard with the photos, making it captivating and poignantly beautiful. 
The reality is this: Euilia is holding her malnourished toddler, Dora, who lives on a diet of locally harvested herbs boiled in water. On a good day, little Dora eats a tortilla.

Melinda (smaller photo), shown with three of her four children, has moved twice in the last few months, trying to find a house she can afford to rent. Her new house doesn't look much better than the bathroom (below) that comes with it. The total number of belongings that were moved with the family; four plastic chairs, several cooking pots  and a bag of clothes. Mother's Day is celebrated in Guatemala, but it will not feel like a holiday to these women.
Mothers in Guatemala want no less for their children than American women do. Food, shelter, education, clothing....the same list any mother anywhere expects to be able to supply for those who are dependent on her. The reality in the beauty of the photo above is this: neither of these mothers have the capability to overcome the grinding poverty of their lives without the help of non profits like ours. Social services resources simply are not available in Guatemala.
There are many days when our little program seems so inadequate in the face of the overwhelming need of the women we help. How do you start to bring a woman and her children into economic self-sufficiency when she can't read or write, manage money, raise livestock or feed her children? What do you do first: get the family out of the rain or feed them? Clothe them or educate the children? Purchase a bed so they don't have to sleep on the wet floor, or a table so the children can do homework? There are countless decisions to be made with precious few dollars. 

We at Finding Freedom through Friendship believe that every day should be Mother's Day. All mothers, no matter what country they live in, should have her basic needs met so that she in turn can meet the needs of their children. We like to imagine a world of emotionally and physically sound women who nurture children into amazing people who will benefit our world. Until this happens, we will continue working on the needs of "our" moms, one meal, one blanket, one donation at a time.