Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Love Liberates

Maria, with new refrigerator for her micro business
Maria, (left) is our first Finding Freedom client, and it was her situation that inspired our board members to start our organization in 2009. 
Maria and Finding Freedom through Friendship founder Jody met in Guatemala when Maria asked for assistance in obtaining medicine and food for her children. Maria's husband had abandoned the family when her son became sick with hepatitis.

At the time there was no Finding Freedom through Friendship. It was a glimmer in the back of our minds as board members, but the demands of starting a nonprofit were too daunting for our already-busy selves. After being confronted with the stark reality of Maria's life as a single mother of four children and a caretaker to an elderly mother, we were inspired to make the dream of assisting abandoned women in Guatemala a reality. 

 In our three year relationship with this little family there have been many significantly positive changes.

Before we knew her, Maria had the weight of the world on her shoulders. She was only fourteen when she became a parent-her sister abandoned her baby and Maria became an instant mother. Marrying at an early age, Maria quickly had three more children, while caring for her elderly mother. She needed food, shelter, and medical care for her children. More importantly, she and her children needed this:

Maria and Faby

Inspiration, caring, love and hope. 
Belief in a brighter future through the direct hands-on help of someone who cared enough to say "You can do this, and we will be there to walk the journey with you."

Vinnie, FFF board member and support person for Maria

Faby and Vinnie, our two Guatemalan board members, represent that hope for Maria and her family. They are there....working out the details of hiring the builder for Maria's new home, after finding the lawyer to place the land FFF purchased into Maria's name. Delivering the food, after carefully purchasing what will best feed the family one meal a day for a month. Purchasing and delivering beds, a table and chairs so the family has rudimentary furniture. 
Taking frantic calls when Maria was robbed, and keeping the other board members updated on the details. Providing a good role model for little boys who have no father. Buying school uniforms, supplies, and shoes. Driving for 6 hours during each trip it took to accomplish these things.
In other words, doing all of the things that are needed to lift up a young, overwhelmed mama. 
The night I met Maria three years ago, she was scared and alone. 
As you can see through her words below, she now has hope for a better tomorrow.   


Thursday, August 8, 2013

It Doesn't Only Happen In Guatemala

As board members of a nonprofit that concentrates on the humanitarian and educational needs of Mayan women and children, we tend to focus our informational reading on Central American issues. The internet broadens our horizons, as happened this morning, when I opened my email and received the newsletter from Madre, a nonprofit similar, but much bigger, than ours. http://www.madre.org/index.php.
The title was "Girls should not have to marry to stay alive."

Mariela and her mother
Mariela,with donated school supplies

Their newsletter topic felt very familiar to us at Finding Freedom through Friendship. Many of the women in our program married men at an early age, to escape the daily poverty and lack of opportunity that was part of their upbringing. Madre is working to raise awareness of this issue worldwide. Finding Freedom only has the capacity to do so for the children in our program, in the tiny country of Guatemala. 
We are excited about our ability to educate Mariela (above), so that she has opportunities that were not afforded to her mother, who is illiterate. Mariela's mother has no hope of sending her three girls to school without our support to purchase school supplies, uniforms and shoes. 
 Uneducated or undereducated women worldwide are marginalized in every aspect of their lives; culturally, socially and medically. For every year of schooling a girl obtains, statistics show a five to ten percent drop in fertility. The cycle of poverty can be broken, one girl at a time. Children of educated females fare better in every demographic; increased mortality, mental health and education. 

Estela, a student sponsored at Mayan Center for Education and Development with FFF scholarship funds.
What a thrill is it to watch young ladies like Estela blossom in the boarding school (http://adoptavillage.com/) she attends with FFF funds. Not only is she being exposed to an excellent education but she is also learning alongside young men who are being taught that education for girls is a valuable asset. 
She grew up in this home (below). Would you guess her background by looking at her now? Helping Estela and other girls in our program shine intellectually costs several thousand dollars of our already tight budgetary resources. It is commonly said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Estela's photo shows a radiant and confident young lady with hope for her future. Educating her is a cost we are willing to support. And her smile? Priceless.

Estela's home