Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mother to Mother

Stella Leona Ad promoting FFF

 We at Finding Freedom through Friendship firmly believe in the power of women to connect with each other in life-changing ways. It is a risky proposition, this emotional connection we are capable of creating. By extending our hearts, spirits and energy, we risk being hurt. And when we hurt, we feel it at a level men can't always relate to. Making the choice to put ourselves "out there," whether it is in a relationship, a business proposition or for a volunteer prospect can go in any direction. Not all of us are brave enough to make this venture. 
 Nancy Bontrager is making the decision to continue with her family's dedication to being world-changers. 

Nancy Bontranger, founder of Stella Leona Chocolates

A few years ago, Nancy suddenly became a single mother after the passing of her husband. You can read more about her business and personal journey here: Stella Leona Blog.
Nancy knows firsthand what FFF mother's experience when they are suddenly faced with raising children by themselves. She "gets it" in ways that I'm sure she wishes she didn't. 
Sometimes the best way to travel a difficult path is by pulling someone else up to walk along side you, arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder. Supporting our program through the sales of a specialty Mother's Day product is Nancy's way of pulling some of our mother's up, by offering them support through raising revenue. 
We are honored to have Nancy, as a business owner, and her staff, as chocolate artisans, stand with us in our desire to ease the difficulties of abandoned and widowed mothers in our program. 
Here is the link to the product that is being featured for the Stella Leona Mother's Day fundraiser.  (FFF Fundraiser). 
All proceeds from the sales of this beautiful and edible Pansy basket will go toward our program. Making life a bit easier for Mayan mothers is Nancy's gift to them on this upcoming Mother's Day. Helping other single mothers doesn't come any sweeter than this.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Boys

Juan with school supplies from FFF
We write so often about girls on this blog. Girls who lack education, who live lives of servitude or grinding poverty which keeps them from blossoming into women who can live their best life.  Finding Freedom is all about supporting mothers who lack the critically important things like adequate food, shelter and medicines for their children. As a reader, you might think we concentrate only on females in Guatemala, and that we have forgotten about the boys.
This post is about a few exceptional boys, who we hope, with our support, will grow into even more exceptional men.

This (above) is Juan. At just over four feet tall, he already stands over his mother, who has lost most of her teeth and some of her bone density from maternal malnutrition. As one of two brothers in a fatherless household, Juan would soon be required to try to find a menial labor job to help his family financially. Keeping his family fed and Juan in school will stop that from happening. By supporting his family's critical needs for food, medical care and shelter, Finding Freedom is taking some of the financial pressure of of Juan's widowed mother. 
Juan doesn't know it yet, but without our support, his life would be one of endless menial low-paying jobs. Rural Mayan boys rarely get through secondary school in his village. Their labor is more valued, and the meager income more vital, than their education.

This (below) is William. When I stand in front of William, I see a quiet strength that could move mountains, if given the chance. William's desire in life is to be a teacher. This is an admirable goal; his father is deceased and his mother (shown) is illiterate. I made a personal promise to William that if he can get through high school, I will be at his graduation. So few young men in his village graduate from high school that it would be a cause for celebration!

William with his mother, Maria
Meanwhile, we are working on gathering funds to build William and his mother a house, so that the precious financial resources of $15 a month for rent can be used for food and clothing. The land that Finding Freedom donors purchased for the family last month has secured a future for William after his only parent passes away.
The benefits of this land purchase allows Maria to live on her own property throughout her lifetime, while giving her children a place to build on after marriage, should they choose to do so. William promised me that he will always look after his mother and sister. Supporting the needs of this young man will ensure that he in turn is a support system for his female relatives.
We recently secured water rights for the new land for William, his mother and sister. One small improvement at a time adds up to life changing security for this family. 

Eduardo with his new school shirt

Eduardo (R) is sporting his new school shirt that FFF donors paid for. He is the oldest male child in a fatherless household, and he understands his role to provide for his siblings. When his mother conscripted him as a contract laborer in the sugar cane fields two months ago he didn't question the need, but he desperately wanted to stay in school. Fortunately, a GoFundMe campaign raised enough money to allow this to happen, meaning that Eduardo may use his brains instead of his brawn for one more year. Educating Eduardo protects his mother from financial corruption by giving her an educated family member to turn to during transactions with the man who consigns with her for her craft items. 
Small improvements in the lives of these boys and the many others in our program bring big benefits to their current and future families. Sustaining young men gives them the tools they need to be strong fathers and spouses someday.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Mistake

The words on this post start here because this is a half-picture. I was importing photos of Manuela and her widowed mother into our data base. I went onto start printing them, but I forgot to set my printer default to the smaller size. When her photo started emerging from my printer, I abruptly stopped the page from printing. The result? Half an image. Half a child. Half a girl child, which in developing countries usually means less than the value of a male child.
When her image inched its way out of my printer, I was struck by the brightness of her eyes, the smile that a child has before she realizes the limits poverty are going to impinge on her. This is the face of expectation that the future will be what she will make of it, not what will be dictated to her by a lack of education or opportunity.
We are able to start feeding this child and her siblings because a woman named Cindy in Europe decided that $100 dollars a month needed to go toward something important.
The rest of this image shows a thin child with a belt wrapped twice around a tiny waist. Maybe it is best that the photo didn't develop properly. I want to share her with you this way; with a sparkle in her eyes and hope in her heart. 
If we find the funds for a house that doesn't leak in the rainy season, school supplies and a micro business loan for her mother, I'll look forward to showing you a whole child. 
One with a future.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Boys

 Sometimes we just have to take a leap of faith. The faith in this case meant believing that if we took the boys and their mother into our program, funds to meet their needs (read former post here) would appear before us. It sounds biblical, but it is the reality of running a nonprofit. 
Meanwhile, the messages from Roland kept coming:

" Their mom Navia told me that a person/persons of the community there they lived made a decision that her sons were maltreated, their mother told me that some people of the community had misunderstood not knowing that the boys have this skin disease, and that there people of the community were afraid that it could be contagious, also she told me that her daughter was malnourished last year. I think the mom and her sons were at the hospital since December till early February. There is a court date on April 9th for the judge to decide to take the children because they don't understand the disease and they think it is abuse."

So we leaped. This family had all of the regular FFF issues and more....malnourished children, no income, a missing father. But they also had gifts...a hospital director who was willing to help us fight the courts to allow the mother to continue to parent her children, and they had the greatest ally ever; Roland, who was already emotionally invested in helping this family. 

Roland's notes continued:
"And I also have a medical certificates that Dr Julio C. sent to me that I will print and give to their mom. He wrote one document for each boy, I asked him for these documents that can help their mom.   
I will tell you if a document can be necessary to show the judge that the boys have a disease and are not mistreated. She has documents signed by the hospital director of the national hospital of the city of M., there he wrote that the boys are not mistreated, I have a copy of one of these documents that he wrote."

We were hooked. Grinding poverty does not lend itself well to happy stable households, especially when there is only one parent. Navia was strong enough to look unfavorable odds right in the eye and try to do her best for her sons who were going to need every bit of strength she could muster. She needed exactly what our name indicated; freedom from worry and friendship

Matthew in Colorado sent $200. This allowed us to get the boys to the doctor for an accurate diagnosis. I will write more on this in another post.

Food Supplies from Matthew's Donation
Trip to pharmacy for skin lotions
For now, we have a new family, a lot of faith and an unknown future. The judge could decide to ignore the documentation showing that we intend to help this mother and her children. The boys have an auto immune disease that would be a medical challenge in the states much less in Guatemala. For now, we will do what we should do anyway, and take one day at a time.