Friday, January 31, 2014

This is Progress

When I saw her last week it had been four months since my last visit with Sylvia in Guatemala, and I was anxious to see if her life had improved. Finding Freedom has supported the family's nutritional needs by supplementing their food supplies every few months for the last two years. With seven children to feed, food scarcity is something Sylvia deals with daily. On an average income of less than $25 a week, there is rarely enough money for anything but tortillas sprinkled with salt for the nightly dinner.
The definition of the word progress changes depending on the individual. Most of our board members would consider progress to mean an increase in salary, or a job promotion. Our children may think of it as a graduation from high school or college, or the attainment of a great job opportunity. On a busy day, progress for me means staying one step ahead of housework and paperwork.
Our board members are impatient people; we want to see significant change in the lives of our Finding Freedom mother's and their children.  We work very hard, on a volunteer basis, to gather funds and do the work required to bring our FFF mothers up from an abject poverty level. We know the obstacles we face while doing our work in Guatemala, where millions of women and their children face one of the highest rates of malnutrition world-wide. Because we are tireless in our efforts, we expect big things from our work. 

For Sylvia, big things come in small packages. She is much more patient than we are, because dreaming of a better life is not something that used to occur to her.  
In Sylvia's world, Progress looks like this:

Assistance with school fees for her children

Money to purchase chickens

Purchasing seeds to grow plants

Having running water to do laundry

Freedom from future pregnancies
Dreaming of a better future for her children
As I mentioned, we are impatient: in a perfect world, there would not be any mothers who can't meet the basic needs of their children. Real progress would mean that FFF  board members no longer need to raise funds and awareness of what poverty indicators mean for the future of our world. 
Meanwhile, Sylvia feels better about her life, and things have improved, marginally. The children now eat eggs, and five of them are in school with supplies and fees donated by our organization. Donated food from FFF helps balance the family's diet. Sylvia sells used clothing for 20 cents per item. We have helped her start a microbusiness. Sylvia is slowing starting to think beyond the slum where the family lives, to a place of expectation that things just may be different for her children than they were for her. 

By anyone's definition, this is progress.