Saturday, August 16, 2014

Trying to Sleep at Night

She was our poster child of what a little Mayan Guatemalan girl could look like with proper nutrition, housing and a mother who was receiving all that she needed to care for her children properly. Ana was radiant. When I looked at her photos, I knew our hard working little organization was doing great and wonderful things because photos are proof.

Ana, a year after staring our program
Until they aren't. 
Until the story behind the photo becomes something you don't want to write about.
Which is what happens when dysfunction, and addiction and poor decisions made by the adults in her life fall in the lap of one precious little girl who didn't ask for any of it.

 We purchased land for her mother after the alcoholic father sold their first house out from under his children's feet.
We built a new home, deeded it to the mother, purchased water rights, piped in liquid gold (water) right to the door and luxuries of luxuries...even put in a real toilet. The children were back in school thanks to FFF scholarships, and the easiest thing on our list of donations was the most important and nourishing...we fed the family one meal a day. Ana flourished. Her siblings gained weight. Her mother gained her pride back after we helped her in a micro business. Life for this family in the mountains of Guatemala was good.

Until slowly, it wasn't so good anymore. Ana became sick, pale and swollen. She cried very often and hard and refused to walk for six months. We got her to the doctor once a month for too many trips to count, and despite antibiotics, a consult with an American doctor and a hospitalization in Guatemala City, she declined physically and 
emotionally.

Swollen hands, knees and feet
I don't know what was behind her mother's decision, but suddenly and inexplicably, Ana's  alcoholic father was back in the picture, demanding that his daughter be released from the hospital and returned home to the house we built after he sold the first one out from under his family. The house that he wasn't supposed to be in, according to our written contract with Ana's mother and the wishes of the community who had banished him after his mistreatment of his wife and children.
I have never walked a day in this mother's shoes (or lack thereof), and it is not our place to judge her decision. Maybe her husband was the one true love of her life. Maybe she is an eternal optimist and thinks he will change. Most likely she is just terrified of life without a man to harvest crops and firewood for her. For all she knows, FFF could vaporize some day and our support would evaporate. For reasons none of us could rationalize, the father who had created havoc in the lives of his wife and children was now in charge again.

Hospitalization before release to father
Meanwhile, without social services or government officials to intervene, all we can do is respect the mother's wishes that Finding Freedom no longer deliver our services. I'll try to get the sounds of Ana's crying out of my mind, and we will move forward in our efforts to help one of the many families on our waiting list. I will block out our concerns that she has no pain medication, no steroids for her swollen joints, ad may in fact be terminally ill without proper medical care. 
Nothing about this seems right, or comforting; it feels like a wrong decision made by parents who have the right to make it, at least in Guatemala.  
A famous philosopher once said, 
"You can't change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails".
I understand the sentiment. But it doesn't change my feelings. And it won't help me sleep at night.