Monday, June 15, 2015

In Honor of Día del Padre: A Few Good Men

Finding Freedom through Friendship exists because of men, or rather, the lack of them. The widows and abandoned Guatemalan women and their children in our program were in crisis in the mountains of Central America; without a good husband, children go hungry and women are without emotional and physical shelter. A family, in the truest sense of the word, is fractured and children are left broken when a father is missing.
Frequent readers of our blog might think that there are so few good men left that Guatemala's population is in danger of decline. 
Not so. 
We would like to introduce you to some outstanding fathers.
This is Victor (R).  In his childhood Victor was a patient for several years in the United States, during which time he learned English. Never one to let an opportunity get by him, Victor built on every chance given him, and he now owns his own transport/tourism company in Guatemala (Victor's Company). He is our driver when we are in-country, our translator, cultural advisor and overall "go to" guy to get even the most difficult situations taken care of. Need something done in Guatemala? Victor will get it done, always with a great attitude and sense of humor. He is a wonderful husband and father and takes caring for his family, and our organization, very seriously. 

Vinnie, during an FFF home visit with some special boys
Vinnie is another example of the kind of man every country needs more of. He is intelligent, kind, and devoted to God ( Vinnie's church) and his family. Vinnie starts every day with prayer and a fierce determination to make the world a better place by doing the right thing. Remember the two brothers with EB (their story here) who are in our program? Vinnie is their role model. He prays for them, delivers our monthly food donations to the family and loves these boys like his own. Their joy when they are with him is evident. I've watched this kind and amazing man cry as he prays over these chronically ill children. He is passionate about life and an enthusiastic servant of God.
Pedro, our translator

Pedro is quiet, hard working and intelligent. He is one of millions of Guatemalan men who strive to do their best under difficult circumstances. The lack of opportunity for work in his village hasn't stopped him from trying to provide for his wife and children. He started a small restaurant which serves as a base for many of our FFF mothers. When someone in the community is in need of help, they turn to Pedro because they know he is our liaison in his region of remote Guatemala. During our home visits he translates for the women we serve who do not speak Spanish and they trust him with their history. He wears his responsibility well, despite being without a home of his own following damage from the last earthquake. 
And because our support comes from the states, we must include two of the best examples of American men we know. 
Mike is our board vice president, a talented physician and ultimate humanitarian. He has worked in Guatemalan annually for years, all while juggling a challenging work and church schedule. Residing in Denver, Mike makes responsibilities that would crush the ordinary man look easy. He is a kind, caring and competent man who has inspired many younger men to aspire to be the kind of man Mike is. He and his wife Wendy have raised three young adults who will carry their values forward into the next generation.
Mike and family

The ever-patient husband

Last but definitely not least is Tom, husband to Jody, our Executive director. The amount of money Tom has spent since the year 2000 to send his wife and children to Guatemala to volunteer could have earned him early retirement. Here is the look he has when his wife tells him she has booked yet another trip to Guatemala on his Visa card. He tries hard not to think of the cost of 26 plane tickets and lost income from his wife, who volunteers in Guatemala rather than contributing to the household income.  

To all of these men, who so easily carry the mantle of what it means to be a good man and father, we can only say:

Monday, June 1, 2015

Life Can Be Difficult. Wishing It Were Different Doesn't Help

Life isn't how many of us pictured it when we first ventured into this journey called adulthood. I can't think of a single Finding Freedom through Friendship board member who is living a life that they would call perfect. Each of us has faced difficult, gut-wrenching issues that turn bright days dark.

Yolanda with board member Faby
Yolanda spent months wishing for a different life when she discovered that her husband loved someone else, and that this someone was soon to have his child. She wanted her marriage to work out badly enough that she overlooked the nights he didn't come home, the harsh words he spoke and the fear that she felt when she realized nothing could be done to change his heart. Leaving the house she felt forced out of was her personal definition of terror. 
   Finding the emotional strength to leave all that she knew behind is our definition of courage. This little mama stepped into her dark days and agreed to meet them with determination to do the right thing for the future of her two little girls. Without a degree, a job, reliable family members or even an apartment to live in, Yolanda leaned on the one resource she had....our board members in Guatemala, Faby and Vinnie. She took their hands, held tight and walked into the darkness called "a future without a husband."
Weeks of worry and sleepless nights have passed, and she has now found an apartment. FFF is paying her rent while she looks for a job. The food supplements, cooking gas and vitamins we supply allows Yolanda to live independently. Knowing that she has a financial, spiritual and emotional safety net allows this young mother to put a difficult past behind her and to find faith in a future that is not yet defined.
Food donations from Finding Freedom.
Here is the report from Faby and Vinnie, our facilitators in the city where this new and fragile little family resides:
We went to visit Yolanda and her girls to their new home, she has a nice room, close to the nursery where she leaves the girls, while she goes to look for a job. She has taken her personal file to several recruitment agencies, she will go there two or three times a week to find out about vacancies. We have given her the Finding Freedom donated funds to pay the first month's rent for the room and food supplies.  She is very grateful for this help, you know she is going through a pretty tough emotional situation and economically.  
Faby and Vinnie

Yolanda is just one of the women in our program; they are all equally and brilliantly strong in their resolute determination to make the best of difficult and sometimes brutal situations. We stand next to them in awe. Our Guatemalan FFF moms make our hardest days here in the states seem easy. They can't wish away their problems, but we can offer the assistance needed to help them create a life worth living.