Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Name in the Last Sentence

Finding Freedom through Friendship has a friend and fellow humanitarian who resides in remote Huehuetenango, Guatemala. LynnAnn is doing work that few are strong enough, in spirit or body, to do. She, her daughter as well as her co-worker have lived in Guatemala for years, working among the people they are trying to assist. For the last year, FFF and LynnAnn have networked together to resolve the acute humanitarian needs of two abandoned women in the mountains.
 We refurbished an adobe house for a bedridden mother named Rosa; adding a kitchen, porch, new ceiling and purchasing furniture. Finding Freedom raised the funds and LynnAnn did the work of delivering the food, medicine and overseeing construction. In exchange for our donations, Rosa (name changed to protect her privacy) agreed to the Finding Freedom stipulation that her children, at our expense, must be in school. Education is the only tool we have to stop the cycle of illiteracy that keeps the indigenous population in a cycle of poverty.
In the last few weeks it became apparent that Rosa's children were not in school, and that one of them had in fact been conscripted to the coffee plantations far from home. He is eleven years old. 
Let me repeat that. 
He is eleven.
Here is LynnAnn's Facebook post about the conditions on many of the coffee plantations in the mountains of Guatemala:

(Photo credit: Pense Libre Newspaper, Guatemala)
(Article not published, since it is in Spanish):

"This makes me so, so angry and so sad all at the same time. This article is about one particular family whose three young children are receiving help at a special center for the severely malnourished. This family lives on a large coffee plantation in a shack they made out of plastic and sticks. The article says that both the father and the mother together earn about $26 for two week's work harvesting coffee...that's about a dollar a day. Sickening. One of their babies, a 3 year old little girl, had fallen into their cooking fire and had third degree burns on her foot; her parents didn't even have the money to get her to the free hospital. The government would like to do more to ensure that the folks who work in the coffee fincas are treated fairly by the owners, but that's a very difficult job. It's hard to know where to even find the families as they are allowed to squat on the land and there are no maps. How can these rich coffee plantation owners exploit people so shamelessly? It breaks my heart to think of all the people I know personally who are off harvesting coffee right now....Isaias, Claudia, Francisco, Erminia...and so, so many others." LynnAnn

LynnAnn and FFF could take up multiple blog and Facebook posts educating our donors about why a child should not be used as forced labor on a Guatemalan coffee plantation. Google the topic, and you will understand. Or do what LynnAnn had to do; stand in front of his mother and ask her where her son is. The answer was different every week, until the obvious could no longer be ignored, and Rosa told the truth. 
Is this fair for Isaias? 
Do we wish a different life for him...a life of soccer and school and free from harvesting 100 lbs of coffee beans for a few dollars a day? 
But all of the humanitarian assistance and all of the wishing doesn't change the fact that food for a family of three in Guatemala costs almost double what we as an organization can afford to donate, and that Rosa is chronically ill with no other male in the household to help bring in an income. Poverty is a much harsher boss than a coffee plantation owner.