Tuesday, May 5, 2015

He Didn't Fit the Criteria

It is called the "gray zone"....that nebulous area of humanitarian issues that aren't black nor are they white. Merriam Webster's describes the color gray as this:
having an intermediate and often vaguely defined position, condition, or character <an ethically gray area>
 Life's journey doesn't follow a straight line, and neither do challenges that arise when board members are running a nonprofit.

In October of last year, Finding Freedom volunteers were doing home visits in Guatemala. Meeting with the women and their children in our program is essential toward making sure our donated dollars are spent wisely and the criteria of our program is being followed. We try to be discreet, but a group of white men and women visit a remote Mayan village, heads turn and word spreads quickly. The porch that belonged to the family we were visiting in a particular mountain village quickly became a mini medical clinic. 
Dispersing vitamins

The tiny six year old was difficult to see at the beginning of our visit. He sat there so quietly because he has cerebral palsy and he is nonverbal. His mother used to carry him wherever he needed to go, but now she has two more children younger than he is, and he is too big to ride on her back any longer. She was there to ask us for a wheelchair. 
Wheelchair delivery, Guatemalan style
It seemed like such a simple request but there was one significant problem. Neary's mother is married, and she isn't in our program (we focus on the needs of widows and their children). The chair was going to cost us several hundred dollars, the family lived in a remote village that was inaccessible to our driver and Neary was unable to travel to the factory in Guatemala City where chairs were available for personal fitting. Funding, which is usually the biggest challenge in meeting humanitarian needs in Guatemala had been donated. We were just left with a few details that would have been minor if we were trying to make Neary's miracle happen in the United States. but getting anything significant accomplished in a developing country takes infinite patience, resourcefulness and stamina. 
Nonverbal but capable of a big smile!
If you have read this far into the blog post, you see that Neary got his wheelchair. Sometimes rules have to be broken, boundry lines have to be blurred and all of the hard work of creating bylaws, regulations and nonprofit financial constraints have to be, just for a moment, ignored. Neary's mobility needs didn't fit our organizational criteria. 
We turned our collective heads and pretended not to notice. 
Sometimes the right thing to do doesn't always fit into written guidelines.