Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Children seem to appear from nowhere when we visit. Want to see the faces of the next generation in Central America? Stand in the yard of any villager in the mountains of rural Guatemala, and within minutes there will be dozens of beautiful raven haired children at your feet, curious about the gringos and comfortable in company of their playmates. We have seen so many children over the years...literally thousands...that it is difficult to remember any who stand out among the multitudes. 
Manuel was memorable. 
And I still can't put into words as to why. 
He was handsome. 
And quiet, but not unfriendly. 
He seemed intelligent. 
And he was a caring brother to his little sister. 
None of which was that exemplary. 
Maria being interviewed by FFF volunteers
Maria's husband with daughter
Our time together was brief. We were preparing to leave the village when his mother appeared and asked us to consider including her in our program. Afternoon rains were fast approaching and the thought of being caught in the storms while we traveled back to our hotel standing in the back of our pickup truck was not appealing. We might have declined if we hadn't looked into the eyes of Maria's children and seen the empty look of hopelessness reflected back at us. 
We interviewed Maria while the thunder threatened and the skies darkened. Her story was one of a loss of hope so profound that the weather became irrelevant. 
We listened while Manuel stood at her side, watching our reaction to a family saga of a catastrophic accident which left his father without an arm and a leg, resulting in the loss of their home to a coyote who demanded it as payment for a disrupted journey to America.
 We took our notes, tucked the family into our hearts and distributed donated food and blankets to cover themselves when they slept on dirt floors. None of what we did felt like anything substantial in the face of their monumental need for shelter, and a long-term sustainable lifestyle. 
It has been a year since these first few photos were taken. 
We  have sent food donations every few months while the family continued to squeeze into a soggy corner of an uncle's house and their hope for something better drained right down the hillside with the rain. FFF didn't have the funds to help with anything more significant. 
Donors Loren and Erika Mollner from California donated funds for land, and even better, met Maria's family during a trip to Guatemala. They sent me this photo of Manuel's artwork; paintings done by a boy who dares to dream and has a connection to the beauty that surrounds him in the rivers and mountains of his land. 
It wasn't until his benefactor sent me this photo of Manuel's artwork that I could put the final adjective onto my description of this particular child. 
He is courageous.
 It takes courage to dream that better things will come your way when you have grown up in a country that offers such dismal opportunities that your father will risk his life riding on top of a train for a chance at work. 
To acknowledge Manuel's courage to dream, we purchased these art supplies to give him in a few weeks when we visit again; supplies that will feed the artistic spirit of a child who stands out from the crowd.