Sylvia lived in the slums of Guatemala for years without complaint. Surviving in the airless dark shanties of rural Guatemala is not for the faint of heart, but she is determined and smarter than her lack of formal education would indicate. Raising seven children in these conditions should earn anyone a “Mother of the Year” award. You may have read our previous posts on this hardy young family (Sylvia’s story), and if so, our readers understand our dilemma about our initial inclusion of Sylvia’s family into our program. Finding Freedom through Friendship is designed to meet the needs of rural indigenous widows. Sylvia has a husband.
The gray zones are the most difficult parts of running a humanitarian nonprofit. The lives of human beings are enhanced and sometimes saved through our efforts…or not, if we make the difficult choice not to include a referral into FFF. At the time of Sylvia’s entry into our program the family was homeless and desperate for food and shelter. We made the decision to cross the line into an area that went against the tenants of the Finding Freedom through Friendship program, and accept Sylvia, husband and all.
Most vulnerable children in poor countries don’t need a new family but they do need humanitarian support in their current one. Guatemala devotes less than 3.5% of its GDP to public spending that directly helps children and adolescents, making them the country with the lowest rate of social and economic support for their most fragile citizens in Central America.
Four years and many dollars later, this family remains resilient and determined, in large part because Sylvia has had the enthusiastic support of her husband with child rearing, enterprise and home management. Marco works making roof tiles when he can find a market for his products, which is not often. The average annual income for this family of nine is less than $2,000. Monthly food and educational expenses are over $500. The math does not come out favorably.
The final step in FFF’s program is to assist a Mayan mother with micro business. For four years we have educated Sylvia’s daughters, paid for healthcare, housed the family, purchased land for them and most recently, built a tienda (small store) on their property. Our board members have shared meals, a trip to the zoo, and shopped together for school supplies. We have celebrated their successes and worried about illnesses. Each visit with them enlightens us to the street-smart intelligence that is intrinsic in women who must raise children with hope in hopeless situations.
Every time we leave their FFF donated house, we know our hard work has helped ensure the success of not only Sylvia and Marco, but six future mothers and one future father.
These empty shelves (above) have recently been filled with donated goods for the family to start selling. Sylvia’s daughters now use their scholastic skills to keep track of inventory and profits. The oldest girl’s rudimentary business skills are blossoming.
Going against our organizational bylaws and including a married woman in our program felt right at the time and the decision has proven to be a solid one. Marco continues to work when his employer has funds to pay him. The family is thriving, happy and united in their belief that the future is brighter than they ever thought possible. The store sales are doing well, and the family garden is sprouting fruit trees, vegetables and flowers.
This family is the quintessential example of the intrinsic strength that flows from a couple who have the tools they need to provide for their children.
What a joy to watch them blossom.