With his slight overbite and his unkempt hair he was simply the cutest Guatemalan toddler we had seen in many a year of volunteering with Mayan children. He radiated the calm demeanor of a child who was well-loved and happy to be included in a life that he didn’t yet realize was sparse.
When we learned that William’s mother had offered her son for adoption in exchange for adequate shelter for her other children, FFF board members had a rapid immersion lesson in the logistics of abject poverty. This treasured child, the one son among six children, appeared to be the only means his mother could utilize to bargain with local missionaries in order to house and feed her older children. With little income and inadequate food, the family found themselves renting two rooms at the edge of a garbage dump in a local slum; in the rainy season, all of the human waste from the houses up the hill flowed under their tin walls.
The offer from this particular mother could have easily made for judgemental fodder; the type of discourse that social media loves. We could envision the headlines…”Mother offers son in exchange for a house”…and the thought of it made our humanitarian hearts cringe. As a nonprofit organization working with impoverished Mayan mothers, we understood the desperation behind the request.
In place of judgement we made the choice to provide humanitarian assistance. Finding Freedom began delivering monthly food donations to the family. We paid for school fees so the girls could attend school. Two years later we purchased and donated land to Sylvia, followed by a new house. In between all of the above there were trips to a surgeon for a tubal ligation and hernia repair, donations sent for medical needs and recently, and a donation of eyeglasses for one of the daughters.
The final step in our program is assisting Mayan women with resolution toward financial self-sufficiency. A simple store, built on the land the family now owns, brings Sylvia closer to her, and to our goal. The education her girls have attained will be used to order and maintain inventory, keep income records and price items for a profit margin in the new family business. Our hard work and the faith our donors have shown in this family will benefit Sylvia and her children for many years to come. This is an exceptional family; they love each other to the moon and back. The store our donor gifted will be thriving with Sylvia’s girls as future business owners once the shelves are stocked.
How easy would it have been, five years ago, to stand in judgement of this particular mother? Very easy.
How hard was it to raise the funds, over a period of years, to purchase land, construct a house, keep the family healthy, educate many children and then build a small business? Very hard.
How wonderful was it to take this entire family, son and all, to the Guatemalan zoo a few months ago, and watch the love between a mother and her children…all of her children? As William said when he saw an elephant for the first time: it was very wonderful.