Have we shared with you how much we love our Finding Freedom through Friendship logo? Designed by the oh-so-talented FFF board member Rae House (http://raehouse.com/), this set of three letters is our identity. It is feminine, soft, upbeat while still retaining a sense of grace. This logo says everything about us without speaking a word. This tiny piece of our identity is perfect for us because we are all about women. Supporting the critical needs of widows is what we do best. Educating their children so the cycle of illiteracy, and therefore poverty, is at the top of our list of concerns. Some of those children just happen to be boys.
We weren’t prepared to fall in love with “our boys” as much as we did. Guatemalan men have left our widows behind, either by crossing the border to the United States, abandoning their families for another woman or through addiction and or death. It is easy for us to do some figurative eye rolling and stereotype Guatemalan men into an unfavorable category.
Gabriel could have been one of “those” future Guatemalan fathers. We met him two years ago, when our driver asked us to stop at Gabriel’s house on our way up the steep mountain near his village. Daylight was waning, the dark blue clouds were threatening to unload their precipitation and we were feeling very exposed in the back of a pickup truck. Gabriel, we were told, had a father which would make him ineligible for our program. But this young teenager had heard that a group of American volunteers might be willing to talk to him. Anytime a teenager wants to talk, one would do well to listen.
We can’t count the number of desperately poor homes we have visited over the years. Gabriel’s home was one of the worst. The dirt floors were flea infested. Something resembling stairs led to another sloping level of dirt flooring promised to dump muddy rainwater into the living area during the five month rainy season. There was one bed for a family of six, and it served as a closet as well as the only seating area. An ancient refrigerator sat without power or purpose. Gabriel’s newest sibling was asleep on a pile of used clothing that his mother sold for a few pennies worth of income. None of this was surprising. The mystery of the day was only that any child brought up in these conditions would desire an education. His parents were illiterate and Gabriel’s older brother was already a laborer. How and why this teen developed a spark for something better than his upbringing we will never know.
We could not build Gabriel’s family a new house. His mother didn’t ask for medical help to stop her annual pregnancies. But we could offer the one thing that would bring this young man up and out of what he grew up in. Thanks to a sponsor and an organization willing to listen, Gabriel is living his dream of being an accounting major.
Two years later, Gabriel is a different person. He has spark. He has hope. He has a future. By attending the Presidente’ Kennedy School in St. Tomas La Union, Guatemala Gabriel has been molded into a future head of a household. He has attained critical thinking and educational skills to do what is needed for the next generation of little Gabriel’s.
Estela is an FFF sponsored nursing student, and Gilma just graduated from law school. Andrea is finishing her teaching degree in 2018 with Finding Freedom scholarship funding. This young man is not our first college student, but he may be our most unlikely one.