Monday, July 30, 2012

Arriba y bajo

Arriba y bajo. Arriba y bajo. 

Up and down, up and down, constantly and with too much bouncing for my bad back. From paved road, to cobblestones to rough dirt to a steep path.  It seemed like an hour, but was likely half that.

 Our trip to visit the ajihados – godchildren or sponsored students – of myself and others in the group of volunteers I have tagged along with, required climbing to Monte Mercedes.  When I asked where it was yesterday, everyone just pointed to the top of the highest mountain around Panajachel. 

Finally we stopped, and parked on the side of the road. My "godchild," Irma Yolanda, a very shy young girl who met us on the side of the road in Monte Mercedez, pointed to a path that dropped  into a ravine. I thought the house might not be too far down, but was certainly glad to be wearing my hiking boots since it was alarmingly steep, snaked down into oblivion, and there would be lots of loose stones underfoot. 

We descended. And descended. And stumbled a bit, for what seemed like several hundred yards – and probably was. Talk about arriba y bajo! All of us, it became clear when we chatted later, were thinking "they have to make this trip every day!" With supplies, and food and sometimes babies strapped to their backs. 

 I tried to keep up with Grandma Lorenza, but she was doing much better than me of course.

Finally we arrived. I did not know what to expect and was relieved that the home was neat and clean, though spare and for the most part empty. 

There had not been many updates to Irma Yolanda's bio since I began sponsoring her last December, so I was looking forward to the inspection. I knew from photos on Picasa that they had received a water filter and food baskets, but  we – myself and Bethany, a sponsor of Irma Yolanda's youngest sibling, who was also along on the visit – were wondering what else they needed. 

The property seemed swept clean and the children were all shy and somewhat embarrassed. But Lorenza was very forthcoming, and was frankly being hit with lots of questions from our interpreter as well as Rachel, our Mayan Families guide, and of course Bethany and I. We knew that the children's mother had died last summer, and she explained that their father worked hard, when there was work, and that the children were still adjusting to the loss of their mother.  The tour that followed revealed that they indeed hadn't hidden anything – what we saw was what they had. 

 I know from photos on the Mayan Families Picasa site, that there are many other families much worse off than ours, but we saw no mattresses and as someone who prizes his own fancy bed back in Connecticut – and misses it badly while traveling in Guatemala – I cannot imagine sleeping on flat boards or the concrete floors of Irma Yolanda's house. There was not a mattress in site.

Although Irma Yolanda will move on to the next level of school, and in the process double the cost of my sponsorship, I explained to her that she shouldn't worry about school. I asked her what she wanted to do someday. She didn't seem to understand, I suppose such dreams are beyond the grasp of someone of her family's means, but finally said she would like to be a teacher.

 Sounds fine to me. I didn't begin sponsoring her with the idea that I could always back out some day. If she wants to be a teacher, and works hard to be one, then I will put it within her grasp.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Baby Wendy

Last night, Sharon wrote about Baby Wendy. Her mother, Esperanza came in to the office in tears asking for help for her special needs baby. Right now, we are in the process of finding a diagnosis regarding what exactly her development issues are, but that has all stopped. I left the hospital here in Sololá around 6:30 last night when the doctors promised that they were sending Wendy to Guatemala City immediately in an ambulance. Just now, a social worker from the hospital in the city called to say that it does not look like little Wendy is going to make it and that we should begin to help the family prepare. 
 A huge source of debt for families in Guatemala is death. The cost of moving a body, especially from the city, and the funeral expenses are incredibly difficult to cover when families barely have enough for their own food. It is often hundreds of dollars. To come all the way from the city, pay funeral expenses, and also maintain the normal necessities of her family is not a possibility for Esperanza. 

 We are really hoping to be able to help Wendy's mother, Esperanza. She is in her thirties and has suffered violence for years. She has done everything possible to care for little Wendy and her other children and is having a very, very difficult time with the news of her daughter's condition. We still are not able to say how much the hospital will charge in the case that Wendy does not make it, but it will surely be hundreds of dollars. Please help us ease the burden of this loving, young mother and consider pitching in even just a small donation to go towards her continued care or, in the worst case, her funeral expenses.

I just spoke with Wendy's father this morning and Wendy is still fighting! She is a little girl who really wants to live! Even though she has an inflamed liver, repeated seizures, and only one functioning lung, she is still hanging in there. Wendy is in the intensive care unit and has a slightly better prognosis than before. She will likely be hooked up to many tubes and under observation for another few weeks. The doctors say it looks like she might make it! Hopefully we can keep helping her mother with any extra medicine she might need and food for the family during this extremely difficult time.

Thank you for your care and concern for baby Wendy!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why Mayan Families exists!

Disparities and Inequalities in Guatemala - Why Mayan Families Exists

Rodrigo sad news

I am writing again with more sad news. Rodrigo, father of five children, finally passed away this morning. Both Jenny and Caroline had written a few times about visiting Rodrigo and how much being in the family's home had touched their hearts. My heart was touched as well. It has been a very tough year for this family, dealing with Rodrigo's illness. The only bright spot is that he is finally able to rest. 

As I have written before, death is a huge source of financial worries for families. Not only are the dealing with the struggle of losing someone they love, but they are worrying about paying for things like a coffin and food for a wake. Anyone who has lost someone close to them knows how awful this situation can be and the last thing we want to do is worry about the logistics of a wake and funeral. Rodrigo's wife, Rosa, is going through just that right now, but with the added burden of not having even enough money to pay for food for her five kids.

Please consider making even a small collaboration to help this family through such a difficult time. We are hoping to come together to ease their burden and let them know that we are here with them through their struggle.

Manuel from Elderly Care

 Manuel is resting comfortably....he is recovering from the urinary tract
infection and is now doing a lot better.

They do not know for sure which day they can operate, it depends on how well
he keeps responding.
Thank you so much for looking after him and making this possible. A big thanks to all of you.
Manuel was operated on yesterday and it looks like it was very , very successful!
Thanks to all of you for your donations and concern that made it possible for this operation and the medical care to happen for Manuel.
Thank you for giving him a chance at having a longer life !
As soon as we can, we will get a photo of him!
Thank you all for caring so much for a very sweet, elderly man ...who was in a lot of pain and a lot of trouble....a man that most of you have never met,  but whose life you changed dramatically!
Just the thought of Manuel being o.k. makes me smile.  If you have ever seen this lovely  man's smile , you would know that our Elderly care program would have been a much sadder place without him. 
Sharon Smart-Poage
a registered 501.(c).(3) Non Profit Charity

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sewing class news!

These three women were fortunate to receive brand new sewing machines
yesterday . They have completed the 6 month sewing course with Mayan
Families (  and are now ready to be able to
start sewing at home and hopefully, help provide their families with
an income.

Families for Guatemala

We are very fortunate to have for the 4th year in a row , the group "Families for Guatemala" coming to work with us.
Today they have installed stoves, visited their sponsored students, given out gifts and played a challenging game of soccer in the main square in San Jorge.
Late in the afternoon a woman brought her special needs baby to us for help. She had gone to the hospital yesterday and they had given the baby some medicine for her fever.
She is about 9 months old or maybe a little younger.   The mother was carrying  her in a brightly colored shawl and waiting in the garden when I returned from lunch. The baby was very listless....Kristen had thought she wasn't breathing, her breath was so shallow. She was sweating and her little mouth was bruised from receiving medicine. 
I am not sure what the diagnosis of this little baby is regarding her special needs but I watched as this child, that was barely breathing, her eyes followed her mother everywhere....and the mother started to sob silently.   

We arranged for the baby to go to a private clinic in Pana to a pediatrician.  They called from the doctors office and said that they could not guarantee that the baby would survive, she was in a very severe situation but that they would do what they could.   After medication her fever came down...they did some tests and she had a very bad intestinal infection. ...after about two hours of treatment, the doctor thought that the baby would survive to get to the hospital.  Kristen and Rodolfo accompanied the mother.   Once they were in the hospital, the baby was checked out but the hospital did not feel that they had the medication or could give the treatment that this baby needed. So they started the process to take her to the hospital in Guatemala City.  The one that was just in the paper saying that they had no medicines and were turning people away.   I hope that, after the long ambulance ride, that this family does not get turned away.   By now the family will be in Guatemala City, I hope they get the treatment that they need.  I hope this little one survives.  I hope it is not too hard on the family, they come from Tierra Linda....the city is a big, scary place for them. 

Feliz Noche,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cameras make fast friends!

Cameras make fast friends!



Saturday, July 14, 2012

Update on Manuel

Dear friends,
I am so sorry that I have not had time this week to give you an update about Manuel.
We have had four groups here at once and it has been very hectic.
Firstly, I cannot thank you enough for your support that has made medical treatment possible for Manuel.  
The generosity and kindness of this group never fails to amaze and humble me.
As soon as we had enough money we called the hospital and arranged treatment for Manuel. 
He was moved from the public hospital to a private hospital with a urologist in attendance.
He was found to have a severe urinary tract infection which they told us that they could not operate on him till the infection was cleared.
They immediately started him on antibiotics and thank heavens, he also received pain medication.
He is now as comfortable as he can be. 
They have performed several tests on him to make sure that he is ready to be operated on as soon as the infection is cleared.
We were informed that they hope to be able to operate on  him on Monday.
The public hospital does as good a job as they can under their circumstances.  They have very little medication, they have very few supplies. 
The national hospital in Guatemala has basically declared their hospital in an emergency situation due to lack of medication and basic supplies like bandages. They are limiting the people that they can see.
How many people, like Manuel are lying in hospitals or not even being admitted, who will be dying in terrible pain from a needless death ?
If it were not for you, Manuel would not have this chance and he certainly would have received pain medication. 
It certainly makes us count our own blessings. 
Thank you for making this possible for him.
As soon as I hear something about Manuel, I will let you know.

Sharon Smart-Poage
registered 501.(c).(3) Non Profit Charity

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Byron and his father Luis.

Hi everyone!
Thank you so much for all of you who have contributed to help Byron and his father Luis. Unfortunately, they are still in the hospital waiting for more test results and I am really worried about them. Before Byron was in the hospital, the family was really struggling and now that Luis has not been working for over two weeks, things are even worse.

Because money is tight, Byron's mother has not been able to visit him either. She has to come in the morning and leave in the afternoon because she is still breast feeding her baby. This little boy needs his mother more than ever right now!

Please consider helping us to send food for this family and help with the travel expenses so Byron can see him mother. Their Family Aid number is FA 242. We are still waiting for a definitive diagnosis, but this means that Byron is in the hospital for an indefinite amount of time. Every little bit will be a huge gift for Luis and little Byron! 

Thanks so much!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Manuel is in serious trouble

One of the people in our elderly program is in serious trouble.   Manuel. 

He is the 64 year old man who is mute.
His niece takes care of him....She is the only family that he has....apart from his older brother who is wheel chair bound.
He is in an incredibly sweet man who always has a huge smile on his face . 
He had a prostrate operation in January . It appeared that all was well. He seemed to be doing fine.
But we have found that they stripped the prostrate and did not remove it.
Please remember I am not a medical person and this is just the information that I have been told.
Then recently the prostate became inflamed. It has now affected his bladder. His bladder has become swollen and he is not able to urinate.
He has been taken to the hospital but they cannot do anything for him there. He needs another hospital that has a specialist. 
A private hospital has offerered to give us a discount after the local doctor we work with has asked for their help.
They want $1,200 US for the operation and it needs to be done immediately.
His bladder is swelling .  He cannot urinate.  He has been straining and only urinates blood.
The doctors have told us that if we do not operate he will die a very painful death.
We don;t have the money to pay for his operation..........everyone in the office is very upset about his condition...his niece is sitting outside crying.
If you can help us with just a little, it will make a big difference.  
There is a lot of pressure for us to agree to this operation immediately but without any funds is a very difficult position.
Please help Manuel if you can. 

Sharon Smart-Poage
a registered 501.(c).(3) Non Profit Charity

Tuesay morning in Guatemala

Last night we welcomed Bethany's group here to Panajachel.

Bethany had organized a bbq at a local restaurant , La Palapa so that some of the Mayan Families staff could meet the group .
It was a fun night and we all enjoyed it.
We are starting the day off running today...
We have Bethany's group that will be doing many activities..
some of the group will be building puppet theatres for the pre schools.
others will be going to the pre schools to do activities with the children at the Mayan Families Pana Pre school.......the kids are going to love this...many of the group are teachers!

Unfortunately, Bethany's Medrano boxes are held up in customs and will not be here in time .....but I am sure that the group and the kids will have a blast anyway.
Others in the group are going to start painting murals on the new pre school....when we move into our new offices...there is a big space there for the pre school. It will be great to have the pre school and the Elderly care under one roof.
At midday Bethany's group will be having lunch for many of their sponsored students and their families...around 70 people all together!
after lunch they will be giving out a lot of chickens to their lucky families.
Then there will be a cooking class for half of the group as they learn to prepare tortillas, chuchitos, salsas, guacamole etc. 

Apart from Bethany's group ...we have the Leche program this morning...this is when the babies and their mothers come along.
They receive formula or cereal....we will have the babies measured and weighed and then they will receive a talk about nutrition this morning.
We hope to convince mother's that giving babies water with sugar, or soda in their bottles is not good for their health.

We have several other visitors here as well. yesterday the children in Tierra Linda loved the magic show performed by volunteer Tony....and Alberto the clown.
The boys from the Tierra Linda jnr. high also performed at the magic show. Tony is so impressed with them. He is going to try and organize a  little street theater with them and hopefully they will be able to start earning money with their new skills!

We received news that the woman we sent to the city who was in terrible pain with the swelling in her arm .....did not have a tumor in her arm but had a lot of liquid . The liquid was drained and hopefully that has given her relief from the terrible pain she was in .  Now we are waiting to find out the results of what  caused this.

Have a happy Tuesday!
Sharon Smart-Poage
a registered 501.(c).(3) Non Profit Charity

Monday, July 9, 2012

Little Evelyn

Hi Everyone,

Little Evelyn recently became ill with a rash that causes her a lot of irritation. Evelyn's mom didn't know what to do so she went to the public health clinic. The doctors told her that Evelyn has Urticaria, which is an allergic reaction and causes very itchy hives. Little Evelyn really suffers from this condition and often can't sleep at night because she's so itchy. The doctors prescribed her medicine, but Evelyn's mom can't afford it. The medicine costs $28 and Evelyn would be very grateful for your help.

For more information on how to help Evelyn, please visit:

Thank you!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A very busy week in Guatemala with Mayan Families

Hi, well it has been such a busy week .
We were thrilled to receive a donation to be able to give the families in Aqua Escondido shelters to live in . ....and then even a bigger, bigger thrill to get such a generous donation to be able to provide them with so much better housing!    The first set of materials were delivered on Wednesday ...before we knew about the larger donation coming....and the woman who works for the church in that community knew that we were bringing building supplies so the families could start construction.. She prepared a simple lunch but done as they say here in Guatemala" with all my heart" ...She told Gloria that several of the families are taking turns eating every second day because they do not have enough food.  She asked us if we could help send food out there.  We do have some donations of bags of food from "Feed my Starving Children" that we will be sending out this week to them. But if anyone would like to help with some extra food then that would be very, very welcome.

and here is one when the families are looking at their land. 

We also have a group of 8 men arriving on Thursday who want to work on construction on Thursday and Friday and so we have scheduled them to go out and work in Aqua Escondido to help the families there.

We were originally going to get them to build a kitchen in Panajachel for a single mother who has an onil stove but no shelter whatsoever , so it makes it very difficult for her to cook in the wind and impossible in the rain.....but we will have to wait and hope that another group will come who will want to help her.

San Jorge jnr. high school is a small school that is really struggling.  With the new govt. taking over they have not been sent the funds they were promised...and so the parent council was faced with some very difficult decisions to make.  If they closed the school, then the children who were attending would not be able to transfer to another school after the school year had already the only solution for them was to pay for the teacher's salaries out of their own pockets.   They received some help from the Municipality council in San Jorge and they received some help from the parents but they have been desperately searching how to be able to pay the teachers till the end of the year.  If by then the govt. does not step in and pay for the wages, then the school will have to close .   But right now the parent council needs a $1,000 US per month to be able to keep the wages paid and not go into more debt themselves.  If anyone can help, it would be a real blessing for this very worried group of parents who took on a big responsibility ...not knowing that it would be much larger than they had anticipated..and they have kept their promise to the kids that the school would be open this year.  We took gym uniforms to the school so that the students will have uniforms to compete when they play the other schools.

Tony and his wife, Debra have been doing magic shows at each of the pre-schools!  They are doing this along with Alberto the clown.  On Friday they performed at the Tierra Linda pre school and the boys from the jnr. High school who have been taking magic classes also got to perform along with them. I am really looking forward to seeing the video of the boys doing magic tricks!

They will be going to the San Andres Pre school on Monday and then to Chukumuk on Wednesday.  The kids are going to love it.

We had volunteers Mark and Lyn Pike here who helped out for several days doing some of the moving.  We discovered that we had some mice in our old warehouse. Two,  who were disturbed enough to jump out right  onto our new Volunteer co ordinator, Erin's blouse. I wasn't there but I heard there was a lot of screaming and jumping up and down!!  Carlos, who was in the carpentry workshop came to the rescue, caught the mice and put them outside in the fields.    Mark and Lyn also donated stoves while they were here and did a lot of climbing the steep paths of San Antonio to install them.  They also participated in a cooking class while they were here.
Check out these photos for stunning views of the lake. 

Another very large family group or two family groups who came to install stoves had a great time with their children, learning how to install the stoves and visiting the families where they were to install the stoves.  They also popped in and visited the Elderly Care program in San Jorge as well.   We always welcome children in our volunteer groups. ( so long as the parents are with them!)

We had a meeting with a group working here who wanted to build houses for us in Aqua Escondido but wanted to charge the families.  We told them that while that is a great idea for some families who can afford to pay a house off, that these families would not be able to afford to make payments...and if they did , they would not be able to afford to eat.   Carmen told me that one of the women told her that she did not even have one quetzal in her purse to be able to buy anything.     While I definitely agree that it is great for families to be able to pay off their homes.....and I don't believe that everything should be given away these circumstances...with these families , they will not be able to pay.   So I see it as giving them a helping hand up....because it is very hard to drag yourself out of the depths of poverty .  This house and hopefully, a stove and a water filter...will just be the absolute basics for these families. 

We sent the young victim of sexual assault back to the city accompanied by a Mayan Families staff member to go to court and to receive counseling.  She has to go again this week.

We also sent in a woman who is in terrible pain with a big mass in her arm.  We sent her to the Incan hospital and we hope that we will get some good news for her.
Ponciana, the young mother who had her leg amputated at the knee last year is doing really well.   Her prognosis is really good and she looks great.  She gets around on her crutches amazingly well, she climbs up the steep , dirt path to her house without any problems. 

Our volunteer photographer, Hiroko who is making a video of Cristobalina ( the teen age girl who was electrocuted and had her arms amputated above the elbow) went to the hospital in the city this week to take a photo of Cristobalina. She was undergoing surgery again to remove the scar tissue on her legs. Normally, it is very difficult just to get into the hospital but we had help from a woman from Guatemala City, Rosa, who has been doing some volunteer work for us, and she was able to not only get Hiroko into the hospital but the doctor actually invited her into the surgery to take photos!  Rosa certainly has some contacts!   We are hoping that Cristobalina will soon be released from hospital.  She is really doing great and very thankful for all the help she has received.   Hiroko went to Cristobalina's house last week to help Cristobalina celebrate her birthday.   

We are continuing the move into our new is a slow process but there is a lot to be done .  

Our Animal program this week was able to adopt out two full grown is the mother cat who was thrown down the latrine last year. Some of you may remember that we had to have her pulled out by a noose around her neck.....she and her full grown daughter were adopted by a Catholic nun from the monastery in San Andres.  I hope she will have a happier life now. 

The two big huskies whose owner died a few weeks ago were able to go to a new home together.   A 70 acre property owned by an American doctor and his wife. I am sure that they will be very loved and very comfortable there!  I am so glad that they were able to go together. We had the male neutered last week  and the female had already been spayed.

Two  young puppies were also taken into the homes of two young police officers here. 

But as always happens some go ...and others come in.   When Mark and Lyn Pike were installing stoves in San Antonio....we were told about a mother dog and 6 puppies that were on the street, so they picked them up and brought them back.    
Another very cute puppy...a male..which is unusual, mostly it is the females that are dumped....was brought to our house. Two young children brought him saying that they found him on the street alone.  
Then there are the three kittens that we are bottle feeding. ..It is always a zoo here!
in the beginning of these photos are the policeman with their new best friends and at the end is the mother dog with her between more photos of San Antonio 

In the meantime, students brought in their report cards, families received food, beds, water filters and medical care. 

We are looking forward to hosting Bethany's group of 20 people who are arriving on Monday..   We are still hoping that Bethany's Medrano shipment will get out of customs and get here asap. But it has been held up a while now.  There are definitely problems in customs and we are assured that the new govt. is working this out.

A very exciting email we received today said that Mayan Families has been approved by "Kids Against Hunger San Diego" and we have two pallets of food being shipped to us by the US Navy!!!  

We also welcomed sponsor Marta and her daughter Ana back again ...she has been a regular visitor for the past three years and we are very much looking forward to meeting Jim from MFC on Monday. 

I hope these links many of you know...I am a little link challenged!

Happy Week end!