Wednesday, March 27, 2013

500 Baskets of Food to Guatemala!

Well, 500 baskets of food and all the elderly received bags of food!
Thank you so much to all of you for making this possible!!!
Just when I was about to go to bed tonight ... around 10.30 p.m.  Gerber, the young man that we gave a micro loan to 
open his bakery, came by with his two younger brothers.  Little Elvis who is now 11 years old and another brother who is 16 years old , both looked like they had been dipped into a bag of flour.   They all look very, very tired.
They have made over 8,000 pieces of bread in the past two days!
They are very excited.  Gerber came to thank me and bring me the gift of a tray of fancy breads...two in the shape of alligators!
He said that without the micro loan he would never have been able to do it.
As many of you know...Gerber and his 5 younger siblings are all in our Orphan Care program.....I can imagine that their mother is smiling down on them tonight!
Once again, I want to thank you all for the baskets and bags of food.
I am always touched by how much these baskets of food mean to the families who receive them.
One woman had tears in her eyes today when she thanked me for the basket. Her husband has had an accident and she said that this basket is the only food that they have in the house.  She told us that her children were so excited that they would have sweet bread for Semana Santa as they had thought that they would not be able to afford to buy any.
Thank never know the lives you touch with your kindness and how much it means to them!
Thank you for your support....we are so grateful to all of you.
The women and men in the Elderly Care program were so happy to have a bag of food!  Thank you for having made that possible!

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

Handing out Semana Santa Baskets

Thank you so much!  I really like the expression on the email.....this was brought home to me yesterday when I looked around at some of the crowd who were waiting for their baskets.....
There was Creencia who smiled and waved when she saw me...some of you will remember Creencia...who lost her husband a few years ago...then her 4 children aged 13-9 years old went to work in the help support the 4 littler ones at home....the 4 elder children were all killed when their pick up over turned on the way home from the fields...and then Creencia was diagnosed with cancer...supposedly terminal..........There was another mother who was in tears because her her husband had started drinking heavily and they only had $50 of the needed $100 to pay their mortgage this month ....and her varicose veins are so painful she can barely stand to be able to work ...but she was asking me for any kind of work just to earn enough to pay the mortgage...................These baskets of food meant so much to the families who received them. Some of the volunteers were commenting that many of the families were not even waiting till they went home to start eating but were eating the bread out of the baskets before they were even out of the gate at Mayan Families.
Thank you all so much for your support.
"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone
you meet is fighting some kind of battle.".....

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

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Things are heating up in Guatemala!

Things are heating up here in Guatemala for Semana Santa!
School finished on Friday for most children...our pre schools are still open till Wednesday afternoon.
Colorful carpets made of sawdust, flowers and vegetables are already appearing on the streets ....parades from the big Catholic church are now happening every day.
There are tourists coming into town....which is a great boost for the local  economy here.
We will begin to give out the Semana Santa baskets on Tuesday morning.  Right now we have less than 300.
There is still time to get your orders in!
This of our  sponsored students who is in our orphan program has opened his own bakery.
We are purchasing all the sweet bread from him ...he will be working very hard with his brothers and sisters to make the bread.
So your purchase of a Semana Santa basket will not only be helping the family who receives it but also Gerber and his family.
Gerber is now 24 years old. 
He has been working in a bakery since he was 10 years old.
His father left the family.
His mother died of cancer about four years ago now.
He is the eldest boy of six siblings.  The eldest girl is married and lives in another town.
But the other five have lived with Gerber and he, together with his sister, Glendy have brought up the other siblings.
Glendy got married last year but she still spends most of her time with her brothers.
She works at Mayan Families and when she finishes work at 5p.m. she goes to her brothers home, cooks dinner for them ( and her husband ) and then finally goes back to her own home around 10p.m,.  On the week ends she is mostly at her brothers home. She washes the clothes for the siblings, makes sure that they are doing their homework etc.
But Gerber's dream has now come true. He has opened his own bakery.
This was done from the $1,500 US that Gerber has saved from working over the past 14 years.....and a $5,000 loan that he received from a group through Mayan Families. 
He has built a huge oven and a small store front....nothing fancy but it is the start of big dreams.
Now all the siblings will be working with him producing the sweet bread that we need for the Semana Santa baskets this year!
We are very proud of Gerber and all he has done to make his dreams come true for him and his siblings.
Gerber not only worked during this time but he also went to school and received a degree in Business Administration.
During this time, he not only endured the passing of his mother but also three years before that his two other siblings passed away.
Then the family lost a huge portion of their land to the flood from Hurricane Agatha....and their house was uninhabitable. 
We hope the Semana Santa orders that Gerber will receive will be the start of new and very happy chapter in his life!

Friday, March 15, 2013

The week that was in Guatemala

There is no private foster care in Guatemala.

One of the  sad moments  for me was when they told us that now that adoptions have stopped ...that many orphanages have closed. They used to have 10 different orphanages that they could choose from to send children in this area but now there were very, very few.  We were also told that any indigenous children sent, would not be able to wear traditional clothing at an orphanage...that there is a big pile of regular clothes and that they will be able to choose from that pile what they will wear daily...but they will not have their own clothes.  
Jo...who is a long time friend and volunteer ( and also a member of Mayan Families Connection) came to visit , bringing three who is a sponsor and we arranged a home visit for her. 
Erin our volunteer co ordinator, took volunteers to help measure and weigh the children in Tierra Linda pre school. The children also received a  4-6 monthly dose of Vitamin A. They also received clothes from our donations.
We have new volunteer, Nicole come to work with us, she is helping with the Physio Therapy clinic we have operating right now. She is translating  and doing a great job. 
This clinic was started about a 5 weeks  ago when we had volunteers , P.T. Dave and his wife, Leeian who is a nurse come to work with us.  They are retired and are sailors. They took time off their boat which they have moored in El Salvador to come and work with us.  They were originally going to stay for a month but when they saw the need , they are now staying till the end of May.
Dave is writing to all the Physio Therapy colleges and trying to get someone to come and take their place when they leave. We hope to be able to continue this clinic permanently but we need to have a Therapist or two who would be willing to come and spend a few months.  We hope to get graduating students also willing to come and work with us. 

Dave and Leeian were also very sad to see how little medicines that we have in the clinic ...the most needed are antibiotics and insulin they have been doing a campaign  trying to raise money for medicines and this week they were able to donate $300 towards buying medications! 
We had 6 members of the  Rotary Club from Upper Arlington and Tri Village, Columbus Ohio visit.
The Upper Arlington Club has been very active in sponsoring the Trade School ( Carpentry classes, Sewing Classes and Computer Classes...and the 7th, 8th and 9th grade in Tierra Linda)
They visited their projects and also a small water project that we have organized with a village in Nahaula. This project will bring water to many houses that are not currently receiving water.
They also sponsor 40 children from Tierra Linda through the Upper Arlington club and were able to visit with them at the school.
One of the members also sponsors a child in Panajachel and he visited the home of that student.
They were very excited to see how well the Trade School was going. They have taken back 15 wooden boxes made by the Carpentry school to be sell at their club meetings. 

The Rotarians were also able to buy some medications for us. When they visited the clinic there was a family of five children there, whose mother had died last year and they are being cared for by the 25 year old sister.  The father works but he also drinks a lot . The children all had coughs but we had no cough medicine. The Rotarians saw the children and were able to get the medicine they all needed plus they also bought some more antibiotics for general use. 

We also had another group of 4 women come who are sponsors and are participating in a handicrafts tour of the area.  One of the women has been involved in counselling women about domestic violence for over 20 years. We were very happy to organize a workshop attended by our staff to learn about domestic violence and how to help other women in the community. 

Erin, our volunteer Co ordinator took volunteers to help weigh and measure the children in the Chukumuk pre school. The children also received a 4-6 monthly dose of Vitamin A . They received 
clothing from our donations. 

We took the Rotary Club members to visit the school in Tierra Linda.   They met with their sponsored students. They visited the Gabby Lewis Memorial Library. 
We then went to El Barranco to attend a "house blessing".    This house had been built by a sponsor from the group that Connie brought down with her ( Connie is also a member of Mayan Families Connection) . ...this young mother with 5 children lost her husband a year ago now.   She and the children were sleeping in a tiny room together.  Now they have a brand new , 3 room house.  As is, generally,  the custom here, no one will move into a new house  until it has been blessed...which also includes a lunch.   
After attending the house blessing and being hugged several times by the mother, the grandparents and the children who were just so thrilled to have this new house to live in, especially before the wet season starts., we then visited another family in El Barranco.  This family had been on the verge of losing their home and land because they had taken out a loan, the father lost his job and the mother was very ill, they could not afford to make re payments.  About 4 months ago when the Rotary Club visited, one of the members decided to pay off the loan and save the family from terrible devastation....he also paid for medical care for the mother.   I was disappointed to see that the mother was not recovering as well as we had  hoped....and we arranged for her to go back to the clinic .

One of the Rotary members also visited his sponsored family....a young mother who has cancer and who has been diagnosed terminal. He arranged for a monthly donation of food for the family  as well as continuing the medical care for the mother.   This sponsors support has meant so much to the family and has given them relief  with the terrible situation they are facing. 

At the San Antonio Palopo pre school we were delighted to have a professional musician come to give music classes to the children.
She did classes Wed, Thurs and Frid. and will do classes this week on Thursday and Friday. 

The Rotarians went to visit the water project in Nahaula.

We held a Memorial Service in Tierra Linda for a member of the group Paso por Paso....a Canadian NGO that has been working with Mayan Families since 2005. 
Patricia Pretty has been a member of Paso por Paso since it was started in 2005 . A retired school teacher from Orilla , Canada, she saw the great need that the schools and the teachers have in Guatemala and wanted to help.  Pat was such a lovely, quiet , unassuming person.  She worked very hard to help the children of Tierra Linda. She and the other members of Paso por Paso took on the very big job of helping to renovate the  elementary school.  The school now has 5 new classrooms and two more are planned. They also have new bathrooms, a kitchen....and a little library. They have a wall, gates, windows, bookshelves, desks, whiteboards and school supplies.  Things that they would never have had without all the work that Pat and Paso por Paso has done.  Paso por Paso through Mayan Families has given out micro loans in Tierra Linda for the past four years.  These micro loans have really changed the lives of the women in Tierra Linda.  They have told us that before they got the loans , the men in the family did not discuss financial matters. They did not know how much their husbands earned , just what they were given to go to the market. Since they have been getting the loans, the men now discuss financial matters with them, ask their advice and the best thing is that now they have their own money they earn from the micro loans to be able to do simple things, one woman said she really likes to be able to buy shoes for her children without having to ask her husband for money. 

We put a plaque honoring Pat on the wall of the school that she loved in Tierra Linda...along with two of her photos. There were short speeches which is how Pat would have wanted it, she would not have liked a big fuss.
Her husband, Roger was there ...he and Pat were married for 49 years. Pat passed away in November, the day after her first grand daughter was born.   We will miss Pat and her lovely, gentle ways. 
We also gave out school supplies to the teachers in the elementary school.
The school does not have text books so the teachers have to photo copy one book for their grades.
This is very expensive for them . They try to get the parents to collaborate but it is not easy.  
Paso por Paso for the past two years has photo copied each book that the teacher needs and made sure that each child has a copy of all the work they will need for the whole school year.
We had a trip to the city to the dermatologist for three of our sponsored students.   
Elizabeth took the Rotarians to visit the San Antonio Pre school  and to visit some of the homes that the families live in.
We also took them to San Jorge to see the Elderly care program.  While we were there we stopped into visit one of the elderly women who had fallen and hurt her leg. 
She also has a growth like the size of a ping pong ball that has come on the roof of her mouth.  Fortunately, it is not painful but we have got medical care for her and the doctors are doing tests to see how they can help her.  

We visited the San Jorge pre school just in time to be there when the tap came off and water was going everywhere..., the teachers were outside digging in the dirt to find the connection and turn the water off at the main.  We called in one of our sponsored students, a boy of 18 and got him to take over the digging and help the teachers!

In the afternoon, there was a talk for the staff about micro loans

Saw a little girl, 8 years old who had been burned on her face and chest from a very hot bowl of soup. The accident had happened the night before but the family had no money to get medical care for her. They brought her to the office on Fri morning after borrowing money for the bus fare. The child's father has just been operated on and the family has very little to eat..that is why the aunt had taken her to her home to eat.   This little girl was so brave, she didn't cry....and she said it didn't hurt. I think she was scared that she was in trouble for this accident. She had her wounds dressed and we gave her pain killers ...just in case...and then gave the family the bus fare to be able to bring her back in on Monday. 

Changes.....Sadly, this week Rachel from our School Sponsorship program and her husband Dan, who also works with the School Sponsorship program are leaving to go back to the U.S. They have been with us for over a year now and have done a fantastic job. We are very sorry to see them go and look forward to having them come back to visit.  We are now interviewing for their positions and hope to have new people here soon.

Erin, who is our volunteer co ordinator is also moving on.  Erin has done a really wonderful job and everyone who has worked with her will miss having her here. Erin is not leaving Panajachel so  we will still have her popping in from time to time.  She has also very kindly offered to keep helping us with the medical groups as that is one of her favorite things to do! We are interviewing replacements for Erin's job this week. 

It has also been a busy week for our Animal program.
One our cats that we thought was spayed gave birth to 4 kittens.
We received photos of Taffy who has  been adopted to the U.S.two weeks ago.    Taffy has gone from being a street dog to a rescued dog and now a dog living in the lap of luxury in Florida. We saw photos of Taffy having a very big soft round bed, with a big chew toy .....and a photo of her new house with a swimming pool, where she can swim!
I wish all our animals could be so lucky!
We had an almost three month cocker spaniel brought to us that someone had dumped in the lane way. The puppy was very sick. She had parvo virus and after she started throwing convulsions we had to put her down.   
Another person brought their dog to us, she was a much loved dog who we discovered had a huge cancerous tumor and then several other tumors through out her body. She also had to be put down. 
Sadly, one of our dogs jumped the fence and was hit and killed instantly by a truck....Shannon, I am sorry to tell you that was Linda.
We are continuing to bottle feed the four little kittens that were dropped off on us.
On the bright side we had one kitten, two puppies and an adult dog adopted this week! 

Monday and the rest of this new week, through today....
Mondays...we always deliver food to the pre schools and often have volunteers and visitors go along.
We will continue distributing Vitamin A and clothes to the rest of the pre schools.
Tuesday...we have a Women's Empowerment talk.
Tuesday morning....we  have a talk by the Physio Therapist about how to reduce stress from being on a computer all day. We have had Centro Salud  (local govt. health center) call and ask us if they can also give a talk to their staff..
Wednesday ..we have a meeting with the new government teachers from Tierra Linda who are working in the Jnr. High. 
Thursday and Friday our offices are closed as we all attend our Strategic Planning meeting. 
Sunday...the Mayan Families Canada group arrives. 

Wishing you all a very happy week!
Sharon Smart-Poage
registered 501.(c).(3) Non Profit Charity

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Feeding and caring for the Elderly in Guatemala!

Our program of feeding the elderly is an many elderly who have no one to care for them ...or their families who do not have enough to feed them...receiving a visitor from a sponsor is a complete joy for the elderly. It brightens their day and they know there is someone who cares for them. — Visiting the elderly.

Chairs delivered to a school in need in Guatemala!

Members of the Upper Arlington and Tri Village Rotary Club of Columbus, Ohio visiting Guatemala last week. One of their gifts this week was to deliver chairs to children at a local school...who until these chairs arrived were sitting on the floor.

Friday, March 8, 2013

International Women's Day

This morning we are having  an American woman who has worked with Women's  groups and Physical abuse against women for 20 years will be giving a talk to all the women on our staff.
We hope it will be a great learning experience for them. 
Guatemala is ranked 116/135 countries for gender equality , on par with Jordan and Zambia. 
There is certainly room for great improvement there!  
We feel that it really starts with education...that is just one reason we are so proud of our School Sponsorship program and all the girls and young women who have a chance to go to school today ...who otherwise would not be receiving an education.
Thank you to all their sponsors!!! You are making a great difference!
Sharon Smart-Poage
registered 501.(c).(3) Non Profit Charity

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

It's cold!

I really want to thank you for raising money to repair the house...or to anyone who is trying to raise money for house building or repairs....
It has been really, really cold ....freezing for us!!!  here in Guatemala this past week. The winds have been 50-60 mph...and the cold has been a big surprise for us.     Every night when I get into my warm bed in our very stable house....I think about so many families I know that are sleeping in tin houses or wooden shacks and how the bitter cold must be sweeping in ... with the wind and the dust.   Many of these families do not have beds, they are sleeping on straw mats on dirt floors ....some have beds with straw mats on them...and even those lucky enough to have a mattress not usually have enough warm blankets.    I can imagine how miserable it must be.    The other night when the wind was howling , our 8 year old Aleeya, asked if our house would fall down...we laughed and said no...but there must have been so many children who were terrified that this is exactly what would happen to their homes...and there was a good chance that it was possible.   So thank you so much ...for building houses, repairing houses, putting on stable roofs have no idea what it means to these families!
Sharon Smart-Poage
registered 501.(c).(3) Non Profit Charity