- Grand Fiesta 2013 at the Imperial Theatre
It seems most afternoons between 4pm-5pm there is a meltdown around here. Those with young kids are, I am sure, very familiar with this end-of-the-day falling apart period of time. Kids are tired, hungry and are done with sharing, cooperating and getting along!
This afternoon’s meltdown was a result of Gabriela (4 years) “borrowing” and wearing Juanita’s shoes (Juanita is on the edge of turning 6). I didn’t witness it, but I believe Gabriela got whacked as a result of her thievery. She came into the house weeping. Juanita remained outside wailing.
I happened to be in the house when all this unfolded. The mamas were un-phased by the drama and continued with their felting that we had been working on. I decided to take this conflict on.
One of the biggest challenges our mamas are having right now is parenting. Overwhelmed, outnumbered and with very few parenting skills, they are really struggling. We are working closely with them to help them develop new tools as loving and firm parents (with absolutely no hitting). Modelling parenting skills seems to be one of the methods that really assists them.
So… I modelled a playful and firm way of dealing with Gabriela. I brought her on to my lap and removed the shoes. I gave them to Juanita who immediately stopped crying when she had her shoes back on her feet. Gabriela continued to cry and I suggested that I help her find her shoes. More tears and no understandable replies.
Meanwhile, Alejandra (2) toddled out of the house. A moment later she was back with Gabriela’s shoes! With the sweetest look on her face, she handed the shoes to Gabriela! And I was ready with camera to catch, for me, was the sweetest moment of my day!
What was the sweetest moment of your day today?
Guatemala is a country and culture of contrasts. A topography that is stunningly beautiful and a malnutrition rate that is staggeringly horrifying. An ancient Mayan culture that has a wise and kind simplicity and a modern political culture that is complex and cruel. And finally, children that show the light of creativity, promise and hope, and adults that often reflect the scars from the trauma of abuse, poverty and discrimination.
Awe-inspiring and heartbreaking; hopeful and depressing; moments of great appreciation and others of deep indignation. How can there be such dramatic and evident contrasts within a small country? It stretches the mind and heart to the breaking point in their effort to reconcile the apparent paradoxes. It has been, and will continue to be, one of the great human challenges on this planet – the ability to reconcile paradoxes. Ping-ponging from the light to the dark is fatiguing and not healthy.
I can tell you that my source of strength while on the road to reconciliation, is to take deep comfort from the inner Beauty that burns brightly within the Mayan people of the Central Highlands. I am sure you can see it in the photos that are posted. These are not isolated photos that capture a split second, this presence of Beauty within, is a constant and inherent in the children that inhabit the villages of these enchantingly beautiful mountains.
It is almost impossible for me to accept the harsh negatives of this country. It is very hard to accept the cruelty of how often people here treat each other with a systemic indifference and coldness. I am awakened to this reality when I leave Project Somos and travel to the Capital or go to another large town and see the reality of the street in action. When I return to the finca from such sobering outings I am always, yes always struck with the Beauty of the people and this place and I am very grateful to call Project Somos home.
This afternoon we had 31 children from the local community of Chivarabal come for our weekly program. Today? Playground time!!! Although we are in the middle of the rainy season, right now we are experiencing a canicula (a dry spell in the middle of the rains). Until the rain starts again, we will take advantage of the beautiful weather to be outside!
We have an awesome family volunteering with us right now; Colleen, Rob and their son Westley. A good time was had by one and all!
And I even got right in there to play futbol!
We have a donor who has generously pledged to match all donations to Project Somos up to $10,000! When you donate, every dollar will be matched up until July 31, 2014! We need YOUR help to reach this goal. The kids and mamas need YOUR support. And as always, we are grateful for every dollar you donate. It all makes a difference!
In March when our families first arrived, students from York House were here on site volunteering. The students stepped it up and worked really hard with us to get things ready for the mamas and kids.
For the next few days, the “Yorkie” young women helped with everything that needed to be done to ease the transition for the families. When the time came for our volunteers to say goodbye, our mamas were heartbroken. The new friends that had so warmly welcomed them were suddenly saying goodbye just as they had started to get to know them.
What the mamas and kids didn’t know about was something that you and I now take for granted. Years ago we used to pay through the nose to stay connected to friends and family living far away. Calls were few and far between and were saved for special occasions. Phone calls were bittersweet as we heard the crackled voices of those we love.
Just weeks after their return to Canada, the York girls called the families on Skype. This was our mamas and kids first ever Skype call and it was HUGE for them. There were tons of laughs, lots of questions, some dancing and even a few tears. The mamas were absolutely blown away with this opportunity to talk to these precious young women who had been their welcoming party when they arrived.
With all the advances in the world, I would have to say that internet video calls are a invaluable gift to so many of us. It allows us to stay connected to those we love and to maintain relationships from a far. And now, I treasure it more than ever as I watch our families develop and nurture new friendships from afar. These are people who have endured much indifference in their lives and this love and friendship is key to their healing and their empowerment.
“You say you want a revolution? We all want to save the world.” – so said the Beatles. I have a suspicion that with all the information and communication technology in billions of people’s hands today, we are more aware of our global predicament than at any other time in history. Hard to hide from what’s happening on the other side of the planet and there are many very concerned and caring people.
In the Part 1 of this dialogue, I concluded that if the population not living in poverty adopted their global neighbours living in poverty, the problem could be solved, or at least diminished greatly. This may be too simplistic not recognizing the first step that would be needed to precipitate a real and lasting change to eliminate extreme poverty in this adoption proposal.
“Yesterday I was so clever, I wanted to change the world. Today, I am wise, so I am changing myself”.
An individual inner shift is important in order to nurture the compassion to motivate action to be able to resolve our global challenges. What do we feel when we read or even see the reports of the numerous catastrophes in the world? The wisdom Rumi speaks about is about diminishing one’s self oriented ego in deference to one’s heart’s orientation of unconditional and indiscriminate love of the many. Perhaps this seems a tough road to follow?
Do I have enough resources, knowledge or ability on my own to change this ailing world? No. If I can accept my individual impotence and the necessity on the interdependence on others, then I can actually do something significant. I am a great promoter of synergy and the power of a like-minded group with a vision. In this context, anything is possible and impotence is left in the dust.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
So, in conclusion, I suggest that we harness our passion and use it for the betterment of the planet. Join with others of like mind and passion to reach out to those that need your skills, knowledge, and resources. Just in Canada and the USA, there are more that 1.1 million charities that are serving the social needs governments do not address. If you cannot find an organization that fits you, start your own, this is how Project Somos began. Be bold, be creative, and you will find out, “you are the leader you are looking for.”
Best to all,
So, we are past 7 billion people on the planet. Wow! Who would have guessed that when I was born in 1952 there was “only” 2.6 billion. Although we haven’t really tapped the potential to create a sustainable global future, it does exist in potential. With the planet experiencing a variety of crisis, I suppose we should become proactive in figuring out how to sustain our home. There is a recent UN report saying organic small-scale agriculture is the key to a sustainable food supply. Who would have thought?
Unfortunately, in 2014, 1.2 billion of our global neighbours live in extreme poverty, meaning living on less than $1.25 USD per day. Malnutrition is the underlying cause of death for at least 3.1 million children annually, accounting for 45% of all deaths among children under the age of five. By 2025 we will surpass 8 billion and by 2050, 9.5 billion. What’s a planet to do?
For the fortunate few, 1,645 people made the 2014 billionaire list, with a combined wealth of $6.4 trillion USD. Another Wow! Just to put that in perspective, in 2012 the GNP of Canada was 1.5 trillion. Hmmm…. Perhaps that is why many people hit the streets to protest the increasing gap of the wealthy and poor? Distribution of wealth has been a historical hot topic and it hasn’t gone away.
Not sure if there can be a big enough non-violent protest to pressure the very wealthy to share their good and large fortune. I look at it this way – 1.2 billion in poverty today, that leaves more that 5 billion gettin’ by. Take half that number, and have them “adopt” a neighbor living in poverty somewhere. Not just with cash, but by leveraging their first world privileges, like access to technology, knowledge, ability to travel, etc., etc. With this attention to the invisible masses, the challenge of poverty is taken out of the hand of well-meaning, cumbersome institutions that have not solved the poverty problem in 50 years. Naïve? Perhaps, but even a partial success would have a big impact.
I am the first one to admit that I lean toward optimism, and some days I would say that I am a gullible optimist. Honestly, I prefer that description and state of mind to a hopeless pessimist. We certainly have enough human intelligence and resources to figure out the current global crisis, but somehow those that hold the reigns of power have to be convinced it is in their best interest and the best interest of those behind them. That is the real challenge!
I am interested to hear your views on this….
I know it’s been awhile. A long while. No need to remind me. I am well aware. You have to cut me some slack. I’ve had my paws full.
As you know we welcomed our first two families in March. My days are packed overseeing seven children. Yes! Seven children! Most dogs get to ease into that number and get used to each child before the next one comes along. These all arrived at the same time like one big litter!
The kids range in age from 17 months to 8 years old. They all have different needs. All need my attention and my care.
The older boys need to be kept active so we play frisbee together. The little girls need necks to grab and heads to kiss while the little wee ones need me to lie really low on the ground so that they feel big.
The mamas are thoroughly impressed with me. They had no idea a dog could be so smart. While my people were back in Canada I stayed close to the families to make sure they were safe. My people always leave me with so much responsibility. What is a dog to do?!
I will do my best to keep up my column but you gotta remember who I am and what’s in my bowl right now.
Village Dog #1
Seven year old “short-long” (corgi-shepherd)
On Saturday morning we said goodbye to four volunteers that spent the last week with us here at Project Somos. We welcomed Frances and her 13 year old daughter Shenoa & Vivian and her 17 year old son Roderick. While here, the volunteer team painted, worked in the garden, installed signage and prepared the library for plastering.As well as the physical component of their work, the volunteers spent much of their time with our seven children. They played games, did puzzles and read to the children. They cuddled them, helped at meal times, put the babies to sleep and pretended to be horses for hours at a time (with a child riding on their back of course!)
One of the things we have observed with our mamas is that survival has been the focus in their lives up until they came here. Playing with and interacting with their children has been low on the list of things to “do” during the day. We see how this has affected the normal development of the children. Having volunteers model this type of interaction is invaluable. The mamas see that their children are loveable, have lots of potential and that they too are “permitted” to give them affection, attention and lots of love too.
As the volunteers left there were tears shed. The mamas cried saying goodbye to these wonderful people that talked to them, respected them and loved their children. The volunteers cried saying goodbye to these beautiful families who had shared deeply with them.
Volunteering at Somos is a whole new thing now. Friendships are made, new worlds are opened and views are expanded.