Excerpted from my speech at our Grand Fiesta on Thursday, October 29th.
Eighteen months ago we welcomed our first two families. Since then we have helped five women and fifteen children.
We have learned some valuable lessons in this short time period;
Without the ability to envision something better, people cannot change their course.
When people are treated with indifference long enough, they start to believe they have no value.
We have learned that women that search for help are more likely to stick with programs that offer them support.
When you have always had next to nothing, it’s hard to understand the value of something that is offered to you.
We have learned that the length of their stay will vary, for each woman. This will depend on her level of literacy, how much education she has had and what she is working towards.
We have learned that just because you want to help someone does not mean they want to be helped.
We have opened our doors to other women and their children. Some women have stayed for part of the probation period and left. Other women have refused our offer.
Every time a woman leaves or refuses our offer, we feel sad, confused and disappointed. Mostly for the children who have no say in the choice made by their mothers. Children, whose life’s courses went from hopeful to complete uncertainty. We have shed tears for these children who deserve so much more. We know how difficult the path can be for children in Guatemala. Boys are vulnerable to gangs. They are likely to end up working long difficult days of hard labour in the fields. Girls are likely to repeat the same cycle as their mother-they’ll marry young, have many children and often end up as a single mom trying to support her children on her own.
We could easily end up on the floor in a puddle of discouragement. We’ve come close. But when we look around and see just how bad it is for people, how can we indulge in such a thing? It’s not easy living in Guatemala. We miss our friends and family. We often crave Thai food in Yaletown, walking with our dog, Tika on the beach, or coffee on Main street. Our days are long, and often hard and challenging.
We have dealt with so much since we first welcomed families:
-lice and scabies outbreaks
-a women recovering from a gang rape
-a pregnancy and a birth
We have heard heartbreaking stories from the women and children about their past. Just to name a few…
-miscarriage induced by violence
– pleas for support that were never answered
-a desperate mama who tried to give her children up at an orphanage
-death of an 8 month old son
-surviving on nothing more than tortillas and salt
Despite our difficult days, our toughest day is someone else’s easiest day in Guatemala. And we always need to hold that perspective.
When I’m at my lowest I’ve learned the way to overcome it is to spend time with our mamas and kids. I play with the kids. I love them to bits. I have a conversation with the mamas. I look at the beautiful work they have produced under my guidance. I ask them how they’re doing. I ask them to tell me something about life before.
How can I stay down for long when I know that they now look to the future with hope and excitement?
Excerpted from my speech at our Grand Fiesta on Thursday, October 29th. More of my Fiesta Speech found here.