On Monday we were divided into three groups to visit the homes of the people we would be helping. Each group had one of the young women Mayan guides and someone who could speak Spanish. The Mayan guides could interpret Kaqchikel into Spanish but they do not speak English. Kaqchikel is one of over 30 Mayan dialects. Joan and Butch and our guide Jacqueline were able to interpret the Spanish. Speaking Spanish is relatively new to the Mayans and the older people do all speak it.
Our Mayan guides took each of our groups on a demanding tour through a maze of streets and alley ways working our way up the steep mountain slope on stone ramps, stone steps or just rocky slopes. In all our Rotary group will be helping 80 families.
Tom and Shelley were in the group going to the very top of town and witnessed the most needy. Their first task was to determine the materials necessary to fix a decrepit home where a family of seven live under a tin roof that is too low to stand up in. Two of the five children are special needs, a 20-year-old boy who does not talk and a hyperactive 4-year-old. As you will see in later blogs Tom and Shelley with the help of two local contractors were able to raise the roof three feet and put on new lamina ( a thin corrugated steel ) on the roof. When Tom and Shelley first visited the home the 4 year who is in a constant state of “fidgit” was playing with a dead baby chicken pulling its feathers out. When we were finished Daphne captured the look on the little girl’s face when she received a special tactile toy that Colleen brought for just such a child.
Another small tin “house” was home to a widow and her three children, a mentally challenged 14-year-old boy and two younger sisters. The boy who goes for days without sleeping and bangs on the tin walls all night is looked after by his younger sister while their widowed mother works. The boy is starting to harm his sister and our group will be building new quarters for the boy to try to keep his sister safe.
At the end of the day all of us had stories of extreme poverty. In general we witnessed widowed women with several children living in makeshift homes of tin, rock or clay, who sleep on the hard packed dirt floors. There might be one or two rooms,a wood burning stove and not much else. Fifty of these places have been assessed as especially needy and will receive one of the beds made by our Rotary Team. ( PS At the time of writing this blog we have already delivered many beds and were on hand to see some very happy children try them out. )
Tomorrow you will see how your generous donations to our team project have helped change lives – theirs and ours