I traveled to Guatemala on a Saturday with our national senior account executive from Salem Radio, five of my colleagues from Food For The Poor (FFP) and the 13 coolest Christian radio hosts (some also pastors) that one could ever imagine, coming from as close by as the west coast of Florida and as far away as Hawaii…
PART II: Martin and Isabela
As soon as we got to Quetzaltenango (also known as Xela (pronounced Chela) we traveled to the mountains just outside the city and visited our first family in the town of Nimasac.
|Martin, Isabela and their daughter|
Martin and Isabela are a young couple that are not able to make ends meet. I was shocked to learn that they actually had to pay rent for the mud hut that they call home – dark, dank, moist crowded area with no furniture other than a handloom. They have four children, ages 9 months to 11 years old.
They sleep on the damp dirt floor, which worries Isabella as she realizes the danger to her children’s health, particularly since their immune systems are already compromised by severe malnutrition. That afternoon, the only food they had consumed all day was three small corn tamales shared among all six family members – less than a hundred calories each, minimal protein.
Isabela searches the garbage dump for clothing for her children, as the cold in that region can be bitter. Unfortunately, the clothing found in the dump of that area is in horrible condition and those who scavenge at the dump for a living will pick the better of the worst. One of her boys had on a pair of shoes that left most of the front of the feet exposed.
No one would dare say they are lazy.
Martin labors at the backbreaking task of weaving colorful, beautiful cloths at the loom, his back bent over at an almost 90 degree angle for hours on end. It takes him weeks to complete one 8-yard piece. To make matters worse, the retailers, knowing the desperate condition of these poor people, pay them far less than what the cloths are worth and then mark them up by 300-400% when they sell them to the tourists. He barely earns enough to pay the 50 quetzales rent (US$7.00), and at times, not enough even for that. His eyes betray the terrible shame of a man who cannot feed his slowly starving children.
|The shoes belonging to Martin & Isabela’s son.|
Isabela takes all four children with her to the neighboring woods to collect branches and sticks to sell for firewood for only pennies a day. The older three help Isabela, while she bears the weight of the baby on her back all day as she works. On one occasion, the income from one day’s sale of wood was only enough to buy one egg. Isabela cannot help but weep when she speaks of the needs of her family, of the children’s hunger, of their sometimes incessant crying for food.
We took them clothes and shoes for the children, we bought all four cloths that Martin had completed for a fair market price and we brought them mattresses to put on the floor. They expressed tearful words of appreciation in Quiche, which was translated to Spanish, which I translated into English – there was not a dry eye there.
To be continued…