The children in the park

Sometimes, when I have run out of aqua pura (bottled water) for coffee, I go to a favorite coffee stand, grab a cup to go, and sit in the park and enjoy the usual beautiful morning. This is where much of the sales work to the tourists is done.

Saturday, I met Dulce Maria, a little girl of six, selling cloth bracelets. I usually don't buy from the children because I don't like the idea of perpetuating the cycle. If I buy, they will continue to sell, right? I am losing my resolve. She told me she was thirsty and had to sell bracelets so that she could buy some water. I didn't have any water to offer her so I bought some of her bracelets (the beautiful turquoise one bled into my white hand towel in the bathroom - I'm going to have to be more careful about that).

The next day, I met Jose (pictured above).

Jose is 12 years old and lives in Chimaltenango (about 30 minutes by bus). He tells me that he doesn't have parents and that he rents a room from a Señora. This doesn't make sense to me. I have a hard time believing that it's true, but it very well could be. On the weekends, he works as a 'shoe shine boy' which is a common occupation for a young boy in Latin America. I wear plastic sandals and am not a good target customer(although one child offered to wash my shoes rather than shine them and when I told him it wasn't important to me he passionately insisted that it was important to him) so instead we talked and he showed me the gaping hole in the sole of his shoe. I was glad to hear that he goes to school and he carried his english book with him. He pointed to sayings like 'you are beautiful' and 'it was nice to meet you' - what a clever and charming little boy, verdad? He is also in the church choir and he sang for me the most beautiful song.

If I see Jose on a Saturday, when the market is open, I am going to ask him if I can take him to buy shoes. I know in this case that I'm encouraging behavior that creates dependency. It is a dilemna that I am stuck with. My first time in Guatemala, I shared my lunch with a little boy and when we were done, he asked me if he could have my chicken bones. It broke my heart. I know that I can't take care of everything and so I do what I can and try not think too much about it or judge how deep or honest the need is. And sometimes, I say "no, not today". The alternative is to become immune to it and stop seeing it. I think I'd rather do a little bit here and a little bit there.

Niños del Lago Newsletter

Hello everybody - I am so happy to post our newsletter (happy to share the news and happy it's over because it's alot of work!!). We have had much going on these past several months. Click on the newsletter link below and you can read all about our progress and what I've been doing in case you're wondering.

Arlaine, shares a part of her story of what inspired her to dedicate her life to Niños del Lago. You'll also read about "yours truly" and Aura who you met a couple of posts ago.

Equally exciting is the kick-off of a fundraising campaign with our Capgemini partner and the beginning of major construction, along with financial details on 2008. Happy Reading!


Why Guatemala

I live in a tourist town and the pictures that I show you have a different face. Here, there is some affluence - and when you hear of violence it is generally in the City and other areas of the country.

I'd like to show you a little bit of the other side and the best way to do that is to share something with you that I ran across today while reading a blog about human rights. It is through this photo-journalist site that you might gain some insight as to "Why Guatemala" and get a sense of current and historical events here. To access, click on the "Why Guatemala" link above.

Along with a very recent assassination of an attorney who was defending a whistle blower, you'll see accounts of massacres during the war and documentaries on the effects of mining in some of the rural/indigenous towns.

Lastly, I'll share with you a few statistics. According to UNICEF, 70% of indigenous children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition and there are regions as high as 82%. The percentage for Guatemala in general is 49%. It also reported that 51.2% of the population are now living in poverty while 15.2% in extreme poverty (less than $1 per day), meaning they cannot meet basic needs for food, water, shelter, sanitation, and health care. Infant mortality and illiteracy are also some of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.