Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Courageous Spirit of Guatemala: Part 1 of 4

Posted on behalf of Jim Cook

After a long winter, punctuated by short trips to cut ribbons on great new community centers and meet with dignitaries, I needed to get into the field in my blue jeans and running shoes. I needed to get grimy and dirty in the barrios and communities and the homes where our sponsored children live to recharge my batteries for our great cause.

I’d call day one of that effort an unqualified success.

After a late arrival in Guatemala and a short night’s rest, we departed from the hotel at 7:00 a.m. On the way to the sub-agency office in Chimaltenango, one of the social workers warned me that the children are pretty shy. Especially, I thought to myself, when facing a very different-looking, white-haired gringo!

As we walked into the center to a hearty greeting, a 7-year-old boy named Selvyn walked right up to me and stuck out his hand in a very spontaneous moment – like he said to himself, “I’m not sure what that is, but I’d like to meet it.” Cute kid…and not so shy!

In the clinic, the doctor and I talked even as she gave a boy named Henry his annual checkup and looked at a small rash he’d acquired. A recently sponsored child was making his first trip – and quite apparently not his last one – to the project dentist. But he was a brave little guy!

All in all, that community center experience was great…and it really is a lot of what our sponsors make possible for these wonderful but born-into-poverty children. In those centers, children receive the benefits and services they deserve. And their appreciation is clearly etched in their faces and the faces of the moms and dads.

We left the center to pay a visit to a young man named Osman who, in a small, frail frame, has more courage than about anyone I’ve met. Osman suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as “brittle bone” disorder.

Osman is pretty much confined to bed and is likely in more pain than he’ll ever let on. He had been sponsored for some time before this crippling disease entered his life. His family greeted all of us with big smiles and happiness that is reflected in the modest home and Osman himself, in spite of his challenge.

But there is another reason for the warm greeting…the staff has been exceptional in doing whatever needed to be done to make Osman’s plight more endurable. Besides coordinating the doctors and hospitals and medicines, Lily, one of the staff, arranged through a local radio program to have a Guatemalan soccer (known as fútbol here) hero pay a visit to Osman. That was a good day for him!

One of the staff mentioned that often when Osman is really hurting from this painful condition, he won’t tell his mother because he doesn’t want to burden her any more than she already is.

And this is just one courageous individual I met on this memorable day.

We then traveled to Tecpán, where we visited another center, this one with activities in full swing as children received fluoride treatments administered by volunteer mothers. Benjamin, the computer instructor, was giving a quiz in Excel to some of his students, while another, a young lady in her early teens was writing her autobiography! I was and am impressed. I’d love to read it when it’s complete.

We then made a number of home visits, all of which remain very memorable, but two stand out. I’ll share the first one now and the second one in my next entry.

At the first, in what only charitably could be called a home and more appropriately a hovel, a mother was breast-feeding her infant while four other very young children (two of whom are sponsored) huddled about her.

She explained that her infant was born early because she has uterine cancer and she is putting off the surgery she needs because she doesn’t know who will care for the children because her husband has to work. She says they have plans to sell “half the house” in order to get some of the $2,000 needed for the surgery. But care of the children is still a problem.

Note to myself on the way out of her home: “Figure something out for this woman and family.”

More later.

Jim Cook is the president and CEO of Children International. Check back tomorrow for more personal commentary on his recent experience in Guatemala.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this journey. As a new sponsor 4 months ago it is important for me to see and hear about the daily lives we are impacting.

Jim-thank you for your dedication and drive to help so many people around the world...it is truly an inspiration. Children International has a terrific leader, no wonderful your staff are so dedicated to the agency and it's vision.

I look forward to following your journey. The blogs are wonderful, I read them every day.

I wish I could do more to help the children who are less fortunate. Hopefully by telling others about sponsorship they too will join the efforts and touch a child's life. Several friends of mine have already done just that! It brings great joy knowing that we all can help!

Anonymous said...

Blogging is a great way for Children International to communicate with us sponsors. I appreciate all you folks have done, and continue to do for needy children. More power to Children International!

Washington, D.C.

Kay and Roberto Mejia said...

Thank-you very much for giving my husband and myself the opportunity to serve, in a small way, families such as these. Our sponsored child is in Guatemala also, and it is wonderful to see, through your pictures, the type of support she is able to receive. Many blessings to all of you who work so hard to help us give something back to the world.

I just wanted to share with you as well the reason we chose your organization over the others out there. We feel strongly that all cultures need to be respected and preserved while allowing us to be of service. Yours was the only organization whose mission did not include fostering outside religious beliefs on the people being helped. Thank-you for honoring all of our differences!

FrenchDoc said...

Blogging is a great idea. Would it be possible to create a blog for interested sponsors so that we could share our experiences and maybe attract new people into sponsorship? (Maybe in the form of diaries as some collective blogs do) I have talked about sponsorship to a lot of people and people often reply that there are scam organizations out there. This blog is a great opportunity to dispel that myth.
Hey, where can we get these great polo shirts like the one Jim is wearing... I'd be happy to be a billboard for CI! :-)

R.D.St. Arneault said...

Thanks Jim !
I am a recent sponsor from Canada and I have taken on a 7 year old girl in Chile.
This is the first time I have had a chance to "see" what you ar doing, although I have read some of the brochures, photos put it into direct perspective for us all.
Thanks again for the great work, please keep the blogs coming!
R. David St. Arneault

Brian said...

Thank you Jim. This reminds me of the visit I made to Colombia to see the young man I had been sponsoring since he was seven. With him turning 22, I now sponsor two other young boys there.

I am sure there are enough sponsors throughout the network that at ten or twenty dollars each we can easily cover the cost of the lady's surgery AND bring someone in to look after her and the children while she is recuperating. I would like to hear more of this voluntary idea.

Dennismcmh said...

Jim, first of all God Bless you and everyone involved in Children International. I have been the proud sponsor of a young man named Archie from the Philippines for over 6 years now. I have watched Archie grow from a 6 year old little boy to a wonderful productive young man. I cherish each letter from him and updates from Children International. My biggest dream is to someday meet this magnificent young man, who has brought me such joy; but I am unable financially to do so. I include in my prayers each night that he and his family can find a suitable home to live in comfortably, without the worries that they have to endure each day. He and his family lost everything in the typhoons of this year. I cried so hard when I heard about it. Then those tears of sadness turned into tears of joy when I was told that Archie was alive and that no one in his family lost their lives as so many others did. I thank God and Children International each night in my prayers for the opportunity to help this young man and his family. I only wish that I could do so much more. I try to encourage all my friends, family and co-workers to get involved in helping people such as Archie's family in any way they can. I hope and pray that my biggest dream can come true and that I can somehow find a way to travel to meet my little man and hold him in my arms to let him know just how much I love him. He is everything to me. I love him as if he were of my own flesh and blood. God has given me a great gift (Archie), and I cherish it with all my heart. Thank you again Jim and Children International for all you do. God Bless you. Dennis/Florida

Kelly said...

Hi frenchdoc,

You've got some great ideas! Would you mind dropping us a line at blog@children.org?