Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Courageous Spirit of Guatemala: Part 2 of 4

Posted on behalf of Jim Cook. This post is a continuation of Day 1 of Jim's recent visit to Guatemala.

After leaving the home of the woman suffering from cancer, the next visit promised to be a bit more uplifting, as we toured new homes we constructed for four families who lost everything in Hurricane Stan two years ago.

It was uplifting…to a point. The problem is, a family’s challenges don’t end when they move into their new dwelling. True, the families I visited are truly blessed with sturdy new homes. But each of them still suffered from a lack of income.

And one family’s situation particularly makes me ache.

Hilda is her name. She’s 17. She was 15 when the hurricane took her mother, her sister, her home, all the family’s belonging…and her hope. Leaving her to look after her four younger brothers and sisters while putting up with a father who spends most of his time drunk.

As Hilda recounted her story she fought back tears, mentioning the word “lonely” a number of times. And who wouldn’t be, when your only loving parent was snatched away in the night along with your entire world? My own eyes, as well as those of the staff with me, filled with tears as we witnessed her grief, which was tempered by her love for – and unqualified devotion to – her siblings.

She can’t go to school because she supports her brothers and sisters. Her youthful teen years were cruelly taken from her; but with unparalleled stoicism, she has met the challenge.

On a happier note, yesterday’s activities included a visit to the home of one of my family’s special sponsored children, Heidy Viviana. Heidy lives with her family – mom, dad and sister, Milvia – in a home surrounded by fields of beans, maize and strawberries. Lots and lots of strawberries.

When I unfolded myself from the back of the van and managed to somewhat painfully straighten up to my full height, what to my wondering eyes should appear [credit and apologies to Clement Clarke Moore!] but one tiny package of energy running to my side and giving me a hug that belied her six years and slight frame.

So much for these shy Guatemalan children. What a delight Heidy is! We exchanged gifts – though I fear the large basket of fresh strawberries and peaches her family bestowed upon me far exceeded my generosity. However, Heidy did clutch her new doll pretty tightly.

Visiting my sponsored child and her family was really a way to fully complete the sponsorship experience…an opportunity that I hope many more sponsors are able to have!

As we headed back to Guatemala City that night, my thoughts kept returning to Hilda. I had to ask myself: where is the justice in a world where a young woman like her unselfishly toils away in obscurity, dealing with uninvited devastation and pain, while the latest teen mega-star melts down with the eyes of the world trained in her direction? And is fawned over. I’m reminded yet again of how unfair and unforgiving the world can be.

It’s been quite a day. Uplifting and depressing. Satisfying and frustrating. But through it all there’s hope. We’re doing a lot, that is clear. But there is so much more to be done.

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.


evergreen3 said...

A very touching story. Due to her circumstances, Hilda displays much more maturity than most teens her age. Are all of Hilda's siblings sponsored, or would it be possible for me to sponsor one?

Mohan said...

Hey guys!

Thanks a lot for all the wonderful good works you guys are doing through Children International. My wife and I are proud sponsors of a 5 year old girl from India for almost an year now and we couldn't be more happier than ever before we started sponsoring. I wish we had known about CI much much earlier.

This is a good idea to have a blog for CI and let us know us sponsors about the various charitable activities that you guys are doing on a daily basis. Keep up the good work and cheers y'all!


tacee webb said...

Dear Jim Cook,

I just recieved a letter regarding the posting on Hilda and her siblings, two of which I sponsor, Heidy and Edwin. I asked if I could sponsor the entire family and was told that I would be sponsoring 3 of the children.
I some how only sponsor two, still?
I noticed another person blogged about this, trying to help as well. My goal is to sponsor all of them, the etire family, and I was told that I could do this for the children who did not already have sponsors. Is the youngest girl (can't recall her name?) now old enough to be sponsored through your program?
Last, when the Hurricane hit and their mother past away I sent $1000. I can send more again now. I just want you to please personally make sure that it goes to the family, as to be very candid the photos of the items they purchased with the $1000 looked like a value of maybe $200...a couple mattresses and a few clothes and food. (Maybe all items purchased were not shown?)
I also sent them a shipment from American Apparel, but do not know if it ever arrived. Believe me I know that your organization does great work. Thank you for taking a personal interest in their plight. I just want to make 100% sure that the money and clothing gets to the family and is well spent. I would love to visit them very soon. I am so proud of Hilda. I know I can do more to help, but my very, very busy job does not allow it until the holiday. I can make much more of a difference in their lives than I am now. I will ask my employers and friends and family to help them as well.
I just picked up my nine year old off a flight from LA. She was dressed in all new clothing, looking like a teenage rock star. She had so many bags of clothing and toys from her trip that we could hardly carry it all to the car. I wish that she could trade places with Heidy for a week and know how very lucky, by chance, she is to live in this country where she has so many opportunities. More importantly than this, of course, is that she has a mother to love her and be proud of her every day and my sponsor children do not. Please send the children all our love and let us know how we can do more.

Thank you. Tacee

Kelly said...

Hi Tacee,

Thanks for touching base, and thanks for what you do for Hilda's family. Jim will be out of the office for a few days, but you'll definitely be hearing from someone here shortly with answers to your questions.

Thanks again!