Hey everyone, this is Ronnie. Sorry I haven’t reported back for a while! As you can imagine, sometimes our work here really takes over. I wanted to give you some updates on the Elderly Care Program (ECP), as well as some personal updates.
First, the Elderly Care Program (for my first post about it, click here). It has really made great strides this month. We´ve added seven new members to the daily lunch run (started off with 18 members) and have received some extremely helpful onetime donations for the ancianos (elderly people). In the past couple of weeks, we´ve given out food, clothes, towels, blankets, sheets, and soap to many in the program (see more photos here), and we were even able to bring new beds to four of our neediest ancianos. One of those people was 91-year-old Francisca, who was in desperate need of a bed. Fransisca broke her leg and had to be taken to the hospital. When we brought her home and asked where we could lay her down, we were told that for years she had been sleeping curled up on a tiny bit of floor, directly behind the door. A onetime donation brought her a new bed, and she can finally sleep soundly and heal properly. We´ve also received donations for a year of rent for a new room for Fransisca, 8 to 12 months of food and medical support for two other members, a new fully-furnished home for Pedro, as well as quality medical care for Esther, an anciana who has been suffering intense pain for over 13 years.
In terms of physical resources and meeting basic necessities, the Elderly Care Program has really improved the lots of these people. But more than that, it has provided them with something that some of them have never (or for many years haven´t) had: caring. The fact that someone cares about how they are feeling, whether they´ve eaten, if they´re comfortable and happy, etc—It means a great deal to many of these ancianos. Many of our members have been abandoned or neglected by their families. Some, like Pedro, never had families. Pedro was orphaned as a small child. He never had a decent place to live—until now—and he never had someone looking after him like now. Mayan Families in some ways really is like family to our elderly program members.
All of this became especially clear to me when I said my goodbyes to the ancianos—which brings me to a more personal update: I´ve decided to go back to San Andres for a while in order to continue teaching dance, as well as English and French. The success of the dance program and the close contact that the students had been keeping with me after my departure convinced me to come back, at least through Christmas.
Of course the Elderly Care Program will keep running. Mayan Families expanded Ana, the fantastic ECP cook and my co-food deliverer, from part-time to full-time, so that she can fill most of my functions (minus the blogging, since Ana cannot speak English). Ana and I became very good friends, as well as a great team, through our work together. She is a very caring and responsible person, not to mention an excellent cook. She also has a much better memory than mine (mine being nothing to brag about), and was often reminding me that I had already given this or that anciana her vitamins for the week. Before I left I made up a few documents with all the information that she and other Mayan Families staff need, including profiles (in both Spanish and English) on each anciano, and I showed Ana everything that I did. We´re also keeping in touch on a daily basis, mainly so that she can update me on what I need to put up on the Elderly Care Program Blog. Sharon, the MF director, already told me that Ana is doing great.
As I was saying, my departure from Panajachel (filled with hugs and tears) made me realize just how truly Mayan Families and their clients are family. For me, although I already have the fortune of having a wonderful family, this was an incredible gift. I can only imagine how much it means to our clients who are otherwise alone.
I encourage you all to go visit the elderly in your own communities. You certainly don’t have to go all the way to Guatemala to find—and fill—such needs. A small time commitment from you could change their worlds. I know you hear that a lot from us these days, but it´s true. I honestly had no idea how much this all meant to the ancianos until I saw the reaction from those to whom we´d just been delivering lunch (as opposed to those, like Pedro and Fransisca, who had gotten much more substantial aid).
Yes, the 3 of us at Project MicroMundo are sadly splitting up for now. Jess and Steph are going to stay in Pana to continue work with Mayan Families´ Family Aid Program and Christmas donation handouts (a rather chaotic endeavor), while I´ll be teaching dance and blogging for the ECP here in Peten. On the bright side, you´ll be getting updates from not just one, but two, corners of the world! Thank you so much for your ongoing support. And Happy Hannukah!