It is good to see the students learning more about the world and themselves. The problems and poverty here are extreme. The culture causes nothing to change or get better. We have been talking to people who have been serving the poor here for years. They talk about how they first started working here and their thoughts of making a difference. After a few years they realize they can only help in small ways by providing some basic help to the people. The culture is one where the poor do not have the opportunity to better their lives . They have known this for so long that even if they were given the opportunity they may not believe in it. I do believe if they were given hope and opportunity that this would be different. The change in the President of Guatemala has brought an awareness of social rights which is very good, the problem is everyone wants the rights but are not willing to be responsible to uphold them for others.
Alex Woelkers who has been teaching at the school “Asuncion” for the last year and he talked about his hope of instilling into his students the idea that they can become something more. The students do not take on this hope because for so many years they have seen the same thing, poverty, no jobs, and a culture that teaches to look out for yourself. It is easy to understand that they believe nothing else is possible for them when you realize that most people wake up with the priority of finding food and fire wood to cook it.
It is beautiful how this mission provides basic health care, an education, and a way for some people to make money for their families. God is at work here and the seeds of faith have been planted. It is obvious to me that (as a whole) faith is much more important to those who have nothing. There is a lesson in this knowledge for all of us. It is also important to understand that the work and love taking place at this time take care of the poor only here and now. Guatemala’s problems were here before we arrived and will be here long after we have left. Poverty is very complicated when it is interwoven with culture. There are no easy fixes here and for me it makes the work being done here so much more beautiful. Some would see the work here as futile but really all we are called to do is love our fellow brothers and sisters here and now.
One thing that particularly bothered me today, and I am told this is not an uncommon event. There was a 10 year old girl who came to the clinic who had been having seizures for the past 14 hours. She was diagnosed with typhoid and dingy. She also had something else wrong with her that the clinic could not diagnose. The clinic wanted to send her to the hospital but the mother and grandparents did not allow her to go. As I understand it, the hospital does not allow the poor to stay with the child. If the child were to die at the hospital the body must be buried within 24 hours. The poor are unable to retrieve the body in that amount of time and there is no way to bring the body back to the village because it cost too much for the transportation. In this case of the 10 year old girl the family decided to take the girl back to the village to pray about it. Most likely the girl has passed away by this time.
We are still working out health care for the poor in the United States, but still even now we have so much more then what is available to the poor here. It bothers me that I could have made a phone call or two and provided the money to save this girl. It doesn’t sit right with me. It happens everyday but this one just seems a bit more personal. Sheila has been working hard with this family and helping us to understand the situation and issues. Even though she has seen this over and over again you can still tell it pulls at her heart strings.
It has been a long and complicated day in a complicated place, and culture.