Sometimes it’s impossible to walk away…
From time to time GSP volunteers documenting program work in Guatemala are faced with situations requiring an urgent response such as Julia and Esperanza’s situation.
GSP volunteers met Julia in 2016 while documenting a new stove. She and her 4-month old baby Esperanza had pneumonia and were very ill. Thanks to GSP’s rapid response, the baby was admitted to hospital the same day and received urgent treatment.
Julia’s home was unhealthy: it was exceptionally damp and cold due to a combination of a leaky roof and a dirt floor. In order to prevent a relapse, as Julia had already lost a child to pneumonia before in these conditions, it was decided to replace the roof and put in a concrete floor. The repair work was performed by AMI, one of the GSP’s partners, and funded through other organizations, as such expenses are not within the scope of the GSP funds.
GSP volunteers followed up with Julia and Esperanza in January 2017. Both are doing just fine now, in good part thanks to the new GSP stove, as well as the improvements made to her home.
A little goes a long way…
Children with disabilities receive little or no government support in Guatemala. Miguel has cerebral palsy and his mother used to carry him on her back. With GSP funds, a suitable wheelchair was purchased for Miguel so that he will be able to participate in community activities as he grows older.
A chance encounter…
Little Mariceta’s life was changed in 2008 when a visiting GSP volunteer spotted her hidden away from sight. With a small amount of money and a few phone calls, Mariceta received an operation, which has corrected her cleft palate and given her a smile that shows her newfound confidence and happiness. Mariceta and her family have met regularly with Tom Clarke, GSP coordinator every year since. Mariceta has undergone her last surgery in 2020 to correct her palate and teeth.
Photo: Mariceta and her family met with Tom Clarke in 2013.
“Clara and Ishim first met Santa and her premature baby Maritza in January 2018 when they were documenting stoves. Santa was very malnourished which is likely why she gave birth at 6 months to a 3 pound baby and why she had no breast milk. Ishim also gave birth around the same time to her healthy well-fed baby, Manuela. Her heart went out to this other new mother whose baby was fading away. Clara asked me if we would start a feeding program for both the mother and the baby. Clara wrote a proposaI, asking for a thousand dollars for a feeding program for the mother and baby.
When I returned in August, Clara, Ishim, and I made the long trip on bad roads up to Cuarto Caminos Momostenango, to see how Santa and Maritza were doing. At their house only the Grandmother Doña Maria was home. She told us gratefully that both were doing well, that we had saved her grandaughter’s life.
Below is what she told us, translated from Quiche to Spanish by Clara.
“Este es el mensaje de la abuela de Maritza: Doña Maria, abuela de Maritza, dice con sus proprias palabras que agradece mucho y mucho a Tom por la ayuda de la leche de Maritza, sin esta ayuda la niña se habria muerto. Maritza nació con un peso de 3 libras solamente y su madre no tenia leche materna, solamente la alimentaron con café, y agua pura, hasta que llegó el programa de la construcción de estufas en la comunidad y fue que se detectó a Maritza con su situación muy dificil. Cuando Maritza recibió la leche y sus accesorios, ella recuperó su peso, ysu cabello. Actualmente ya esta bonita y gatea, creo que quiere iniciar a caminar. Y doña Maria repite, gracias a este gran hombre que mi nieta no murió y estoy muy feliz. Espero que este testimonio sirva de mucho a los donantes que apoyan y que creen en el Guatemala Stove Project. Mil gracias amiga Clara.”
This is the message from Maritza’s grandmother: Doña Maria, grandmother of Maritza says in her own words that she thanks Tom very, very much for the help of the milk for Maritza, because without this help the baby would have died. Maritza was born with a weight of only 3 pounds and her mother didn’t have any breast milk. They were feeding her with coffee and drinking water until the stove construction program came to the community and they noticed Maritza and her difficult situation. When Maritza started to get milk and other supplements, she gained weight and her hair came in. Actually now she is pretty and crawling around and I think she wants to start walking. And Doña Maria repeated, thanks to this wonderful man, my granddaughter didn’t die and I am very happy. I hope that this testimony serves to thank the donors who supported this and believe in the Guatemala Stove Project. And a thousand thanks to friend Clara. (AMI coordinator)
We then drove to the community school where we met Santa and Maritza. Maritza had gone from 3 lbs to 15 and looked like a healthy baby. Her mother Santa now has some breast milk for her baby but both are still on food supplements. At this time I gave Clara the second $500.00 so they can continue giving both food supplements until the mother is not so skinny and they are both out of the woods so to speak. Ishim, and Santa were both crying with joy seeing this baby well, after before having one foot in the grave. Story by Tom Clarke
Guatemala has the highest rate of child malnutrition in Latin American and the Caribbean. “Almost one million children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition or stunting.”
During stove building and documentation activities, GSP volunteers and our partner organizations are on the lookout for signs of malnutrition and medical emergencies.
Unfortunately, we occasionally see signs of ‘kwashiorkor’ and ‘pellagra’.
“Kwashiorkor – a malnutrition disease, chiefly of children, caused by severe protein and vitamin deficiency and characterized by retarded growth, changes in pigmentation, potbelly, and anemia.”
“Pellagra – a deficiency disease caused by a lack of nicotinic acid or its precursor tryptophan in the diet. It is characterized by dermatitis, diarrhea, and mental disturbance, and is often linked to overdependence on corn as a staple food.”
When possible, the GSP will provide funds for medicine and nutritional supplements to combat common diseases and nutritional deficiencies in young children. Unfortunately we cannot help with all the medical cases that we come across.
Inadequate medical treatment
Volunteers on the 2019 stove building trip heard about 60 year old Julio Torres while building in the community of Cho Era. One year earlier he had suffered a compound fracture of his lower leg while felling a tree. Following reparative surgery he suffered complications and his lower leg became infected, gangrenous and threatened his life. Volunteers quickly decided to raise funds and shared this information on Facebook. Generous and concerned individuals raised the needed funds and our partner CEDEC coordinated his consults, hospitalization for amputation and follow up care which included crutches, warm blankets and nutritional supplements for one month post op, as well as further doctors visits.
Update 2020 – Don Julio has made a full physical recovery since his operation for a lower leg amputation last March. His post-operative recovery was greatly helped by the warm blankets and additional nutrition, which GSP provided for one month postoperative. He can now successfully navigate the steep slopes to his home and his wife is now freed of the constant need to keep the gangrenous area as clean as possible. He is now trying to find meaningful work so that he can once again contribute financially to the family income.