Guatemala, Day Two: Las Madres

by Jessica Shyba on September 12, 2013

in Travel,World Vision

There have been a few times in my life when the very basic principals of my own humanity were the only things keeping me hopeful. Being alone with Jack in the crowded emergency room while he went through rounds of steroids to rescue him from anaphylactic shock, not being able to call anyone to come comfort and protect us. We were new residents of New York City and I was terrified. I was left completely to my own devices and I couldn’t show Jack that I was terrified. I texted my mother, who was feeling the same way in her home across the country, and then I texted my husband who was feeling the same way in our home with Zoe, six blocks away.

And then, because I needed to connect with someone else while Jack slept in the hospital bed hooked up to monitors, I turned to Twitter. I tweeted about my baby’s condition and that I was scared, and before I knew it I was flooded with responses from strangers. They were mostly also mothers, offering their empathy and sometimes even advice, but mostly their voices of love and support filled our little curtained off corner of that emergency room. The simple gesture of bonding with other mothers whom I didn’t know, and some of them who stayed “with me” during the 8 hour ordeal bolstered my mind and my heart.

When everything else is stripped away, the only thing left in this life is our relationships with other people and our spirituality (something I am personally seeking and will talk more about when I am ready).

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We traveled for hours yesterday to meet and connect with the children we had sponsored through World Vision prior to this trip. My family and I sponsored two kids: A little boy named Jefferson who is Jack’s age, and Elvia, a little girl who is four years old, just like Zoe. I wanted my children to be able to connect and relate in some way to these kids, even from thousands of miles away. They painted pictures for “our” Guatemalan children and we prepared gifts of bubbles, play-doh and art supplies that I delivered to them yesterday.

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We played and tried to talk with each other, though my Spanish is very basic. We exchanged smiles and eye contact, and I quickly realized how much easier communication without language is with children than with other adults.

My role in that home yesterday brought me much confusion: I struggled to understand how these children and their mothers and grandmothers viewed me: A blond woman from America who came bearing gifts and a large camera. It took me until today to realize that while I was certainly those things-and not just an obnoxious American, or so I felt-my commitment and presence in their life offered them a both a connection and, ultimately, hope.

What has struck me the most was how their presence in my life and the lives of my children filled my heart with the very same things.

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This is real life though. My connection with the mothers and grandmother of our sponsored children and being in a home completely run by mothers helping each other was incredibly profound to me. This is our common denominator: We are the the caretakers of our communities.

World Vision has established a system within these communities amongst the mothers to help promote sustainability: There are “classes” held in which the veteran mothers share their knowledge and experience with those who are struggling to care and feed their families. Recipes are shared, lessons about nutrition and child care are held amongst the smaller communities within a region. We visited an area yesterday in which the malnutrition percentages within the village had plummeted from 90% to 3% since World Vision had established themselves there. It is a system that is working, and I, for one, am grateful for the opportunity to support them.

Love is a universal language, and while each of us experiences and shares it in our own ways, it is evident in many forms if you look around. Perspective, sometimes, is everything… It’s what we do with it that counts. I am learning so much, and I can see that I’ve only just dipped my toes into those waters.

Sponsor a Child in Guatemala

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Lorette Lavine September 12, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Oh Jessica, another beautiful piece…I feel as though I am there with you. How heartfelt it must be to meet these beautiful little children and their families that we are all connected to by the “invisible string” of love.

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OHmommy September 13, 2013 at 12:34 am

LOVE this.

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Beyond The Brochure September 13, 2013 at 3:03 am

Lovely and inspiring.

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Melissa September 17, 2013 at 5:33 am

All of your posts paint such a vivid portrait. Your descriptions and memories and pictures bring me on your trip via the little glowing screen on my phone as I nurse in the dark. (I’ve been reading along all week but only commenting now.) What an amazing experience! I’m so grateful to have a window into this other world through your eyes. And these kids! Oh, they are the sweetest.

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Art November 21, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Not until yesterday – through CNN did I came across your website. I just wanted to see more pics of the baby with the pup and found your blog quite interesting.

I just wanted to share with you that I once sponsored a kid from the Philippines through World Vision that had my exact same birthday – just couple of decades later. It was not long after my birthday that I chose this kid because I was thinking how fortunate I am to have everything I have while another person with my same birthday is probably sheltering below a cardboard box.

I lost faith on World Vision thinking it was a huge corporate thing where people made millions through charity while the needed just got a piece of my charity. Just based on your stat of 90% to 3% reduction on malnutrition makes me sad and disappointed that I abandoned this kid.

Thank you for your post, I am going to extend my helping hand once again to World Vision….

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