Story by Mindy Gerdes - Guatemala pay it forward
Story and pictures from Mindy Gerdes
Guatemala pay it forward
While camping at the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan, we met Pierre and Jennifer. While sharing s'mores and stories over the campfire, they mentioned some of their past adventures and humanitarian efforts around the world. We told them that we were planning a missions trip to an orphanage in Guatemala in a few months. Later, they came to us and gave us some money. A man they had met just that week had given them money for their voyage, and they wanted to pay it forward and give us $50, half of what he had given them, for us to use for the kids at the orphanage.
We debated for quite a while about how to spend the money that Pierre and Jennifer had given us. They had requested that it would be for something that would benefit the kids. Before the trip, we bought a new set of clothes for three of the orphans, and also bought some balls for them to play with. However, we didn't feel that those things would be the best use of the money from Pierre and Jennifer. We took it with us to Guatemala, knowing that it would go further there than in America.
When we first arrived at the orphanage, there were several kids that were sick, and Richard, the missionary who runs the orphanage, told us that almost all of the kids had been very sick the week before. While we were there, he went to the store for more medicine, and later told us that they often have a great need for antibiotics for the kids. When they first took over the management of the orphanage, most of the kids had dysentery or parasites, but after cleaning up the home and getting the kids better nutrition and medicine, it is rare that anyone becomes very ill anymore.
The kids at the Canica orphanage are luckier than a lot of the kids in other orphanages in Guatemala. The orphanage is clean, to the extent that it can be with thirty kids, ages two to fifteen, living there. The kids eat three meals a day, although there isn't much variety to their food. Beans and rice are a staple. While we were there, the kids were treated to a birthday cake for Daniella, a four year old who has lived at Canica since she was found in a backpack in the park at two months of age. Also while we were there, the team we were working with was able to buy the orphanage a new, much needed, refrigerator.
We were able to do some light construction while at Canica. The boy's bedroom was tiled and painted, and the girls' bedroom was also painted. All of the kids and staff live in two large bedrooms, a bathroom, which consists of two toilets and a shower for each bedroom, a small dining room, a small kitchen, and an open air dishwashing and prep area. Construction is underway for another building that will house the older orphans and have a communal living area.
We spent a lot of time playing with the kids at the orphanage, hugging them, and showing them unconditional love. Although most of them have come to Canica with horrific stories, their smiles and laughter are real and true. Emily and I spent a couple of afternoons teaching the older kids how to play the recorder. A school in Michigan donated twenty recorders for them. Mark made balloon animals and played with the kids. The kids enjoyed playing soccer and volleyball, roller skating, playing with Barbies, and doing chalk art and tie dye t-shirts. All of their toys had been donated. They were also given a box of donated soccer cleats while we were there. The boys had a great time trying on the shoes to find some that fit. They were very happy and proud to wear their new shoes.
After a few days at the orphanage, we still didn't know how to best spend the money from Pierre and Jennifer. We talked to Richard and he was thinking of spending it to buy medicine for the kids. While talking to him, another team member told him that her neighbor had sent along another $50 for the kids. Put together, the amount of money was doubled. When Richard found out about the extra $50, he teared up and sent us to his wife, Linda, saying that she would have a better idea of how to spend it. Linda cried when we gave her the $100 and told her the story behind it. She was so excited! She agreed that spending it on medicine would be a good idea, but she also had the idea to spend it on meat for the kids. The kids eat meat very infrequently due to the cost of it. $100 can buy enough meat to feed it to the kids twice a week for a month. It will be a good source of protein for them.
As of this writing, Richard and Linda haven't yet spent the money, but I know that when they do, it will be for something that the kids really need and will benefit from, most likely meat or medicine.
We left a large part of our heart with the beautiful, amazing kids of the Canica orphanage in the mountain town of San Marcos in Guatemala. Thank you for being part of our journey, and for allowing us to be part of your journey!