Saturday, August 30, 2008

At Home in "Casa Broccoli"

At last the little house is occupied by a very grateful family. The town's mayor has yet to give in and hand out any water permits but Alex and Estela are hooked up to the water supply of the desperately poor neighbors who can definitely use the $20 that will be paid monthly until the mayor relents or gets thrown out of office. Rumor has it that some 400 families are now waiting for water in this town.

The children are thrilled about having their own beds and Denis his own room. Estela has reported that Denis woke her one morning at 5:00 ready to go to school. She said that had never happened before as none of them had ever gotten a decent night's sleep all in a heap in one bed, and with Alex coming and going as his work requires.

Alexander has some work cut out for him as the yard has to be cleared and grass planted on what is going to be a soccer field for himself and the kids. He is talking about finding his way to Solola at Lake Atitlan where it is possible to buy large cartouches (calla lillis). One corner of the yard will be devoted to fruit trees to accompany the nicely recovering (and very full of fruit) Jocote tree. The water was hooked up a couple of days ago and the children all promptly had their first ever shower at home. With hot water, no less, thanks to a solar water system installed on the roof (keeps their electricity bill at a manageable level).

The computer that Denis can't keep his hands off is a aged laptop donated by my nephew as he left to work for PDI Dreamworks in Bangelore, India. The laptop has been made like new by a "tecnico" here in this country, where our trash becomes their treasures, for the unlikely sum of $63. For now Denis can only dream about internet access as there is none in their town but he can do a lot of "investigaciones" using the Spanish language version of Microsoft Student.

Estela likes the green. Alexander wanted the green to be the same dark green as my house. Estela won so it is "Casa Broccoli." Estela's father cried when they moved the last of their meager supply of possesions from the room that had been home in the family commune some 15-20 minutes away.

Alex and Estela will both be foregoing an increase in pay which will be contributed to ConstruCasa ( towards the building of another house for a needy family. Hopefully, their money will go towards a house (somewhat less modest) for the family in the back with the beautiful little girls. They are a very nice family with nothing. Four adults shares two rooms made of cornstalks with lamina roofs and two kitchens also of corn stalks with eight children. Estela was horrified to find out that they sleep on the ground and have only a latrine as a bathroom. The men and older boys pick corn and beans when in season; the mother and her daughter-in-law sit for hours weaving with their backstrap looms. They have been given two water filters and a donor provided the funds for two fuel efficient wood stoves for which they are very grateful. One of the younger children (a 4-year old grandson) was born with (how do I say this delicately?) redundancy involving his lower intestine. He is a happy bright little boy too young to understand. ConstruCasa director, Caroline, paid for the family to go to the capital to seek medical help. It was a journey that terrifed this family that had never before travelled that far. The ex-patriate community in Antigua has rallied their connections and the child is going to be made right on September 8th by a visiting surgical team at the Obras de Sociales de Hermano Pedro. Estela brought me (who else?) the bill for the surgery. Q500 (US $67) which I guess I can handle. Estela, who is still stunned by her good fortune, is taking this family under her wing and has accompanied them to Hermano Pedro and will go again for the child's surgery. She has even talked to the boy's mother (who looks about 15) about family planning.

So, what's next? After the neighbor boy's medical issues have been resolved Caroline is going to talk to the family about putting the younger two children in "kinder"as they call the government pre-school. That and family planning for the daughter-in-law will provide for further conversations about building them a halfway decent housing. Alex and Estela will be contributing and a Guatemalan friend in the SF Bay area has offered to hold a fundraiser in her restaurant. Give people a chance to help and they will I have found.

Estela and I (and many others) both want to see a Riecken Foundation ( community library in San Antonio Aguas Calientes not only for her kids but for the benefit of the entire community. Gladly, there is forward movement in that direction. The mayor who doesn't give water permits thinks it is a good idea. The town has a perfect building that just happens to be vacant (former police station) except for a "municipal" library with about 150 books, most of them moldy math books. The Riecken Foundation requires that a town that wants a library form a board ("junta") of community members to oversee the library. I took several teachers from my Spanish school over to see the model library at the offices of The Riecken Foundation and would suspect that by sometime this week the village of San Antonio Aguas Calientes will have their junta and the mayor will start to feel some pressure to move forward with The Riecken Foundation. Poco a poco.