Sunday, 13 November 2011

This family consists of a grandmother and grandfather caring for their three granddaughters, two aunts, an uncle and two cousins.  The girls' mother also lives in the house but she is prevented - by law and by her mother - from being near the girls.  The grandparents were awarded physical custody of the children under the condition that Mayan Families assists them financially.  The youngest child has special needs.  This family desparately needs sponsors for the unusual expenses they incur due to Norma's health: diapers and physical therapy.

The Children

Blanca Estella was born November 29, 1999. She is 12 years old and her student number is 841. She will be in sixth grade in 2012.

Ana Mercedes was born July 24, 2004. She is 8 years old and her student number is 840. She will be in first grade in 2012.

Norma is almost 5 years old but her grandmother didn’t know her birthday. She does not go to school and has special needs.

Their Family

Blanca, Ana and Norma live with their grandmother, Isabella (60), and grandfather, Francisco (72). The girls’ mother (Isabella and Francisco’s daughter) is mentally unstable and was abusive to the children so a social worker took the girls from her. Isabella and Francisco fought for and won custody of the children with the condition that Mayan Families take financial responsibility for the family and provide them with food, therapy and other needs. The girls’ father is unknown.

Blanca and Ana have sponsors for school. Ana was asked if she likes to paint at school and she said ‘No, I like to learn how to read and write!’ She was very proud that she could write her own name. Norma is a special needs child. It is unclear whether Norma was born disabled or not; her grandmother thinks she was but that the mother worsened the situation by hitting her all the time (and especially during the night) and not letting Norma walk in order to better beg for donations on the street. When the grandparents started caring for the girls last year, Norma could not walk at all. Through daily physical therapy and encouragement from her grandmother she can now walk. In fact, she is very active and walks all over their house. She still does not talk or seem to understand what is being said to her. She cannot feed herself and she wears a diaper but she is a joyful and affectionate child. Norma goes to physical and speech therapy for an hour five days a week at a clinic and additionally she goes to Fundabien once a week for an hour for additional physical therapy.

The grandmother cannot work for pay now that she has to care for Norma full time. Francisco has a steady job cleaning the streets but all his money goes to pay for his teenaged daughter’s college expenses. He had a heart attack recently and they had to borrow $133.33 (1000Q) from a neighbor to pay the hospital bill. They are trying to slowly pay that back.

Isabella seemed tired during the interview. When the social worker said the mother couldn’t keep the children the grandfather cried all the time when he thought they would go to an orphanage. Then the grandparents were allowed custody but the social worker recommended Norma still be sent to an orphanage. The grandparents decided to keep her at home. Isabella said she is fighting to keep Norma with them; she just needs a little more support. Her other children don’t understand why she tries so hard. Norma is a great responsibility. Isabella is the primary provider, spoon feeding Norma and changing her diaper, taking her to daily physical therapy, caring for her during the night when she wakes up crying or coughing. Isabella has pain in her back from carrying Norma and from leaning over holding her hands wheb she was learning to walk. Isabella said she feels she isn’t taking good enough care of the girls because she is so old and poor but she tries to as well as she can. It is very clear she loves the girls dearly.

Their food situation is delicate. A social worker makes an unannounced visit each month to be certain there is sufficient food in the house. If it is found there is not, the girls would be taken away from the home. This creates a lot of stress for the grandparents. They currently have a sponsor that dependably sends $50 a month for food and they need another $50 each month to provide enough for the grandparents and the girls. Isabella said they primarily eat corn and beans and Ana said she would love to eat some eggs. A doctor prescribed milk with atole for Norma but it costs a lot of money and they are struggling to provide that. Norma is in the milk program at Mayan Families though she does not have a sponsor. The milk does not last the whole month because they split it between the three girls.

Their House

The family lives in a multi-room complex with three of Isabella and Francisco’s eight children:

  • an 18 year old daughter who is in college and is in need of a sponsor
  • a daughter who is married with two children and who helps care for Norma
  • the mother of Blanca, Ana and Norma. Although she sleeps in this house, separate from the rest of the family, she is never allowed to be alone with the children. The girls’ mother has an infant daughter that the grandmother cannot take responsibility for; it takes all of her energy to care for the three girls. They think that eventually the social worker will take the baby. Isabella fights with her daughter a lot and won’t let her be near the girls.

The house was owned by Francisco and he gave all his children (except the girls’ mother) a room in which to live. It is made of adobe and the room the grandparents and girls were sleeping in has formed cracks. This is irreparable and is dangerous in the rainy season as it will eventually collapse. They no longer sleep in this room and instead sleep in a tiny room that belongs to one of their sons who is currently living in San Marcos with his wife and children. When he decides to move back to Panajachel, the grandparents and girls will have to build a new room in which to sleep. Their large damaged room is currently being used as a family room where they store food and clothes and where Norma can walk easily on the cement floor. They don’t go in there when it is raining. The small bedroom fits only the grandparents’ bed they share with Norma, a single bed that Blanca and Ana share that is borrowed from their aunt, and a small desk. The girls are now too big to share this small bed and need a double bed which would be able to fit with a little rearranging of the furniture. There is a leak in the ceiling above the girls’ bed so it gets wet when it rains and Ana said they are very cold at night and need blankets. In December 2011 they received a gift of a warm blanket. 

The house has electricity and connected water but they need a water filter. They currently cook over a plancha stove Francisco built but they would love an Onil stove. They have a pila.

When asked what their greatest needs are Isabella replied food, a sponsor for the daughter in college and diapers for Norma. She also mentioned that the girls want to wear traditional clothing but they can’t afford it.

What They Need
$50/mo        Additional food donation

$1250/yr      College student sponsor

$100/mo       Diapers for Norma (5 a day)

$60/mo         Physical therapy for Norma for all therapy and transportation

$30/mo         Milk sponsor

$116/each     Traditional clothes for the three girls

$63               Water filter

$170             Onil stove

$170             Double bed for Blanca and Ana

$25              Blanket for the grandparents

$190            Wardrobe to store girls’ clothes (currently in cardboard boxes)

Fix hole in ceiling in bedroom

How to Donate
  • To use PayPal, click the button below to go to Mayan Families' donation page. Enter the donation amount in the Family Aid field. Enter FA103 for the Family Name. Specify the purpose of the donation in the Extra Notes box.

  • To pay by check, include a note specifying FA103 as the recipient and the purpose of the donation. Mail to:
Mayan Families
PO Box 52
Claremont, NC 28610