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A Family Receives a New Home!

December 29, 2011 by  
In Stories and Photos


We met Ricardo’s family in 2002 when his wife started coming to the clinic with
their youngest child, a small baby girl. She and her family lived in the next
village about three miles away. Their home was a cornstalk shack with a mud
floor and no kitchen area. Without a stove, table or chairs, they cooked on
simple fire made from a few sticks of wood and dried leaves and ate sitting on
the floor around the fire which served to keep them warm during the cold months.
The children were often sick due to poor nutrition and unclean water. The
family was obviously one of the poorest, so we helped with free clinic visits
and medicines and donations of food as much as possible

Ricardo, now 47, used to work as a helper on a bus collecting fares and placing the passengers’
huge baskets and bundles of fruit and vegetables on the roof of the bus.
Starting at 4:30 am, six days a week, it was dangerous and harrowing work,
climbing on the roof often when the bus was already moving at high speeds on
curvy mountain roads.

Hard at work early one morning about ten years ago, he lost his balance and fell off
the bus while it was moving and he was hit by a car. When he was discharged
from the hospital months later, he was brain-damaged, could barely speak and was
unable to walk. His wife and five children were left in a severe
poverty-stricken situation without any compensation from the bus company;
Ricardo could never work again. 

Despite six operations over the years, Ricardo continues to suffer from kidney problems
and his health is always precarious. He has only stayed alive this long because
his wife takes good care of him and our clinic provides the special medicines
he frequently needs including those for urinary tract infections.

He is often in pain and sits alone all day in his wheelchair while his wife and
children hunt and collect firewood, which they then chop into small pieces to sell.
She also buys firewood in large bundles, uses a machete to cut into smaller
pieces and ties into smaller packs for sale to the villagers.

This very hard work allows her and the children to earn a total of $40 a month,
which is all they have to live on. They manage to raise a little bit of corn
and beans on a tiny plot of land which belongs to Ricardo’s father. The most
amount of food they have is what they gather by walking through
already-harvested fields to pick up the small poorly-formed and teeny cobs of
corn left behind by others who didn’t consider those stubs worthy of

In 2006 the government had a project to give cement blocks to poor families with
the requirement that they do the construction within thirty days to qualify to
get a free door and concrete floor. A local man agreed to do the building work
for a discount price of $40.  Through much
hard work the mother saved the equivalent of $20 to pay a worker to start building
the block walls, but was $20 short upon completion. She begged us for the money
which we gladly gave her.

The little house was very small and on a bank of dirt along the road. The entrance to
the house is about ten feet straight up from the roadway to the house with
steps carved out of the mud. The father sits by the roadway all day to wait for
people to come by and buy firewood. Halfway through the day, he would drag himself
up the mud steps to the kitchen area, eat the few tortillas his wife would
leave already made for him, then crawl back down to keep watch over the
firewood. To see him claw his way up those steps, dragging his limp body was a slow,
difficult and very sad difficult process to watch.

Two years ago, the wife came to the clinic to say Ricardo was seriously sick and
the family thought he would die. He refused to go to the hospital, aware it
would be an added expense to the family to retrieve his body, should he die at
the hospital. So he laid out on the floor, quietly suffering in pain and fever.

When I visited the family the wife confided in me, with tears, that her father-in-law
who owned the land that the house was on, had already announced that he was
planning to evict her and the children should her husband die. Now, in addition
to worrying about her husband dying, she was also scared to see how coldhearted
the father-in-law was acting, and frightened to think she would have absolutely
no other place to go with her children.

 We sent a Guatemalan man to talk to the father-in-law about selling the land, even
though that land was supposed to be Ricardo’s inheritance. However, most times
there is no paperwork and many agreements are only oral and in this case the
father-in-law’s position was that if the son died, then he doesn’t qualify for
any inheritance and the wife and children must leave. The asking price for the
land was an exorbitant amount so we suspect he knew we might somehow be
involved. He probably hoped we would pay a high price for what really was an
almost uselessly tiny plot of land. And, the land is already scheduled to be
reduced when the road is widened.

We decided the best option for this family was to look for plot of land to build a home of their own. We had no
funds for this project but felt moved to pursue this. A month later, Jane, a lady
from the USA was visiting our clinic and saw Ricardo sitting in his wheelchair
beside a pile of firewood on the side of the road.

When we told her his story and how the family lived in such poverty, she said she
would try to raise funds to help us with this family housing project.

Coincidentally, another man, Daniel, came to me the same week to tell me he was in financial
predicament because of several loans he had incurred when his parents died. He
had given his land as collateral for the high interest rate loans.

Daniel was a good hardworking man with seven small children living at home. However
with several unexpected expenses a poor growing season and little work, Daniel
was soon behind in his payments. When he came to me, the bank was ready to
foreclose on his property which would leave him and his family with no place to
live or grow a little crop for food. 

God worked it out, with the help of Jane who later sent us a sufficient amount of money
to buy a plot of land and contribute towards the building of the house. Daniel
was then able to pay off the bank loans with the money from the land, so he
still had a home and a little land for his family.

After the rains had stopped in the late fall, we started to make plans to build.  The local man that we hired to build the
house designed it like any other in the area – two bedrooms and a covered open
area to serve as a family room and kitchen. But Gregory was concerned that
there were provisions to accommodate Ricardo’s special needs.

So working with the builder, he redesigned the plans to make the house wheelchair
accessible and livable with a gentle ramp to get in and out of the home from the
road, remembering to design it so that heavy rains did not enter the home or
the walkway. No more would Ricardo have to crawl with his hands to drag himself
up mud stairs! Importantly, the house was along a main road so that the mother
would still be able to sell her firewood to the villagers.

The clean, neat cement block house was finished in a few months and it had a
feature few people in the village have – a bathroom! There is no running water
in the village of Yalu but there is a nearby public pila which is the public washing and water storage area.

Gregory set a barrel in the bathroom designed to fill with water from the roof and
instructed the family to fill it with buckets of water if there was no rain.
And showed them how water from the barrel can be dumped into the toilet. Now
envious people from the village come to admire this bathroom with a “flush
toilet”. And wall bars and a wide door make it easy for Ricardo to use the

Gregory even planned it so Ricardo can look out of the bedroom window and porch to see
the beautiful mountain views, while seated in his wheelchair!

We were even able to make a large bed for the family so now the children can sleep
on a bed instead of the floor.

What a happy and joyfully tear-filled day when we presented the family with the keys
to their own home. The change in the entire family is so visible and nice to
see. God is so wonderfully good!

Thank you so much to all who contributed to make these wonderful things possible. We
feel so blessed to be a part of it all, and our hope and prayer is that you,
too, will feel blessed and appreciated.

Funds Low-Can You Please Help

I want to thank all of Hands of Hope supporters that have been so faithful to help the people of the villages we have worked in since 1999. It will now be almost 12 years since we started working in these villages and we see improvements in their lives and health every year.

 The need is still there although the death rate among babies and young children has dropped significantly. Many times these people should be treated at a hospital but fear keeps them away as well as lack of funds for hospitals. Surgeries in the fall of every year at public hospitals come to a standstill as hospitals run out of funds. Then the backlog must be attended first and the patients can wait up to 6 months for a needed surgery.

So we have started taking patients to a semiprivate hospital, Hermano Pedro Obras Sociales, where many American doctors offer their services for free. The patients must still pay a donation towards the hospital but the care is excellent. Many of our patients do not even have money for the exams and laboratory exams they need so Hands of Hope helps with that. Even a small donation of $100 is often beyond their reach. Again Hands of Hope helps with that donation and even arranges transportation to and from the hospital . Otherwise the post surgery patient would have to ride home in a bumpy bus!

This past few months our cost of medicines and help to patients has increased but our donations have been reduced. We desperately want to keep the clinic running smoothly and provide for these people who have no one else to turn to for help. Would you please consider a donation to keep the clinic from having to cut back on needed medicines and help for these people. We thank you so much for considering this and thank you for the help and prayers that you have offered for those in need.

Blankets for Christmas!

February 7, 2011 by  
In Daily Blog, Stories and Photos

The following week after prenatal clinic in the furtherest village of Yalu, we had an outreach to the elderly people in two other villages we serve, San Rafael and Santa Marta.

Maria handing out blankets in Yalu

Maria handing out blankets in Yalu

We made special food for our lunchtime together and gave out blankets and bags of food and also shared about the Ultimate Gift that God gave us.

It was a great time, and the many poor elderly people appreciated it very much.

We also distributed hundreds of blankets to the poorest families in the villages. This is something we do every year, and it never fails to make us feel  so blessed to be able to have supporters who contribute to make the Blanket Drive a success every year. Thank you!

Is Insulin a Christmas Gift?

January 8, 2011 by  
In Daily Blog, Stories and Photos

Most of us wouldn’t think of insulin as a Christmas gift, but to Miguel it was the best gift of all.

The Monday after Christmas, Maria and I drove 3 hours to see Miguel, age 23, who had lived in the USA for a few years, and actually knew a good bit of English.

Miguel has severe diabetes and I had first met him a month earlier when I was with Maria, one of our ministry workers while we were with a few of our village patients at the Hermano Pedro Hospital in Antigua.

When we had first met him, he was so very sick because he hadn’t had money to buy sufficient insulin that he must take to stay alive. Maria and I had been horrified to see that he was so sickly and so emaciated that he looked like a skeleton.

He was not able to walk unassisted and could only speak in a soft whisper.
His family was very poor, and he was slowly dying from lack of insulin.
That day, I went home and returned to the hospital with some insulin we were storing in the fridge.

Now we were on our way to see him, to see if he was still alive, and possibly had become healthier. And, importantly, we were bringing some more of the insulin he needed but could not afford.

He was so happy to see us when we arrived at the door of the simple adobe house where he lives with his parents and several younger brothers. His small, dirt-floor room had only a bed and he had no table or any other furniture.

He stood up to greet us, smiled and in a surprisingly clear voice told us that he felt so much better.

He had finished the insulin we had given him last month, and he was so excited to see that we were now here, bringing some more. Someone had donated donated food and blankets for his family as a way to help them out because they have almost nothing.

Miguel is gaining strength and weight and can now walk again. I was able to connect him with a medical clinic run by an American man only thirty minutes away. His entire family thanked us and prayed for us before we left. With a continuing insulin supply now assured, he should be able to lead a productive life and help his family.

What a great day!
As I drove the three hours back home, I thought of how thankful I am to all of you who give support to make it possible to do what we do in our ministry.
Merry Christmas, Miguel!

Christmas Miracle in the Village

January 7, 2011 by  
In Daily Blog, Stories and Photos

Small house is home We had our first Christmas miracle on the Saturday before Christmas.

I got a late-night call Wednesday, and learned that a mother who was 8 1/2 months pregnant was experiencing
preeclampsia. This is a possible fatal condition affecting both mother and child. I told the husband to call an
ambulance immediately and we would pay the ambulance later.

Thursday morning as we drove slowly on the mountain roads to go to our clinic, the father was nervously waiting along the side of the road for us in the village of Santa Marta and said his wife had been too scared to go to the hospital as I had insisted. I was very worried.

I parked the pickup truck, and Dr. Efrian and I climbed a steep hill to their simple cement block home. The mother was in very serious shape because she also had a heart condition. Her body was swollen and she had trouble moving and breathing. We could not hear the baby’s heartbeat and we assumed the baby had died.

We called the ambulance to come and decided to wait. (Over the years, we had made friends with the ambulance drivers and they now come when I call them – a little extra “payment” helps us to get good service. )

The ambulance rushed her to the Guatemala City hospital but they warned us that it looked like the mom was not going to make it.

Well, we had 79 patients that day in clinic and ended the day too tired to check out anything further. We did talk to a family member later that day who said the mother and baby were still alive but the mother was quite sick.

By Saturday, not having heard any update on the mother and baby, I drove to the village to check on them.

I was so surprised to see the father smiling, carrying the most beautiful baby boy! The baby was doing fine; they had just returned from the hospital. He told me the doctors said that the mother needs heart surgery and will remain in the hospital for a while, but she will survive.

I rushed to the clinic to get formula and warm blankets for the baby (it had been 36 F at night). I truly believe
it is miracle that they are both alive. A Christmas miracle in the village, with a new baby!

God is good and we are so happy.

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