#WellWishesBash - THE STORY
On the outskirts of Guatemala City lies a small village: “La Aldea del Aguacate” (literally translated as “The Villlage of the Avocado”). It is here, nestled within this borough, by some twist of fate, I stumbled upon El Hogar Miguel Magone, a home to over 100 Guatemalan children. I often refer to it as an orphanage to save time in conversations, but most of these children do in fact have parents. Most of the little ones here have been severely neglected, and have either been removed from their circumstances by the state or have been abandoned all together. On my first visit to the home, I fought back tears as a little boy showed me scars and nonchalantly explained they were cigarette burns. I imagine they wish they could be referred to as orphans… after all, which is worse?
Overtime, I grew closer and closer to the home, learning more and more about the daily ins and outs. With every visit during my 5 years in Guatemala, I recognized more faces and stories, and the children in turn began to recognize me. I was told the story of the home’s beginnings and how each building in the home had come to be. Turns out, although the State brought most of the children to the home, the government has never provided any funding for these children, and everything has been done through donations in the private sector. Spear heading the efforts to keep this home running is the founder, Karen. I swear, if there are pent house suites in heaven, there is one reserved for her! This woman has dedicated her entire life to these children and trusted BLINDLY in God to provide for them. What started as a few children seeking shelter in her home has turned in to an organization that helps hundreds. Not only does Karen provide for the 100 or so living full time at the home, she also provides daily meals and school supplies for over 100 more who live in the surrounding region. Spend an hour in this home, and count how many times you hear a child’s voice say “Mama Karen”, and you will have an idea of the impact this woman has made on their lives. She is the one who receives the children, accompanies them to doctor’s visits to document and heal wounds of neglect, fights next to them in the courts of Guatemala, rebuilds their sense of self-worth, sends them to school, and brings smiles back to their faces. And the job isn’t easy. Many see the home and think they are very well off. After all, they have many buildings in impeccable shape! However, these buildings have been generously donated by different organizations, and can be misleading. There are days, Karen says, when she wakes up and knows the home has nothing for dinner that night. But miraculously, someone from the town may arrive with 200 eggs. And that’s what they have. Never have the children missed a meal. Thank God. This is where Karen’s blind faith in God comes in to play. The challenge at any children’s home is facing the monthly expenses, and are there many! Apart from the obvious food expense, take into consideration water, electricity, doctor’s and dentist visits, legal fees for each child (covered by Karen as well), teachers (1 for each room, 24 hours a day), psychologist bills (need I explain more?), school uniforms and supplies, clothing, transportation, cleaning supplies, maintenance on buildings, and any unexpected expenses (which there ALWAYS are)! The list could keep going and going! With so many monthly expenses it is practically impossible to save money. Thinking ahead to future plans is very difficult when you are forced to concentrate on the urgent. This is why we have decided to work towards the goal of lowering (for good) monthly expenses for the home. By lowering monthly bills, Karen will have more resources to save for the future and in the long run, save more lives. This is why we want to start by building a well for the home. Hogar Miguel Magone is located just outside of city limits, and therefore, the water supply is privately owned. There is one water company which obviously leads to a monopolization on the cost of water. They can pretty much charge what they want. Combine that with the amount of water the home uses, and it makes for quite a hefty monthly bill. Imagine showers, laundry, and daily cleaning for over 100 children. It’s A LOT of water! In fact, on average, the home currently spends between US$700 and US$1000 per month on water. This is A LOT even in US dollars… imagine once it is converted to the local currency! The home has tried many things to cut back on the amount of water they have to buy. For example, during the rainy season, they use gutters to collect and save rain water for laundry. But, this only helps for about 4 months out of the year, for during the rest of the year very little rain falls. The home has had dreams of a well for quite some time. In fact, a few years ago they attempted to build one. Karen hired the local well digger and his two sons to begin the dig. Paid the monthly minimum, the three began their work. They dug for months and months, with the ground turning more and more to rock. The progress got slower and slower… and after months of paying US$1000 to cover the salaries of the three men, the home was forced to abandon the project. The most frustrating part is that the rock they had reached was, in fact, wet, all the way through. But the money had run out. The 115-meter, man-made hole was sealed at the top, and remains as a reminder of the project that they now believe was a failure. We’re going to change that.
It is our goal to build the well for the home, eliminating almost US$1000 in monthly expenses. The project will cost an estimated US$45,000 to complete. This would cover bringing in the large equipment to quickly dig the 200-meter hole, the piping, and all pump related fixtures. In short, this would bring the water to the surface, year round. And this is what we will do. When I asked Karen what she would do if we were able to eliminate the cost of water for the home, I was amazed at her answer. She has turned her sites on the piece of land next to the home. Her plan is to save enough to build an elderly home here and assist the other vulnerable age group in Guatemala. I was left speechless… as if she isn’t doing enough. So I promised her it would happen. I need your help.