Rain and Stories: Social Work in El Gorrión

I am soaking. I am soaking with the persistent, cold rain of the Guatemalan mountains. I am soaking with the stories of the people living in the slum community of El Gorrión, who are so openly sharing with me as I start my internship in social work. I am soaking in these experiences and sights and lessons and struggles and I feel as if I will never dry out.

The street of El Gorrion

The past week here in Magdalena has been quite the adjustment. The weather has been freezing cold up at this altitude, dripping wet with day after day of constant rain that is so deeply affecting the whole country of Guatemala. The rainy season is going on longer than usual with heavy rains causing landslides, infrastructure destruction, floods and loss of homes and lives. I am getting used to expecting all of my clothes to be damp, to having to remember my umbrella everywhere I go, and knowing the only place I can feel almost warm is under five blankets in my bed. I am staying with a family who lives here in Magdalena, who have so little, but who are being so generous to me. It is humbling to see how much they have to work for the little they own and for what they call home. But if I thought I was being pushed out of my comfort zone by having to live in the rural town of Magdalena, I wasn’t expecting the kind of poverty I would have to face day to day in El Gorrión.

Water, water everywhere...

Social Work in a community of poor, displaced families involves going in to people’s humble shacks and listening to their problems, their pleas, their grievances, their thankfulness, their desires, and their hope for something better. We listen. We talk. We pray. And sometimes, if it is able to be worked out, we can help them. Thankfully, I have been able to help in a situation that really tugged at my heart.

Her name is Deliah – She is 7 months pregnant with twins, but has already had complications with her pregnancy and was thus told to be on complete bed rest. This means her husband cannot work and they have no source of income, because he has to be home to take care of their three children and many animals. Deliah has been losing weight and is not getting the nutrients she needs to make sure her twins will be healthy. She has to go to weekly appointments in Antigua, without a mode of transportation other than hiking up the hill to take the over-crowded and dangerous bus. They do not have enough money to buy the Ensure that the doctor is telling her she needs for vitamins. After sitting with them in their home and hearing this, I couldn’t get it out of my head. How many more blankets do I have that I want to give to her for her to keep warm? How easy is it for me to just go to the store and buy vitamins or get enough food? How lucky I am to have my own transportation? I was frustrated that there wasn’t an easy fix to this problem, that there are so many factors to be addressed; that I couldn’t just walk to a store and buy her Ensure, or magically make things better like I wanted to.

Deliah and her Daughter Katy

But this story is not over, and I was blessed enough to be a part of it. After talking with the social worker I am interning with, I was able to direct some funds to go towards getting her a ride to her appointment. After searching around Guatemala a bit, we also found some cans of Ensure powder. It is expensive, and especially if we want her to have it for the rest of the pregnancy, so I was able to use my own funds and the help of the rest of my Guatemala team to buy enough to last her through her pregnancy. She went to her appointment, not by bus, and the twins are looking healthy again. I really can see how God’s heart for the poor is sometimes expressed by what is placed on our own hearts, and how we can be the hands of God who can get resources to those in need. That was a lesson that took a struggle to learn, but thankfully, God is patient as much as He is faithful – even when the situation looks as if God isn’t caring for those most in need. There is always hope; it never dies.

There is really no way to write about this whole last week, and even this snap shot is getting quite long winded…so thank you for reading through it. Thank you also for the prayers and your support; I am learning much more than I expected to, which is both amazing and difficult. Now on to week two of serving, crying, listening, working, experiencing, sharing, and living in a rural Guatemalan village. May I be ready to take on whatever may come – storms and all.

Namaste, –Kira


2 thoughts on “Rain and Stories: Social Work in El Gorrión

  1. So glad you are there to help this family Kira. It’s hard to reconcile our experience of life with the many many many less fortunate. It could overwhelm someone with less Kiraness. Meanwhile, it might interest you to know that there is a movement happening here called ‘Occupy Wall Street’ which is basically people letting their frustration with the bank bailouts and other government practices that punish the (semi-)blameless masses be known by camping out in the financial districts of several large cities. If the corruption in Central and South America is any indication (and it is) of what happens to the poor when a few get too much power and money, it may not be too many generations before aid workers are coming to the US to help the miserable masses instead of us going to them…. Just a little cheer from your favorite cousin 🙂

  2. Kira, i found a lady today who made me think of you and this situation, It was one-too-many “need money for food-have a family” signs along the side of the street that made me pull over and buy groceries for her.
    Of course, my mind jumps to the “well,what if she’s really buying drugs” or “trading the food I buy her for drugs” line of thinking, because that’s what we are taught, and not the compassion that drives people to extend that hand that may be the last hope for somebody, somewhere. That “last straw” if you will. I’d honestly rather be a sucker for something like that, hoping to inspire something, somewhere, in someone, even if I do feed a habit.
    I miss you and all the compassion and love you bring to those in need. I just hope we all can find a way to not only offer it to the people who need it abroad, but to the people at home. Somebody hato stand up for those in the neighborhood,no matter where that maybe… in the Guat, the USA, or elsewhere.
    Keep it up. You rock.

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