Early in 2015 Wells of Hope had some special guests at Camp Esperanza. Mary van der Zalm(Oma), Ted’s mom, and Frances Hendriks, his aunt joined Miriam and some other visitors for a ten day visit to Guatemala. On the third day of their visit three women arrived at the camp, early in the morning. This is a common enough experience, with many people making a two or three hour trek to ask for help with a special situation. In this case, they were not there asking for themselves but for a neighbour in need. Florinda, had fallen on hard times and needed a new house for her husband and five children.
[Florinda in bed, in her dilapidated house]
Florinda had injured her leg, and could not leave her bed. Her house was crumbling around her, and she and her husband had no financial resources with which to rebuild their home.
[More than 50% of premature deaths among children under 5 are due to pneumonia caused by open fire cooking]
Miriam, Mary and Frances (The Oma’s) along with the women hopped in the pickup truck and drove out to see Florinda. While Miriam spoke to the family, and assessed the dire need of the family the Oma’s had already come up with a plan. They would raise the funds to re-build Florinda’s house.
[Oma Mary and Florinda’s family]
House-building was quickly set into motion, and the family had a new house in a matter of weeks. The ten to fifteen homes that Wells of Hope helps build every year are very modest. The cost to build and equip a home is about $2500. They are built of adobe brick with a tin roof, usually two rooms, with a smokeless stove, and dirt floor. Nothing fancy, but something dry, and secure.
[Newly rebuilt house]
When the Oma’s returned home they set about working on some fundraising ideas. Mary tapped a few shoulders and received help from the Legion, Kinsmen, and members of her sewing group. As well, her grand-daughter collected money from the proceeds of selling cosmetics. Frances collected funds from footcare work she had done over a couple months, and also received some donations from family and friends.
[Freeze Poverty Display]
[Oma Frances with grandson Gavin and friend at St. Edward’s school]
When Frances’ daughter Janine, a grade-school teacher at St. Edward school in Jordan heard about the project, she got on board with her young grade-school children organizing a “freeze poverty” day. Over two days during recess they sold freezies to their fellow students and raised $600 towards the cost of the house build!
[The newly built smokeless cookstove reduces wood consumption by up to 75%]
On a return visit to Guatemala in August, Frances’ kids were able to follow up with Florinda. She is happy in her newly rebuilt house. Her leg is slowly healing, yet she still has a hard time walking with crutches. Life is not easy in the Santa Maria mountains of Guatemala. Yet, for Florinda and her husband and kids, they can enjoy a clean, dry house, and a good stove. They also can feel good that they have friends in their community who cared enough to travel through the mountains to seek out help, and friends in Canada who cared enough about them that they were willing to “freeze poverty.”
[Forinda and her husband, with a visit from Frances’ family]
In total, the Omas had far exceeded their fundraising goal, and funds were also put towards Wells of Hope water projects. What can we learn from the them? They used their gifts and talents to make life better for Florinda and her family. They shared their story and invited people to be involved. Maybe you’d like to do the same?