Elderly Info

The food crisis in Guatemala is having a devastating effect on the elderly. Without enough to eat, many older people are becoming weak and malnourished, leaving them more vulnerable to illnesses that they cannot afford medical care for. They are unable to provide for even their most basic needs. In many cases, family members are unable to help as they struggle to feed themselves and their own children, leaving the elderly without any form of support and often living in heartbreaking conditions.

Please help us bring them the life-sustaining food and medical care that they so desperately need. General donations are used to ensure that we always have an adequate supply of food, medicine, and funds for meals, necessary medical treatment, and transportation. Monthly sponsorship would help feed one person, once a day for five days a week. Via blog and web album, we'll show you exactly where your aid is going and help you get to know the men and women whose lives you are changing.

If you would like to sponsor an elderly person for $35 a month, please click here and write "monthly sponsorship'' in the Other box. To make a one-time donation for medicine, rent, or other costs, please click here and enter "Elderly Care Program" in the Other box. Any questions can be directed to Amy at amy@mayanfamilies.org

Media on Mayan Families Elderly

Ancianos : Megan Gette + photos by Rob Bain, Nisa East, Rhett Hammerton and Hiroko Tanaka

Mayan Families- Ancianos Stories : Nisa East

Mayan Families Elderly Feeding Care Program : Rhett Hammerton

Facing Hunger: Elderly in Rural Guatemala

Oct 26, 2010

Ssshhh Don't Tell Pedro!

Pedro's room from the outside
Pedro's new room from the outside
Tuesday, October 26, 2010 -- Hi all. It's Ronnie, a volunteer with Mayan Families, and I have great news about our progress with Pedro's housing. We have thus far received over three months' rent for Pedro's new room and pledges for at least ten more months, for a total of over a year's worth of rent! We've also gotten the money to buy Pedro a new bed, mattress, water filter (no more parasites!), blankets, pillow, table, chairs, and perhaps a dresser--a fully furnished room!

I just came back from looking at the room that we'll be renting for Pedro, and it's lovely. There is light, an electrical outlet, a window, a solid door, a cement floor and cinder block walls that actually keep out the wind and rain, and access to a clean (and almost private) bathroom and shower--not to mention a bit of color and sunshine! Coming from his old place, I think (director) Sharon put it right when she said that Pedro will likely feel like he just won the lottery. What's more: The new place is right by the shed that he currently lives in, and so Pedro will get to stay close to the kind neighbors who have been looking out for him (helping him take his medicine, giving him extra food when they can afford it, washing his clothes, etc).
Pedro's room from the inside
Pedro's new room from the inside

Tomorrow we'll be buying the furniture and setting up, and on the 1st of November we'll be moving Pedro into the new place--And it's all a surprise! (We didn't want to promise Pedro anything until we were absolutely sure we could offer it, and since there are now just a few days left until move-in is allowed, we thought it'd be nice to wait a bit longer so as to present the room in ready condition.) Along with the Mayan Families staff members who have been helping with this project, I cannot wait for the big day and to share it all with you.

Today during the lunch run I asked Pedro if he needed anything. I was referring to medicine refills, but I wasn't very clear and so Pedro misunderstood. He told me that, if I could find one, a piece of furniture to put his clothes in would be really nice--Pedro currently keeps his clothes in cardboard boxes on top of his bed, which is very small to begin with. One of his neighbors, a bubbly woman, jokingly asked if the dresser was really for a lady (75-year-old Pedro has never been married). Pedro nodded and then laughed and laughed with the rest of us. I told him that tomorrow I'd look for a dresser.

Pedro's room and bathroom
Pedro's room and bathroom. Right next to the bathroom
is a sink and clean shower that Pedro will have access to.
View of the back corner of the room
View of the back corner of the room. It extends
over 5 feet beyond where the window (on the
left) ends.
While huge strides have already been made, we can still use your help in securing Pedro's rent, which is $65 a month. To make a one-time donation towards Pedro's rent, please click here and enter "Elderly Care, Pedro" in the Other section. To make a monthly donation towards his rent, please click here and enter "Elderly Care, Pedro" in the Other Program section. Thank you!

Oct 23, 2010

Help Fransisco See

 *November 18, 2010 Update*
Fransisco has his glasses, and he loves them! He says that before having them he couldn't leave his home on his own because he could see so little, but now with his glasses he can go out and function much more independently. Fransisco has thanked us at Mayan Families and asked us to send deepest thanks to his sponsor. This has made a huge difference for him. 

*November 7, 2010 Update*
We have received a donation to help Fransisco's family buy him glasses! Thank you so much for your support. We are currently working out with the family how to go about making the purchase, and we'll of course keep you posted--photos to come soon! Again, thank you so much. 


Fransisco Sahón is 81 years old and has been living alone since last year, when his wife of over 50 years passed away. They had four children: three daughters and one son, but their son died in adulthood. Fransisco is near blind: he can only see from one eye, but the vision in that eye is very poor. The reason Fransisco cannot see from his left eye is because a failed operation ruined it. After this operation, Fransisco was supposed to go to the optometrist every three months. However, until we took Fransisco for a checkup last week, he hadn’t seen a doctor for four years because his daughters, who are struggling to feed their children and dependent father, hadn’t been able to take off time from their work to accompany him to Sololá, the neighboring town where Fransisco’s doctor is located (Fransisco cannot go there on his own because of his disability).

Fransisco was so excited to finally be able to go see an optometrist with the help of Mayan Families staff, especially because his vision has been deteriorating, making him worried that soon he’ll go completely blind. And at the doctor’s we received great news: Fransisco does not need an operation! Moreover, his vision could be very significantly improved with special glasses. It was very relieving to hear this, but unfortunately Fransisco’s daughters cannot pool together enough money to buy Fransisco the 600 quetzales ($75) glasses. Together they are able to scrape together half of the cost, but they are asking for help to cover the other half ($37.50).

Please help Fransisco get his glasses. Improving his ability to see will make living alone so much easier for him. To make a gift, please click here and enter “Elderly Care, Glasses for Fransisco Sahon” in the Other box. 

Oct 18, 2010

Help Pedro Find a Home

Pedro receiving hygiene product donations
in his neighbor's yard, where he also picks up
the daily lunch we bring him. Pedro spends
most of his day sitting on the curb or waiting
in his neighbor's yard because he does not
want to stay in his cramped, uncomfortable
We have already introduced Pedro Hulahu, one of our dearest Elderly Care Program members. As explained, Pedro is a sweet, soft-spoken 75-year-old man. He lives alone in the corner of a rundown shed, a cramped and miserable place surrounded by piles of garbage and recycling, some as tall as 8 feet. The ground about the shed is littered with broken glass and plastic, and the actual area that Pedro has is tiny; there are fewer than 3 square feet of free space.

Entrance to Pedro's home
Photo of Pedro's tiny room from the
entrance. There are fewer than 3 square
feet of free space, and the bed, which has
no mattress, is less than 4 ft long.

This space isn’t remotely resistant to the elements: when there is rain, his home floods; when there is wind outside, there is wind inside. At night, despite his clothing and blankets, Pedro is cold. He has no nearby access to a bathroom or drinking water. It's a very sad situation, and dangerous for a man of his age, so we have been trying to find ways to get him out of there. 

Just this week, we got a terrific offer. Mayan Families’ managers Gloria and Julio reached a couple of Pedro’s especially helpful neighbors (who had been out of town) and learned that a rentable room in their home is about to be vacated. We can rent this room for Pedro, equipped with light and access to a bathroom, for $65 a month. Aside from the relative affordability of this offer (even relative to local prices), it’s a great opportunity because Pedro would be living with the few caring, familiar faces and helping hands that he knows.

Pedro sitting on his bed

If we could each give a little, it would make a world of difference for Pedro. A monthly or one-time donation of any amount would be so appreciated. To make such a monthly donation, please click here and enter “Elderly Care, Pedro” next to Other Program. To make a one-time donation, please click here and enter “Elderly Care, Pedro” in the other box.

Thank you so much!

Oct 7, 2010

Juliana Tun Xicajay

 *November 28, 2010 Update*
 Juliana just got donations for a mattress, a water filter, 8 months of food support, and a tamale basket!!! Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity. We´ll be sure to keep you updated and show you photos when she receives all of these gifts--What joy for the holidays!

Juliana receiving her new mattress on December 9th

Meet Juliana

Juliana is 78 years old and has been living alone since her husband died 11 years ago. They suffered the tragic loss of ten of their eleven sons. Eight of their sons died when they were children, and two died in their adulthood. Juliana lives in Santa Maria, a town near Solola, and comes to Panajachel to work selling clothes and tablecloths. Business has been terrible; normally she sells nothing at all and needs to beg for the busfare to get back home. The only thing that she has to eat is the lunch and occasional bag of grain that we bring her, and edible herbs that she can find on the ground.

Juliana with some of the items she tries to sell
Juliana desperately needs more food. Her only son Mariano, who makes skirts, struggles to feed his own children because he only makes $35 per week on the rare occasions that he finds work. He usually cannot help her. Juliana suffers pain in her joints and fatigue, and she needs dental care. She is a sweet woman and speaks very little Spanish, so we communicate with her in Kaqchiquel. Your sponsorship would lift Juliana from the brink of starvation and would help her get the medical care that she needs. As a one-time gift option, a food basket ($35) for Juliana would also be a great help, as would be a single mattress ($30) or a water filter ($50). To make a one time donation for Juliana, please click here and enter "Elderly Care, Juliana [details]" in the Other section. To sponsor Juliana with a monthly donation (that would go towards food and any other urgent need), please click here and enter "Elderly Care, Juliana" in the Other Program section.

We recently visited Juliana in her remote home in Santa Maria. By car, it took us almost an hour to get there! This is the trip that Juliana makes twice daily by a combination of bus, pickup truck, and boat. For more photos of Juliana's home and family, click here

Juliana's bed. She has no mattress; Juliana sleeps on a broken
straw mat. 
Juliana in front of her house in Santa Maria
Juliana in her kitchen. She used to sleep here, too,
until the rain that came through the broken roof
and cracked walls became unbearable. Now
Juliana sleeps in a room in her son's home.
Juliana in a garden near her house