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

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

Videos:
Mayan Families- Ancianos Stories : Nisa East

Mayan Families Elderly Feeding Care Program : Rhett Hammerton

Facing Hunger: Elderly in Rural Guatemala



Dec 17, 2012

Even more good news!

Felipe and Clemente Palax (A-40, 41) are now both sponsored for one year,
and also have received a new mattress and a large basket of food!




















Maria and Guatelupe Xalcut Garcia (A-55, 61) are now both sponsored, &
have both received new mattresses, beds, pillows, blankets and a large basket of food!




















Juana and Rosaria Par (A-65, 67) are now both sponsored for one year,
have a new bed, mattress, and a large basket of food!
























Celestina Simieon (A-53) now has a new blanket, bed and mattress!

















Pedro Coroxon (A-92) is now sponsored to eat each day!















Also, we have received over 99 bags of food for the Elderly:
the extra bags will feed them while the Program takes time off for Christmas.

Thank you to all of the generous donors who will make this Christmas
an especially happy one for these people! We'll keep you updated with photos
 in the upcoming weeks. Gracias, and mati'osh from our Elderly, and all of us at Mayan Families! 

New video about the Feeding Program!

Videographer Rhett Hammerton made this piece on the Feeding Program. It features anciana Maria Vincenta A37, our two cooks in San Jorge, Teresa and Rosa, as well as scenes from San Jorge and the program itself. Please watch! Also, keep an eye out for another video on medical care at Mayan Families, which features Felipa & Clemente A40, A41.


Dec 15, 2012

San Jorge Clinic

San Jorge, where half of the Elderly in our Feeding Care program live, is a village situated on a mountainside above Lake Atitlán. Many do not have access to clean water. They use the community pila-- a large concrete sink in the middle of 
town-- to wash their dishes and clothes, or themselves. The water that comes from it is not drinkable, although it is the only water source for many. Because they live on a mountainside, many fill large jugs of water and carry it long distances, up or downhill, to their homes. Drinking this water may give parasites and other gastro-intestinal illnesses suffered by many of our elderly. 

In addition, there is no market in San Jorge to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, so the majority go up to Sololá on Fridays to buy their food. This too requires climbing up and down a mountainside to take a public bus to the village, and carrying their week's load of food back to their homes. They must pay the bus fare in addition to their groceries, often too great an expense for those who haven't worked in years. This is why many of our Elderly only eat once a day, as the food from the Program can be delivered to them if they are disabled, ill or otherwise unable to come to the comedor-- the dining hall. The produce they get is also often contaminated. While everyone is encouraged to disinfect their food before eating, the special disinfectant found in grocery stores is yet another expense. Most fail to disinfect their produce, or if they do, use bleach. 

Furthermore, an aging body is unable to work in a place where the only jobs available require physical labor. Many carry their loads of water, groceries, or bundles of wood to survive anyway, leaving them with the same exhaustion, but without a cent to show for it.

This combination of conditions leads to common illnesses: gastritis, parasites or intestinal infections, pain, arthritis-- while treatable with antibiotics or pain meds, their symptoms are often tolerated by our Elderly, who in order to get medicine must think of all the hazards in their way: the mountain, the money, the load they carry, dirty food and dirty water.




Yesterday, December 14 2012, we brought our in-house Dr. Luis DePeña to San Jorge to check on our Elderly and their various complaints. Most do not have access to medical care aside from visiting clinics or the days of the week the Centro de Salud (Health Center) is open. To receive more extensive medical care they need to take a chicken bus to Sololá, a neighboring village. Many of our Elderly, especially those most in need of care, rarely leave their beds, much less walk the long way up the hill to take a public bus to the hospital. More significantly, they cannot afford the medicines they are prescribed, so often go without treating their conditions. 



Our doctor was able to treat at least a few, while providing a much-needed check up for over 25 Elderly. Of these:

  • All were given vitamins & their blood pressure was checked
  • 6 were treated for gastritis
  • 11 were treated for headaches & arthritis
  • 1 was prescribed antibiotics for a UTI
  • Santos Palax A68, was referred to a hospital to have the mass in his chest confirmed as a cyst or cancer
  • Gregoria A89 was treated for gastritis, and has plans for a follow-up evaluation to confirm if her condition is improved: if not she will need to undergo further treatment for an ulcer
  • Juana A44 was treated for gastritis, under the same premise that if her condition is improved, she will not need to have a second ultrasound. If the condition has indeed progressed to stomach cancer, she will need to undergo treatment



If you would like to provide a water filter to someone who does not have access to clean water, which would help them prevent waterborne illnesses, new Sawyer filters last 10 years and cost $96. You may either scroll through the bios of the Elderly on the right to see if their needs list "water filter" and write their number in the Other box of the Donate Now page, or simply donate a water filter to our Elderly Care program and we will provide it to someone in need.

If you would like to contribute to our Elderly Medical Fund, this would allow someone or several to get their prescriptions filled. Often, they are prescribed medications that are for very treatable conditions that are common in Guatemala, due to poor water conditions, lack of access to nutritious food, and poor hygiene. The meds they need are therefore readily available, but our Elderly cannot afford them. Please write "Elderly Medical Fund" in the Other box of our Donate Now page if you would like to contribute to getting these prescriptions filled.  

While needed, Mayan Families has not received donations for disposable diapers in some time, so we were unable to provide them to those who asked for them. A 3-5 weeks supply costs $60. If you would like to donate these to our Elderly, please write "Disposable diapers" in the Other box here. Thank you!

Dec 14, 2012

Four years I'm like this


























Maria Vincenta Xalcut Ramos
(A-37) Status: Sponsored
Needs: food, double mattress, blankets, water filter
To help Maria and her family with any of these needs, click here.
A video about the Feeding Program, featuring Maria.
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here.  

"This is my problem, senora, I apologize, this is my problem. I am here, in this house.
Yes, for the moment I can’t make any money. I have desire still to do things, I could still work, I’m 62 years old, but I can’t go out alone. Yes, senora, this is my pain. I’m here in this house."

It is uncertain sometimes  if Maria is crying or if the tears are just the prolonged & unwanted consequence of her glaucoma, to which she'd lost her sight four years ago. 
Since then her daughter has been the sole breadwinner of the three who live in the house, though she hasn't left it in months; she cares for her teenage son and her mother. She'd married at 15, but shortly afterward her husband left her for another woman. She returned to her mother, who she says is also a widow. "We haven't heard from him since, so he is as good as dead to us." 
Maria's father passed away in February of this year, following the death of his wife two years ago and leaving a medical & funeral debt the family could not repay were it not for the donations they'd received.
He too had been in the Program, relying on the food he got once a day to sustain him in his one-room house whose ceiling and walls were well-blackened from the smoke that came from the fire made on the dirt floor.
The house where Maria, her daughter and grandson used to live was about to collapse: the adobe had rotted through to its bamboo supports and the ceiling was caving in. Mayan Families built them the wooden house where they live now. 
It is far from luxury, but far more posh than the former home. Chickens use the space as their own and weave in-between the legs of the table and three chairs that comprise their furniture, scratching in the dust of the floor. Two large hope chests full of clothes are piled on the two beds of the other room. They cook just outside the house, using a stove--also a donation--where the chickens roost.

"Ay, Dios, things are better than before: when I was a girl there were five, six of us cooking on the ground, sleeping on mats on the rocks. Really poor, really sad. When the town was tiny everyone went to the coast to harvest coffee. There was no bus, we walked or took a boat. Everyone left, everyone left to cut coffee. We didn't have money. We still don't have money--solo Dios, solo Dios-- only God, only God.

I can't make a cent, like this [blind]. Thank God my light, they gave me light, this year they put in my light." 

Dec 13, 2012

Maria Angeles Cojtin


























(A-93) Status: Maria is now sponsored for one year! Thank you!
Needs: food, water filter, double mattress,
UPDATE Dec 21, 2012: Maria received the gift of a blanket!
To help Maria with these needs, please click here. To sponsor her at $35 a month, click here.
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here.  

Maria doesn't say a word during our visit, but lets her daughter speak for her, while four kids run circles around them.

"She suffers all kinds of sickness: infection, gastritis, headaches, problems with her nerves. This August she'd had two operations on her eyes, so that's why she wears the glasses, even indoors.

We got a loan to pay the debt, while my husband's working doing day labor to repay it. I make bracelets. I have to dip the needle into each tiny bead. I'm afraid my eyes will go bad too because of that.

When I was 8 my father died. There were seven of us kids. So because my mother had to take care of all of us, we couldn't go to school. There just wasn't any money, no real opportunity to go, like that. When I turned 13 I went to work in a jewelry factory, and that's where I learned to make these bracelets. After a while I went to work in a hotel in Panajachel. That's where I learned Spanish-- the owner of the hotel gave me the opportunity to learn, and so I learned.

Now I'm the only one who's here, caring for Mom. It's difficult, since I have my own kids and she's sick a lot. I don't know where we'd be if she couldn't eat with the Program everyday. We don't have money to buy clean water, so we drink the tap even though it's bad. Sometimes there's no food.  Sometimes my mother can't get out of bed."

Pedro Coroxon


























(A-92) Status: Sponsored as of Dec 16, 2012!
Needs: food, diapers, pain meds, water filter, double mattress
To provide Pedro with any of these needs, click here.
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here.  

We duck into the small adobe room, where Pedro sits on the bed that takes up most of the space.
He lives in it alone, in a corner of a derelict courtyard across from a store selling expensive chips and soda.
He used to work in one of these stores, long time ago, he says. These days Pedro can't walk alone.
The pila-- the large concrete wash basin--is in the middle bordered in rooms occupied by other tenants of the compound.
His two daughters care for him, says one, while his three sons are drunks.
Twelve years ago his wife died of cancer.
He sleeps on a straw mat on the bed, and relies on diapers so his daughters won't have to clean up after him all the time.
His bladder's been bad for months. If he gets up he can't hold it in, not even to make it to the letrine--  the communal concrete toilet bowl over a hole in the ground.
Both live with their families down the mountain. Neither works; the one I talk to has five kids of her own.
There's no room for him to cook, so the only food he gets is delivered from the Program. He has no clean water to drink, no place to wash aside from the sink that is like a stage in the middle of its audience of apartments.
His daughter holds up one of his diapers-- this is the only one we've got left, she says. We'll have to start finding another solution if we can't find the money for more.

Dec 12, 2012

Nieves Garcia Simion

























(A-63) Status: Not Sponsored
Needs: food, water filter replacement filters, Onil stove, pila repairs
UPDATE Dec 21, 2012: Nieves received the gift of a blanket!
                 Jan 2, 2012:   Nieves received a bed & mattress!
To provide any of these needs, click here. To sponsor Nieves at $35 a month, click here.
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here.  

Nieves had seven children.
Like her parents before her, she grew up poor, then married poor and so gave birth to poor children.
They'd walk for days to the coast each harvest to pick coffee beans for a couple Quetzals-- about 40 US cents-- a day.
One season the wind blew a sickness through the highlands like it spreads the dead hairs of a dandelion throughout grassland, coating all the green growth in yellow.
One of Nieve's children breathed it in. It made her belly hot and then amassed in her limbs, finally collecting in her head, and she died soon after.
Nieves had six children.
Soon after the first daughter died the wind turned again, enveloping another little girl who followed her sister.
And then another died, and another, and another.
Nieves had two children.
The family moved to a smaller house with a dirt floor and a straw roof, where maybe they'd escape the wind.
But it found its way through the cracks in the walls and the shaky leaves of the ceiling. It kicked up the dust of the floor and settled in the blankets, where another child breathed the illness that was in it, and died.
Mija, mija-- Nieves says to the grown woman standing in the corner-- my daughter, my daughter. The one standing there is the only one who stayed.

She says that the world is more or less the same as in those days. No one gets sick like that anymore, but we are still poor. Whether there was war or whether there was peace she hardly noticed the difference.
There was nothing to eat, hardly a crumb.
Nieves climbs up and down a hillside to eat at the Program each day. Her one remaining daughter and her son-in-law live with her in the house. Neither work lately, since there's none to be found for a builder, and since the daughter never had. They own the house, at least, and do not have to pay for its amenities. There is little more than a malfunctioning plancha-- a griddle-- a broken pila-- a concrete sink-- a 6 yr old water filter, a small table and several plastic chairs in the house. Nieves sleeps on a petate, a straw mat, on the floor. Despite this, the interior of the house is brightly painted and lets in a lot of sun, so that the mood of the house is unequal to the dirt and emptiness.
She hasn't got much of an appetite these days, says the son-in-law. She'll eat one tortilla a day. Her stomach and her head were giving her trouble, so we took her to the doctor. We were supposed to take her back but we couldn't pay. A few weeks ago her eyes started leaking water.
Nieves says she can't talk much: one, she's nervous, and two, she only has one tooth and is tired of trying to speak.

Dec 6, 2012

More good news!

Filomena Cun Palax (A-42) is now sponsored for one year to be part of our Elderly Care Feeding Program! Her new sponsors have also generously donated a mattress, blankets, pillows, a small table and two chairs, and food for she and her son. We will update you with photos when they receive these things. A link to Filomena's story, published today Dec 6, 2012. can be found here. Thank you, gracias, and mati'osh from Filomena, Felipe and all of us at Mayan Families!





Gregoria Consigua (A-86) is now sponsored to be part of the Program for one year! This will make a big difference in her life! A link to her story, published Dec 3 2012, can be found here. Thank you, gracias, and mati'osh from Gregoria's family, and all of us at Mayan Families!















Miguel (A-24) and (A-25) Manuel Parajon Matzar are now sponsored to be part of the Program; they are also receiving additional sponsorship for their many medical needs! Thank you to their current sponsors. Every bit is being spent to help them and allow them to eat with us each day. Their sister, Maximiliana (A-26) also receives a monthly donation. The sponsorship will greatly ease the burdens the three of them share. Thank you, gracias, and mati'osh from the trio, and all of us at Mayan Families!

Filomena Cun Palax


























(A-42) Status: Sponsored as of Dec 6, 2012! 
Needs: food, 1 full mattress, sweaters, blankets (recieved mattress, food, blankets, table and chairs 12.6.2012)
A link to a previous story written about Filomena and Felipe can be found here.
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here.  

When there was no such thing as running water, nor a community sink for the people to do their washing, Filomena took her son to the waterfall.
They walked a rocky trail along the mountainside, she carrying clothing or dishes in a basket on her head and her boy with a few things tied on his back, to where the water fell in three tiers into a pool at the edge of the road.
Some days they bathed there. Filomena would dip the head of her child in the pool, away from the surge, like any cautious mother-- who would not allow a hair to get wet unless she herself could place it back to where it lay on her baby's head, or if she could, would place the child back into her womb at the slightest sign of danger.
Once caught between this instinct and the task of rubbing the washing on the rock, she lost sight of her son, who was playing nearby.
He fell in and began to drown, pushed under by the force of the water.
She got him out, but he hasn't spoken since, she says. The water took the boy's voice for itself; it knew the things he had to say were too good for our ears.

We kneel in the dirt outside their one-room adobe house while Filomena leans against a tin tent that is her kitchen, telling us the story. The mute son, out of six grown children, is the only one who stays with her. The rest are married and therefore live apart, caring for their own kids, not speaking to her-- not because their words are precious, but because they cannot abate her begging.
They don't help us at all, she says.
The owner of the piece of land where they live will not allow them to have an Onil stove. The pieces are too big and too heavy, and who will take care of that when Filomena dies?
So they cook in a piece of tin over an open fire.
There's no pila either, for similar reasons. They walk down the mountain to get their water and do their washing where there is a community sink.
I'm always nervous, she says. Whenever I've gone to see a doctor, they tell me my headaches, my high blood pressure-- it's because of my nerves.
Her son makes a little money standing in a tank of water in a town nearby, washing onions for $3-$4 a week. It is not a guarantee that he works; since Filomena can no longer form tortillas with arthritic hands, she no longer works, and they often do not have food. She shares the lunch she receives from Mayan Families with her son.
The four walls of the house are lined with their possessions: two beds donated to them some time ago, one with a mattress, the other with a straw mat in place of this, and along the other wall a dresser where they keep their clothes.
The door lets in light to the room like a river in the middle of a desert, making the emptiness obvious, that what would fill or quench it does not reach the walls.


Dec 5, 2012

Andrea Felipe Buch

(A-64) Status: Sponsored as of July 2, 2013!
Needs: probably food, an Onil stove, a water filter, a bed and mattress, blankets
To help her, please click here. To sponsor her to eat each day at $35, click here.
A previous story about Andrea can be found here.
A video featuring Andrea's granddaughter Claudia, who lives with her, can be found here.
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here.  

When we arrived to visit Andrea, to ask how she was and what she felt she needed, she began to pass herself back and forth on her feet, wringing her hands.
I do not want photos, I do not want to talk, she said.
We had walked up high over town across a long road on its boundary through piles of trash, over tin roofs just placed on top of their mud walls, through crowds of dirty children, chickens and dogs.
The path to Andrea's house had been reinforced by sticks and nails so that one might walk and not fall toward it.
The door was open and showed an interior devoid of all the things necessary for living: a bed, somewhere for water--even a jug--a table or chairs, food or clothing.
It was dark, without windows, and the outside awning held a rolled-up tarp I imagine she uses as a door when it rains.
She doesn't let us speak to her either, the cooks from the comedor told me. A neighbor leaves her lunch for her on her step.

Eulalio Palax Xalcut



(A-89) Status: Not Sponsored
Needs: food, kitchen, electricity
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here.  

They built the new house right next to the old one, where in front of both a concrete corridor separates the structures from a long drop of forest. 
The action of the trail leading to the houses goes straight up along switchbacks and rocks that would not stand uncertain steps, as in their holds they are also crumbling. 
Eulalio is 84 and rheumatic and avoids leaving the house if he can, since it seems likely he would not make it back up the cliff. 
He occupies the weaker house on the side of the sturdy one, built for the daughter by those who sponsor her to go to school. It has one room. Now, between she and her father, there are two. They painted the tin sheets and rotted wood of the old house to match the concrete exterior of the new one, so that, maybe in melon, the homes of high-life would not seem unequal. 
In the trees of the garden Eulalio tends he's hung barbie dolls, CDs, tin cans, bottles, jewelry and other toys that neither chime nor glitter in the sun. While their purpose is dubious, they are a distraction from what was to what is now: the man and his daughter used to live alone together in the derelict house where the sign of a storm sent Maria Christina seeking refuge at her half-brother's. 
During the rainy season storms pass daily, washing out the route of the trail to the house.Their home and their way to it wrecked rather than welcomed them.
But you don't notice the way things were: you notice the ornaments and flowers and the colors of the doors and the walls.
Two geese and a caged parakeet interrupt our conversation, centered on the state of the kitchen: the walls are wrapped in tarps and wire, precarious as the old house was, where it seems a breeze will blow it over. 
In her concrete room Maria Christina does not worry about earthquakes, rain and landslides. She makes the money for herself and her father, working in the preschool. She brings him lunch from the Program everyday so he won't have to climb the rocks.
Her mother, who was the much younger, second wife of Eulalio, had gotten sick and died; all the children from the first marriage scattered.
They cannot support their father; none studied in school because they were poor. All five have families now: one has 9 children, another 8, the others 5, 6 and 7 of their own.







Dec 4, 2012

Good News!








Vincenta is now sponsored to be part of the Elderly Feeding Care Program! Thanks to a generous sponsor, she will receive her lunch each day. A link to Vincenta's stories can be found here.

(A-34) Status: Sponsored!




















Luciana (A-43) has received a generous donation of shoes, food, and a blanket! She is so grateful for this, thank you! A link to Luciana's story can be found here.





Over 70 small baskets of food have been donated to the Elderly for Christmas. Thank you! If you would like to donate a small basket of food for $15, or a large tamale basket for $40, please click here.




Gregoria Cosigua




























(A-86) Status: Sponsored!
Needs: food, 3 single beds and mattresses or 1 double bed and 1 single bed, water filter, Onil stove, ulcer medication, pain medication, closet,
UPDATE: Dec 7, 2012: Gregoria is now sponsored for one year!
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here.  

To help them with these needs, please click here.

Gregoria does not weave the tablecloths or shawls she's given, but embroiders the stitching for them, earning 75 cents per garment. 
Of their four daughters, one is married and therefore has a little money coming in. She and her husband run a store in a neighboring village, and give to the rest of the family what they can: there are five living in one room with three cots and two dressers inside it.
They want to know if Gregoria's husband is old enough to be in the Feeding program. He is 77, his whole body hurts and he can't work anymore. 
We don't have much time before we go, he says.
Gregoria's ulcer is so bad she vomits blood, and her nose bleeds. Her stomach hurts all day.
A year ago a doctor visited the village and prescribed her some pills that she can't afford anymore.
She holds her belly where she sits in the doorway. The daughters station themselves on the stairs up the hill like militia men, saying nothing, guarding their privacy.
Their roof is covered in beans they have picked to dry out in the sun. They will cook them in a tin pot over an open fire in dirty water they carried up the hill. 
Since the last earthquake, the couple is terrified their house, made of adobe, will collapse around them while they sleep. 




Cecilia Bocel Cun






























(A-46) Status: Not Sponsored
Needs: food, blankets
UPDATE Dec 21, 2012:  Cecila recieved the gift of a blanket!
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here.  

All of the sudden, Cecilia’s eyes clouded up and she went blind.
Since her sister died half a century ago, Cecilia has been surrogate to five grandkids.
They squeeze around her on the tiny bed, where sitting across from her on the other wall their knees nearly intertwine. 
When she could see, she and many other women in San Jorge about her age went washing onions for less than 25 cents a day. 
Now that they are older, they find themselves widowed, in crumbling houses, often alone and without a way to work or feed themselves.
Her grandkids help their mother make beaded jewelry to sell, as their father can't work. He spent eight months in bed after suffering a stroke and anemia, accumulating debts for his treatments. They still owe $2400 US, and pay about $30 monthly in installments. 
Because of this they often go without food. A grandchild brings home the lunch from the Program, and it is divided among the family. 



Felipa Ramos Pocop






































(A-54) Status: Not Sponsored
Needs: food, Onil stove, water filter
UPDATE Dec 21, 2012: Felipa has received the gift of a blanket and sweater!
To help Felipa with these needs, click here. To sponsor her in the Feeding Program, click here
UPDATE May 21, 2013: Felipa received a full mattress!  
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here.  

Having been widowed, and therefore left acceptably, but unwillingly alone, my Kaqchiquel translator tells me: It might be me one day. My children will leave. My husband’s gone; things here aren’t like they are for you where you come from, there’s no place for us to go when we grow old.
Felipa had been married 40 years when her spouse died: we were supposed to walk to our deaths together, and now it's just me in this house alone.
10 months ago she suffered a hemorrhage in her brain. Now one eye doesn’t work and one side of her body is asleep.
Her four kids have their own families, so they no longer care for her. One son gives her a little food when he can, though his work isn't steady and there are days he doesn't come.
She goes without eating if no one brings her food. 

The interior of Felipa's home

Jose Humberto Alonzo & Celestina Simion





































(A-59 Jose) Status: Sponsored as of February 15, 2013!
(A-53 Celestina) Status: Sponsored
Needs: food, medicine, chemotherapy, pila, bathroom, kitchen, stove repairs
UPDATE Dec 10, 2012: Celestina has received a bed, mattress and blanket!
UPDATE May 2013: Celestina has had her door repaired!
To help them, click here.
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here.  

Six of Celestina’s children pretend to have forgotten her, leaving her living in a room lucky to fit two whole bodies inside it, though it’s just her, a bed made of boards, and a television set which sits unused on a shelf.
Even if she had electricity, she would not understand the language of its programs, as none speak her native Kaqchiquel.
Her husband died last year; the two of them had shared the tiny space. 
One more son lives up the hill past the bathroom—two holes made in the ground with wooden boxes placed over them, in their own wooden box like a stable around them—past his own bathroom which is not even this: USAID tarps, given for temporary relief housing after natural disasters, wrap around boards laid atop a hole on the ground. They are wet from use. 
He wears a hat on his head to cover the consequence of his cancer, whose treatment his family is constantly seeking to pay for.
Every two months for the past three years he has gone to the City for treatment.
Because of his illness he does not work; his wife makes beaded jewelry to make ends meet. Most of the time, she doesn’t: she borrows from neighbors, friends, whomever—so they might have enough to buy her husband’s medicine this time, or have food on the table afterwards.
When borrowing fails, they either don’t eat or don’t buy the medicine.
Though by age Jose doesn’t qualify for the Feeding Program, his mother does, who asked that he be allowed to go because of his illness and his poverty.
Bent over and shoeless, though adorned as if to suggest to the world that being poor does not mean being poorly dressed, she goes to the kitchen.
A stove is curtained in more USAID tarps.
It’s about to fall, says Jose’s wife. Just like the chimney for the stove, which fell a few months ago.
I just want a bed, says Celestina. Or something else to keep out the cold—the door’s wood’s been rotting for a long time and all the wind gets in. 



Nov 29, 2012

Alejandra Ramos Bocel

(A-39) Status: Not Sponsored
Needs: food, corn, cough & pain medicine
To help, please visit here
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here

Alejandra's granddaughter speaks for her during the visit, standing in the doorway of their unlit home.
The space contains two beds, a table for making mostacilla--beaded jewelry--and little else. The granddaughter, Juana, guards the shack surrounding a stove and water filter.
My husband is the only one who works in the house, she says. He's a day-laborer, which means there's no guarantee that he'll work everyday. They have four kids, and are caring for another at the moment.
Alejandra sleeps with three of the children in one twin bed. The parents sleep with two more children in the other bed.
Juana says she doesn't want to show us where Alejandra slept before.
The added income she gets from the jewelry is little; she and her husband hardly cover the expenses of their home. But, she says, it's good because I can do it at home. Alejandra has a cough that makes her granddaughter afraid to leave her alone.
They carry water from the community water tank and on the weekends they have to look for firewood.
Her kids are poor, Juana says, and don't support their mother.


Maria Luisa Coroxon



(A-50) Status: Sponsored as of March 6, 2013!
Needs: a new space to live (rent $)
A previous story about Maria Luisa can be found here
To help her, click here. To sponsor her to eat each day for $35 a month, click here.
UPDATE Jan 3 2013: Maria received a chair, and a new bed for the mattress she received last year!
                   Feb 2013: Maria received a new water filter
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here.  

We follow Maria, who is bent over at a right angle like a periscope above the ground, toward her home where the stove, bed and mattress she were given take up most of the room. 
She cooks and sleeps with only a few feet between the stove and the bed. The walls are black from smoke, though the stove she has is fuel-efficient.
There is only enough space for one person indoors, so she sits in the doorway while the rest of us stand outside. 
She barely hears a word asked of her, even in her native tongue: do you have family? what are your needs? 
And she is shy to reply, as if it is obvious what she has and what she does not.
She looks off, nodding when she feels it might be appropriate to do so, telling stories here and there. 
Her three kids left a long time ago, and don't take care of her at all. Her back hurts from years of sleeping on the ground. Everyday, she carries her water from the community water source up the hill where she lives.
She pays nothing to rent the room without light, a bathroom or space for even a table. 



Juana Par & Rosaria Savin Par


























(A-65, A-67) Status: Sponsored as of Dec 7, 2012!
Needs: a home, food, pila, beds, mattresses, chairs, table
UPDATE: Dec 7 2012: they now have a bed and mattress, and are both sponsored for 1 year!
UPDATE: April 23, 2013: Some sad news, as Juana A65 has passed away from complications from pneumonia. 
Previous story about Juana and Rosaria can be found here.
To help, please visit here.
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here


Rosaria says the door to the other room is closed for a reason; she does not want anyone to know how she sleeps.

The daughter and her mother live alone, as Rosaria never married, and Juana had no more children.

Their house is in the same state as the abandoned silos of midwestern prairie, composed of dirt and rotting walls, where light illuminates the absence of abundance and no more harvests. Where the women live would not be good enough to store grain, but they sleep on this ground without even a petate, a straw mat. They use boards that fell off the side of their home.

There are three rooms, two of which have doors. They are closed by string.

Three child-sized chairs face each other in something like a living room. Some gifted amenities suggest improvements in lives which once had nothing but the walls, falling around them: a water filter, a fuel-efficient stove, some thick blankets.

The house floods when it rains, Rosaria says and puts her hand to her mouth as if unsure whether to smile or cry. Each weekend she and her mother climb the mountain to find firewood, carrying the loads on their back. They carry the water they drink from the community sink. From years of this routine, Juana's feet have grown wide and whorled as tree stumps with roots hooked into the ground. There are no shoes which fit her.

Rosaria, before her bones began to ache, took jobs rinsing onions: she passed the day up to her knees in water, under the sun. She made $3 a week. Now the work is too hard on her body. The women thread bracelets now, earning $1 more than before.

Someone comes to bring the food they receive from the comedor, the Mayan Families' dining room. They wash their plates in a plastic tub, since they have no nearby access to a pila, a large sink essential to Guatemalan life.

They wash and relieve themselves in an outhouse decaying like the ruins tourists come to see.

They live as we would suspect of ghosts, haunting a home unsuitable for the living. When we visit we speak carefully, whispering so as not to disturb them, nor let them know that we are horrified: at our fear of not having or fear of not helping enough.




























Maria Coroxon





































(A-31) Status: Sponsored as of June 2013!
Needs: food, Onil stove, table,
Previous story about Maria can be found here.
To help, click here. To sponsor Maria for $35 a month, click here.
UPDATE Jan 3, 2013: Maria received a chair and a bed from visiting donors!
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here.  

Two tree stumps sit in the middle of Maria's one room. One is her chair, the other is a table. Cords of firewood adorn the far wall, as fuel for the open fire she uses to cook.
While the same scene may pertain to a cowboy, at least he has the power to leave the range if he wants to.
Maria cannot leave her home: a year ago wounds began to fester all over her legs. Her family does not want her to walk, for fear the wounds'll worsen and she'll need to visit a doctor, which they can't afford.
Besides this, she would not go. If she sees a doctor she will cry, or scream, she says.
She might be alright if one came to her house, she says. In the meantime she'll move from sitting patiently on her tree stump to the bed a few steps away.
At 96 she cannot see or hear well anymore, and we talk to her first placing hands on her shoulder, then shouting into her ear.
She says she has what she needs, now: a bed with its mattress, a water filter, a concrete floor. The tables she has are busy though, they are already have things on them. One more chair would be nice, she says, then she wouldn't have to use the tree.

Nov 28, 2012

Vincenta Chiyal

(A-34) Status: Sponsored
Needs: food (beans, corn) vitamins, water filter, bed & mattress
Past stories about Vincenta and her late spouse, Juan, can be found here.
To help, click here. Write "A-34 and [needs]" in the Other box.
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here.  


































Update September 20, 2013: Vincenta is now sponsored for daily meals!! Thank You!!


Vincenta had Juan by some years, but her being older, nor their both being poor, didn't stop their marrying.
The couple slept together on a bed of cardboard over bedsprings and under ragged blankets, unfolding love from boxes they found in the street while their backs, over the years, began to bend.
They raised seven boys. When they became men they found women to marry and left the town where Vincenta and Juan had spent all their lives.
They got by on Juan's small salary he earned from working in the fields, spending the days when there was no work in either of the two rooms they shared: one for the bed, the other for prayer. In it was an altar adorned in wooden statues and vases filled with mountain flowers, one chair and some Christian portraits.
There were also stone figures that held cups once used for bloodletting, in ceremonies of rebirth and pleas for corn, but which had become effigies when the belief changed from Mayan gods to Catholic saints; the cups held candles and the figures stood for a new faith. There were bowls of ash from incense on the dirt floor and full bottles of soda for offering.
Saint Maximon, venerated in a painted doll, posed in the center with a cigar in his mouth.
Each evening candles were lit and flowers were brought to the room.
Living poor, the couple got used to their simplicity: they relied on the meals received from Mayan Families, the light they borrowed from neighboring grandchildren, and the kindness of strangers.
They were both used to waking in the mornings with back pain, which lasted till they went to sleep at night.
Then they received the gift of a mattress.
For two weeks they slept on something soft, and then Juan passed away suddenly, finally asleep.
Since his death, Vincenta has slept with her grandkids in a bed apart from the one she shared with her husband. She doesn't see well anymore, doesn't hear well and especially she cannot sleep anymore on the bed without her spouse, with or without a mattress.



Juana Ofelia Xalcut & Istaislda Para Bocel

























(A-69, A-58) Status: Juana is now sponsored for the remainder of 2013, as of March 27, 2013!
Needs: food, eggs, corn, full mattress, water filter, pila, toilet, stove repairs, table, chairs
To help: www.mayanfamilies.org/donatenow "A-69, 58 [write needs, sponsorship etc.]"
For more stories and photos of the ancianos in the Feeding Program, please consider purchasing a book compiled of our participants. All profits go to the Elderly. You can preview the book here

The mud walls were built over the dirt by Juana's husband, Istaislda's father, who died 40 years ago.
In this house Juana raised her two daughters alone: Istaislda from the age of five, and Josefina, who left the house when she married.
After this, for years, the two women worked to feed themselves by rinsing onions. They were hired by farmers to pluck the crops from the soil, wash them and later divide them into groups according to size.
They worked from dawn to dusk beneath the sun, standing in tanks of water or the river, wearing folded pieces of fabric on their heads so as not to burn.
They earned $4 a week.
Istaislda is 45 years old and her knees ache like her mother's, it hurts them both to walk; neither works, neither makes it to the comedor to eat. A child brings them the food they receive from Mayan Families.
They share a bed that was donated to them, though only one side has a mattress. Juana sleeps on a sponge.
Before, they'd both slept on the floor.
What they have is in the photo: the bed, the dresser where they stuff their clothes, a plastic stool. They have no table nor chairs, their kitchen is the earth wrapped in tin sheets and jammed with wood they must use to cook over their open fire.
The stove they have has a broken chimney, which they can't afford to fix since they can't afford the tubing.
The kitchen is also where they wash, and where they have made a bathroom.
The water they get is lent by tenants in neighboring houses; the women heat the water to pour over themselves in a corner of the room. They search for private places outside the house to relieve themselves.
The pila, the concrete sink they use to wash their clothes and dishes, is also borrowed.
My sister, says Istaislda, has no concern for us. She got lucky and got married, but doesn't help us out at all.

Kitchen, and corner where the women bathe.