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

May 15, 2013

Miguel, Manuel and Maximiliana Matzar

(A-24 Miguel) Status: Sponsored for meals, saline solution, diapers, Ensure
(A-25 Manuel) Status: Sponsored for meals
(A-26 Maximiliana) Status: Sponsored for meals, Sponsored for insulin
Needs: regular sponsorship of catheter adjustment (A-25), medical sponsorship for all three, stipend for Iris to care for them full-time, blankets
To help: www.mayanfamilies.org/donatenow "A-## [write needs, sponsorship etc.]"
A link to previous stories about the three siblings 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
UPDATE May 24, 2013: Miguel received a new mattress!
UPDATE May 24, 2013: Because Miguel A-24 is totally bedridden, must eat in bed and often soils the mattress, Dona Iris found a nest of baby rats in the bed yesterday. In addition to this being a completely unacceptable place to sleep, a Guatemalan myth exists that rats could be an omen of death. Dona Iris is doubly concerned, since Miguel is not eating or responding, that he will die soon. Mayan Families is providing a temporary foam mattress for him, but a new mattress would be hugely appreciated. He needs a single mattress, which is just $44 US.
UPDATE May 23, 2013: Manuel (A-25) was taken to the doctor and told Iris that it is incredibly dangerous to wait so long to have his catheter adjusted. He had an infection, and was given medicines for this; Iris explained that she must wait for money to arrive before she can make the journey to Xela with him, but the doctor said that waiting could cause need to have another more serious operation, which cost the family over $1,300 last time. We received funds for the next adjustment two months from now, and covered the cost of some medicines. However, to prevent the wait for funds next time, we would like to have Manuel sponsored for these medical visits. It would cost about $384 a year to send Manuel for these catheter readjustments. 

UPDATE September 12, 2013: This week Manuel (A-25) went for his catheter readjustment and there were some unforeseen transportation and medicine costs. Manuel is in need of $50 to cover these costs. We are also still looking for medical sponsorship ($96 every 3 months/$384 a year) to cover these catheter readjustments costs.

UPDATE: October 17, 2013: Yesterday Maximiliana's sugar became very low and she had to be taken to the hospital where she began to slip into a diabetic coma. The doctor was able to give her some medicine to stabilize her and fortunately she was able to leave the hospital and is back in her home today.


"I have abandoned my own children, because their children abandoned them, and they have no one else," says Iris, who is the full-time caretaker of her two uncles and mother. Last month, Iris had gotten sick and was bedridden for days. "There was no one. When I recovered, Miguel's bed was completely soiled, they'd barely eaten, they needed to be washed. Someone from the Assembly of God had come by to check on them, to help them."

In the yard, several small houses comprise the area where Iris and her family live. Miguel and Manuel sleep in the room where we talk, which is just big enough for two twin beds. The ceiling is covered in cardboard, to keep out the rain.

Iris's husband still lives with her in the house, along with their six young children, but "it's like he's not even there." He has a drinking problem and does nothing for the family. Iris's siblings have their priorities, and left her the responsibility for caring for the three. She taught herself how to be a nurse, how to care for her diabetic aunt and disabled uncles. "The doctor told me, when Miguel had his accident, that 'he was going to die.' 'He is going to die' is not the way to answer someone who is fighting for him."

"Miguel isn't eating well these days, his back hurts from being in the bed. A woman comes to help me bathe him, to get him in and out of the wheelchair. He can't take pills, can't eat solid food. We have to make it into liquid for him. He has a hernia, and some kind of lung infection. When he breathes, he sucks and sucks."

The three need constant medical attention: in addition to Miguel's deterioration, Maximiliana is still recovering from a stroke she suffered more than a year ago, and is in need of insulin to control her diabetes. Manuel must go every one or two months to have an adjustment made to his catheter. When asked what they need most, Iris is quick to describe the costs of their medical care. "It costs me to get to the doctor, every time the apparatus is adjusted, to come back from the doctor. It costs to have insulin, to have a saline solution for Miguel, to have Ensure or another kind of liquid protein. These are things without cures. These are things without an end. The need is constant."

Fortunately, to help Iris, a volunteer working with Mayan Families is assisting in caring for Miguel, Manuel and Maximiliana. A couple of days per week she bathes them, feeds them, and passes the time with them. Three generous sponsors have also made it possible that the three will get meals each day from Mayan Families, and thankfully receive much-needed medical support.

However, because the problems are merely balanced and not solved, Iris still must seek help when emergencies-- or even routine medical procedures-- arise. Manuel is due for another catheter adjustment, this Friday, May 17, which costs Iris $67 for transportation, the procedure and the meds. Maximiliana is covered for meals, but not necessarily her insulin. Miguel is always in need of diapers, towels, and blankets.

"I try to give them what they need," Iris says, "but I look at my own kids, and what I'm unable to do for them. Will they do the same for me?"

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