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 22, 2013

Rosa Citalan

(A-1) Status: Sponsored for meals, medicines, home expenses, Mayan Families holiday baskets
Needs: Medical exam to discover the reason behind her tachycardia and cardiac arrest.
To help: www.mayanfamilies.org/donatenow  "A-1 [write needs]"
A link to a previous story about Rosita can be found here
Read a note from Rosita's sponsor 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: August 26, 2013
Rosa became very ill last week and was transported to the local hospital where she was diagnosed with pneumonia and tachycardia. While at the hospital, Rosa had a cardiac arrest but was able to be revived. She is in need of further medical exams $50.00 (US) at a hospital in Guatemala City to discover the source of the problem and come up with a treatment plan. In the meantime, Rosa has been prescribed Ensure milk to keep her nourished.

UPDATE: We are so sorry to share that on September 1, 2013 Rosa passed away.


Rosa speaks as if each breath she takes will run out before the story's finished, gasping like a fish out of water. Her stories span her whole life in that breath, recalling her childhood and offering its later-learned lessons: hay que hablar de lo que es cierto y no es cierto--one must talk about what is true and what is not true.

"I used to walk," she says, "all the way up to Solola just to talk to people. My mother called me a little horse, always running. She also used to call me a monkey, because I love fruit. She said I'd grow a tail. But, I also don't have teeth anymore, so I eat fruit because I can't eat much else. And these days me arden las patas: my paws burn. I don't go out much anymore."

Her daughter and granddaughter nod through the stories they've heard before, letting Rosita gasp through her life and the proverb she wants them to know: "times have changed, there used to be respect-- we waited for the day of the Lord."

Rosita expresses her love of opera and the symphony, explains that she sang opera, "How I used to sing! But--" she gasps a few times-- "I can't sing a note anymore. I met an American once, at the conservatory in the city, where my mother took me to see the opera. I sang for him, and he told me my throat, my throat was magnificent. He said he would get me into a school in the US to sing, but my mother started to cry. She didn't want me to leave my home."

Her favorite, she said, was Pavarotti, and she can't stand traditional Guatemalan marimba music. I remembered that I had Bocelli on my iPod and asked if she wanted to listen-- she has no radio nor another way to listen to music. I put the headphones in her ears and the man began to sing-- and Rosita began to weep, which made all the rest of us cry.

Many of the elderly we visit are incredibly lonely and have very little to make their lives easier-- many cry out of the frustration of having no one to speak to, having no one to help them-- that when we visit and offer a hand the moment is overwhelming. Rosita, while she has a caring daughter and granddaughter and a generous sponsorship that gave the women a sturdy home, guarantees Rosita's meals, and helped with medical emergencies and many other necessities, she is still lonely for this connection to the things she loves: music, chatting with people in the market, otherwise running around.

When asked what she wanted or needed, she said, "a coffee thermos, I have nothing to keep it hot. And a way to listen to Pavarotti." For Mother's Day, her sponsor gave her a thermos. These are atypical requests, as usually people are in need of food, medicine or other very basic things-- but Rosita says "she is so well taken care-of" in the past couple of years with her sponsorship that all she is missing is music and company.

Rosita is an exception in our program, lucky to be the beneficiary of a reliable donor. If you would like to sponsor an elderly person even just for their meals once a day at $35 a month, please visit http://mayanfamilies.org/DonateMonthly.aspx  and put "A-## [needs, sponsorship etc.]" in the Notes section. Thank you so much for your support!

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