Monday, July 13, 2020

Our response

The main part of this post is from an update to the board of Reason to Hope.  It gives an overview of how we are responding to the great need we see, and also a glimpse of how we are not able to respond.  It may be redundant if you have read my other posts, but is a good summary of our responsibility during the quarantine of Guatemala.

The situation here continues to be serious, if not worsening.  We have had 30+ doctors die from this disease since March 13.  Thirty doctors!  That number astounds me.  We have no number on nurses who have died, but I know many have become ill.  They are finding out that repeated exposure to the virus increases not only the likelihood of contracting the disease, but also how serious it will be if you contract it.  We just spent $500 to buy surgical masks for the local national hospital since they were running out.  

Another friend, Judy Bergen who heads Love Guatemala Canada is bringing clean drinking water for the patients and staff.  

We have not yet peaked in terms of new cases, and our department (county) is second highest in incidence.  We are limited in only driving every other day, based on our license plate number, and on Sunday's the country is completely closed.  Last night the president outlined a reopening plan to begin July 25, which will gradually reopen areas with the fewest cases.  It looks like we will be restricted for a long time yet in our town.

The airport remains closed indefinitely.  I could take a repatriation flight to the US, but the cost is exorbitant and it is uncertain when I could return to Guatemala.  God did not call me here just for when it was convenient, but I miss my family.  This is the longest I have gone without seeing them, and while virtual visits are great, it is not the same.

I can only go into the town of Santa Maria with special permission
to pick up our staff.
Even then, I must go through a "car wash" of bleach and cannot leave my car.
I go out only on the days when I have to provide transportation for our workers (there is currently no public transportation), and then limit where I go.  A small store next door to my house is doing our marketing for us since I am not allowed in the market because of may age.  It is the place most likely to contract the virus since "social distancing" is impossible in the tight spaces between market stalls.  

The husband of one of the staff at the women's house
is a tailor, and he is keeping me supplied 
with a variety of masks, including cartoon characters!

I have been living pretty isolated and not spending much time with the residents since I am the one going out and have the highest risk of bringing in the virus.

Visiting our women's house
enforcing "social distancing."
We have an entire police station near here which is under quarantine for 15 days because some of the officers have tested positive.  The impact that is having on the other police in the area is significant.  The officers in quarantine need food, since they are not being paid since they are not working, if you can imagine that.  No workman's comp here.  We have sent a about $250 in food to this station alone.

This last week has been the most intense yet, and I have to admit the most tiring.  In 8 days we have given out over 350 food bags to residents of our town, but because of the large amount of need, most of these only contained about 5 # of beans and rice and a bag of enriched hot drink.  These bags cost us about $10 each.  To pull off this distribution the residents and staff, have been busy bagging bulk purchases, and Fidel and Moy, who are more physically resilient have helped with the distribution as well.  They are truly incredible. 

I can hardly get my head around the idea that in 8 days we spent over $3500 on this project, but God has provided and we will deliver as long as possible.  Going forward, we have decided to only continue to give to the elderly about 65 years old on a regular basis unless we receive a special large donation to once again bless our town.  We identified these elderly through our large distribution and have invited them to come every other Saturday for a food bag, as long as we have funds to do so.  You cannot imagine their gratitude and the tears that come when we tell them we are giving them food to remind them that God sees their need.  Humbling beyond words.

I wasn't sure what God would do with the extra rooms in my home, but I never expected He would turn a bedroom into a storage and packing room for food.

We are also working the the sub-mayor in a village near here which is part of Antigua.  His area has not received any help from the city, and he knows his people well and they have been in desperate need.  Though the police are in short supply these days, they have been serving as our go between with this public official, taking out bags of food to those in need at night after our 6 pm curfew.  

To do so during the day is too difficult, since they are instantly swarmed by people asking for food, some of who undoubtedly need it but others who do not and just see an opportunity to get something for nothing.  Working with the sub-mayor has been very helpful in this regard.  They are concerned that I believe they are actually taking the food to people who need it, so each night they go out they send me pictures or video of each stop they make, as well as calling me on the phone when some of the recipients want to thank me personally.  

We send out about 20 bags each week with our police friends, and these folks receive a bit more, including salt, oatmeal, sugar, soup mix, pasta and oil.  Still not a lot but the basics of food here.  These run about $15 a bag, since prices here have shot up considerably since this started.

Additionally, we have provided food through our regular staff members to those in need in the villages in which they live.

I have received enough requests to accept new residents during the quarantine that it would mean opening another women's house.  I can't see this happening given our current finances, but the need is more evident as the situation becomes more critical.  It has broken my heart to say no, but until our regular donations increase I think it is irresponsible to do so.  One of these requests comes from a missionary family who took in a special needs young woman and now find themselves in over their heads.  I don't want to be in that position ever and am committed to maintain the quality of care needed for our residents even if that means turning away some who are deserving.  It's hard though, really hard.

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