Apolonia and her girls are some of the first people that Servants, Inc. has helped in Villa Nueva outside of New Life Children’s Home. As I reflect on how long ago that was(2 or 3 years ago), I remember part of a team from our church at the home “going up the hill to help reconstruct someone’s house.” It actually wasn’t until we had a few visits later with Apolonia’s family that they mentioned a team coming to rebuild their house and we realized this was Servant’s team.
Apolonia’s husband died a few years ago from cancer, leaving her to fend for her three daughters. She is very animated about her girls doing well in school, as she herself is illiterate. She has told us “I want my girls to have the good education that I never got so that they are not stuck in the same situation I am when they grow up.” Apolonia’s dream job is to have her own bakery. For a while, she was buying bread from a local baker and reselling it by delivering it to people’s homes. The baker caught on and stopped selling bread to her. She has since started making and selling wai-pei. Wai-pei is a common product in Guatemala used for cleaning, starting fires, etc. It is de-threaded clothing that is balled up and used like a rag.
The three girls are a lively bunch and while they might be shy when you first meet them, they quickly warm up and love to help with projects or just throw a ball around. Click here to see what I mean: Playing Ball. This family doesn’t even have running water in their house, yet the only time you will see these girls sad is when it is time to leave. They love going to school and showing off their current courses of study whenever we visit. Silvia and Jenifer love learning English, so they are always practicing their new vocabulary on us.
Our past two teams helped create a better runoff system for Apolonia’s house. The first team put up some covering for their walkways and the second installed a rain collection system. Since they have no running water, Apolonia tries to collect as much water as possible during the rainy season (May-October). Also, because her land is all built up dirt, the torrential rainfall creates terrible erosion. When it gets really bad, they even have water running through their house from above since they live on a hill-side. Our July team saw this first hand after about an hour of rain suddenly Apolonia was rushing to channel the water pouring into the back of her house to go out the door. We could tell she was used to this but we were astounded.
This rain water collection system isn’t even something we can fathom needing in the United States, but it is a HUGE improvement to their quality of living. The July team witnessed Apolonia working furiously in the downpour to fill the first 55 gallon drum and then syphoning it with a rubber hose to others down below. Now when it begins to rain, she just has to plug in the tube and turn it to fill up the next barrel. When we installed it, not too long afterwards it began to rain. At that point she was almost out of water and the whole team said, “hurry, connect the pipe!”
“No,” she said, “let us pray first.” We were dumbfounded. This woman who works so hard to collect water for her family because they have no other means of getting it, decided to first give reverence and thanks to God instead. She reported later that because of this collection system, they have been able to take regular “baths”. In the dry months (aka, now until May), she has a deal with a water truck company that comes by and fills up her barrels.
The vision for this family is to make sure the girls stay current in their schooling while we try to help Apolonia find a sustainable income source. We are looking into micro-finance options to help her get her bakery off the ground while also taking into account the possible gang attraction her business will have. Most small businesses in Guatemala are hassled by gangs and forced to pay a monthly “tax”. If you have ideas or would like to invest in this family’s future, contact Servants or click here to download and submit a sponsorship form.