Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day 6

I love "full circle" moments, and - as you can see from the photo - I had one of those today. Last fall, a dear pal of mine called to ask if I could help with a project. She and some of her fellow soccer moms wondered what they could do with their children's blue soccer uniforms after the league switched to Tewksbury red. Knowing that I can often find homes for "used but usable" items, she asked if I would find someone who could use uniforms if we were to do a collection. I jumped at the opportunity to send them to Guatemala.

Needless to say, the Tewksubry Blues collection was a great success. And, not only did our generous families offer their uniforms, but many donated gently used cleats and shin guards as well. I shipped the uniforms to Mayan Families as part of the Christmas shipment last October and, today, before my very eyes, I watched Tewksbury South play ball. And what a treat it was.

The uniforms were donated to a free sports program which is run by a retired American gentleman, named Willie, who has lived in Guatemala for the past seven years. Seeing the need for organized sports, Willie created a program that runs much like ours in the US. Children register to participate and must have parental consent and show a birth certificate. Of course, this program is free, since many of the families cannot even afford to register their children for school, never mind sports. Willie manages the program with a host of volunteers who coach soccer, basketball, and swimming. (He was able to convince a local hotel to offer their pool for one hour each day, five days each week.) The program continues to grow, but it stands at nearly 500 children today.

Because the program is free, there is no budget for uniforms or sporting equipment. Willie was overjoyed when he learned that a little town in Massachusetts was coming to the rescue. He is such a dear man, and it is clear that he cares so deeply for the children. He introduced many of them to me by name and shared stories of each. One of his favorite children is a young boy who appears to be eight or nine years old. Because of his family's extreme poverty, the boy works at a local restaurant rather than attending school. This sports program is an escape from the life he normally leads.

It is wonderful to know that the uniforms are being used several times each week by hundreds of players. Rather than distribute them (and fear that they not be returned), Willie's coaches bring them to each game, distribute them according to size, and wash them after each use. By doing this, the uniforms will be available for many years to come.

As you can imagine, watching the children play in their Tewksbury Blues was magical. I remember counting and rolling and banding each and every one, and I now realize that I have touched each child that wears one in a very real way. What a perfect example of one community reaching out to help another.

P.S. to the soccer story... Scroll up to see the dilapidated ladder in the photo. I had to climb down that ladder backwards in order to reach the soccer field. Adventure!!!!

The other highlight of the day was assembling and distributing Semana Santa baskets. These baskets feed a 10 person family and consist of a chicken, carrots, green beans, sugar, mosh, incaparina, a pineapple, sweet breads, and chocolate. It's all the makings of a traditional Easter meal. Supporters of Mayan Families purchase these baskets for their sponsored children or for general distribution at a cost of $35 each, and families in need line up outside the door to request one... as if they are waiting to purchase front row tickets to the best concert of the year.

Back at Mayan Families...

Today, I helped to create more than 450 baskets, but it was passing them out that was the most fun. Many of the women brought pieces of traditional Mayan fabric to wrap their basket and carry it on their heads. Each of them expressed genuine thanks, and many stopped to offer a hug and a squeeze too. This week, I have been among a great people... warm and loving and thoughtful and proud.

I feel so entirely grateful to all of my pals who participated in my jewelry fundraiser and also those who generously offered funding for this project. Together, we raised over $800 which purchased 24 baskets for general distribution and which fed around 240 people. Now that's something to feel good about!

And so, this was our final full day in Pana, and we'll be traveling back to Guatemala City tomorrow. What a great finale to an absolutely awesome experience.

Thanks for sharing my day.

Your friend in service,



  1. Again, tears as I read about your experience. I guess I never thought I'd be that connected to what you write about, but seeing those beautiful kids in some of our old uniforms was so heartwarming. Then, to hear that you prepared some of the very same baskets that were donated in Jessica's name at Christmas time...well, it was so meaningful to me. You have said that your goal was to inspire others and I must say, my dear...I think you have exceeded your goal many times over. Blogging about this journey was such a brilliant idea. I consider it a gift and I thank you. Can't wait to give you big hugs!

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with Joanne! Can't wait to talk to you and hear even travels!!