I'm a sucker for shelters. I've always been. This last week, I finally finished shopping with two psycologists who work with kids at a domestic violence shelter in a city near me. My brother and mother raised $250 dollars back home which was oh so plenty to buy toys and school supplies for the many kids hidden away at the shelter (thank you inflation!).
When I walked in, it was great to see all the kids running toward me, holding my hand, smiling, as I saw them play with all the toys we had bought a few months prior when we did our first round of shopping. When I walked in to the psychologists' office, this is what I saw (all bought with just $100):
Lesson learned folks... Cherish your dollar! For these kids, it's bought alot... Not just ordinary games, but stimulation that help these psychologists work and open up these kids to talk about what has happened to them.
I didn't stay long, but walking through the shelter never ceases to surprise me.... The smiling kids, and the girls.... The girls who should just be kids at the shelter, but are actually mothers (many as a result of a father's or brother's rape)... I'll never forget that image - Their young faces, pre-teen bodies all laying there staggered among the patio, taking in the sun, altogether unphased by my presence as their children happily ran around on me...
We all have our soft spots I guess and as I said I'm a sucker for shelters. I've always been. I guess it all comes from my own inner philosophical debate... What makes me so lucky to be me? Why should I be so lucky, while others not? How could I not do anything to help?
Anyway back to the point... Most recently I came into contact with a hospice looking after orphaned children with HIV/AIDS, and now well... damn it, I can't stop thinking about it. I'm even thinking about spending my christmas there. HIV/AIDS is not a hot topic in Guate, although the country has one of the highest infections rate in Latin America. Although there are over 13,000 cases reported to the Ministry of Health, UNAIDS estimates over 60,000 cases in Guatemala. Many will never know they have HIV/AIDS as access to health care, resources, and education are so very limited here... HIV/AIDS education is virtually non-existent especially in the rural indigenous communities where PCVs work since many organizations focus their work out of the capital city. Many of these communities also do not speak spanish.
PC Guatemala has an HIV Committee, which I am part of, that mainly promotes education initiatives in part of the volunteers and their counterparts. And the truth is, we are way in over our heads as workshops have increased in large numbers, and we'll be coordinating a host of activities with upcoming PEPFAR funding....
But as I said, I'm a sucker for shelters. So drumrolls please.... Finally, to the point of this entry... I'm hoping to organize an activity or fundraiser for the hospice for christmas in part of volunteers and the HIV Committee here in Guatemala... I'm sort of fixated and very excited about this.. So I guess that's all I got for now, that's what I wanted to tell you.