Hope in an Unexpected Place

culture and society, storytelling

Remmy, my five year old, was in a summer program up until September started.  A couple of weeks ago, her teacher texted me to let me know that Remmy had been asked to say grace before lunch.

She thanked God for the wind and the trees and asked him to feed the poor children and help Mommy do what she needs to do while she’s away in Guatemala.

Today I stood outside a cement house as our translator explained that this was a home of a woman whose children are in the World Vision program.  In some villages here, nine out of ten children suffer from chronic malnutrition. World Vision teams up with doctors and nutritionists to help children under five – with a focus on malnourished children under two – achieve better health. The first two years of life are so critical to a child’s development.


In her home, a guide mother, Marta, is teaching other mothers how to cook recipes high in protein using food they are easily able to get locally.  World Vision’s community approach allows for learning and guiding and encouraging.

We were welcomed into her home, and the image struck me viscerally.

The small kitchen had cement walls and cement floors. Dozens of flies swarmed around.  The guide mother, wearing an apron, greets me.  “Buenos dias.” Buenos dias, I respond and smile . I watch as she stirs a large pot of rice and vegetables on a slab of iron.  Under the iron, wood burns.  The room is hot and dark, except a little light coming through a small, plastic covered window.

in the kitchen


A kitchen table surrounded by maroon plastic lawn chairs.  Half a dozen beautiful children sit in the plastic lawn chairs, waiting quietly for their lunch.

Flies land on their arms and faces, and they smile.  Malnourished, and they smile.

My kneejerk reaction is to swat at all the flies landing on my bare skin, but I restrain myself and roll down my sleeves instead.

An older woman sits on a short stool and leans against the wall.  Deep lines surround her eyes.  La abuela, I guess in my head.  I am wrong.  She is likely not much older than I am, I realize, as I see a tiny baby drinking at her breast.

This life has aged her.

A little later she stands up and comes up to me, baby in her arms. I discover that the baby is much older than I thought.  Her chronic malnourishment has impeded her growth.  She has a rash on her arms, sores on her face, and there is cow manure on her shoes.  I hold my hand out and say hola and do all of the things that one does when around a baby.  I speak softly and smile at her and tell the mother that her baby is beautiful.

La mama smiles and puts a piece of potato in the baby’s mouth.  The mother has mud caked on her legs all the way up to her knees.

“She’s well on her way to recovery,” our translator says.  I almost don’t believe him.

We had spent the morning in the National World Vision office, and we learned how they work.  Sponsors – normal people like you and me – partner with World Vision.  They pour into the lives of people living in poverty.  They teach, they heal, they mentor.  Women are shown how to grow vegetables in their backyards and raise chickens for eggs and meat and cows for milk.

My mind can’t get past the image in front of me – this tiny girl in her mother’s arms – but I know hope abounds here.  I know love abounds here.  Flies swarm, the work is hard, and feet are muddied, but hope is in this place.



We all say our goodbyes and I step out into the open air.  I stand at the edge of her backyard and there’s a steep drop.  We’re on a mountain and I see miles of crops and trees.

I picture Remmy’s earnest face.


She thanked God for the wind and the trees and ask him to feed the poor children and help Mommy do what she needs to do while she’s away in Guatemala.

Remmy’s prayer becomes my own.

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  • Reply Cathie September 11, 2013 at 9:33 am

    “She thanked God for the wind and the trees and ask him to feed the poor children and help Mommy do what she needs to do while she’s away in Guatemala.”

    Remmy’s prayer becomes my own. ”

    Mine too <3 May you all bless those who are there and may they bless you a 100 times more!

    • Reply Roo September 11, 2013 at 6:45 pm

      Thank you so much, Cathie. :)

  • Reply Becky Castle Miller September 11, 2013 at 9:42 am


  • Reply Titania Jordan September 11, 2013 at 9:56 am

    My prayer too, Roo. Love to you and Jessica and all who accompany you there.

  • Reply Chrissy September 11, 2013 at 10:03 am

    Our family has sponsored a child in Tanzania through World Vision for nearly a year now. It is an organization doing good work. We feel humbled to be able to contribute to it in some small way. And…this reminds me that I need to mail his birthday card! ;)

  • Reply Sharon September 11, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Roo thats beautiful. the prayers of a child are so often innocent and selfless. i’m glad you and Remmy are praying for the same things. good luck on your journey.

  • Reply Lisa S September 11, 2013 at 10:15 am

    This brought tears to my eyes and made my nose burn. Thank you for this. Going to sponsor a child now and maybe raise the bar of hope just a little bit more….

  • Reply Anonyvox September 11, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Hey, Roo–great post! I am curious: was there historically a better diet with more protein in these villages that you are visiting? If so, how and why have the diets changed? I hear about places like the Andes, where quinoa (a high protein grain) has been a staple for hundreds or thousands of years, but now that it is trendy in the US, it is priced too highly for the locals to afford. Are there similar global/cultural influences at work in Guatemala?

  • Reply Lisa @ Elle Sees September 11, 2013 at 10:22 am

    This is so touching. You’ve inspired me to sponsor a child through World Vision — I’d first heard about the group through Nick Kristof’s book Half the Sky, and your experience reinforces the benefit. We’re working it into our budget asap.

  • Reply Amy Volk September 11, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Wow. Loved this. Thanks Roo. Prayers over you today.

  • Reply Melly September 11, 2013 at 10:31 am

    God bless your work there, Roo.

  • Reply Lisa September 11, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Love this. Praying for you and all of the others involved in this mission. Praying Remmy’s prayer for everyone.

  • Reply Kyle September 11, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Oof. Man. You’ve got me crying today.
    I am so glad that you are doing what you are doing and that others can give so freely to help make life possible for so many.

  • Reply Sarah F. September 11, 2013 at 10:58 am

    What a great post, I am seriously tearing up right now. You are doing some amazing work, keep it up!

  • Reply Jen September 11, 2013 at 11:19 am

    This might be the most beautifully written blog post that I have ever read. Thank you for sharing in your powerful, yet poetic, voice.

  • Reply Brad September 11, 2013 at 12:07 pm


  • Reply [Guatemala bloggers] Let’s be ordinary. Let’s be extravagant. | WORLD VISION BLOG September 11, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    […] Roo Ciambriello: “Hope in an Unexpected Place” […]

  • Reply Rebecca September 11, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Glad to see this is a powerful trip for you already! It’s difficult to be in that place and see the type of scene you have before you.

    **One additional tiny note, I believe you may mean interpreter and not translator. Interpreters handle language as it is spoken, and translators handle language as it is written.

  • Reply Anna September 11, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Little Remmy, what a sweet soul that one is! Thank you for sharing, Roo :)

  • Reply Ashley @ Any Lovely Thing September 11, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Tears, Roo.

    Hopeful thoughts,

  • Reply ~Karrilee~ September 11, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Breathtaking… and now I join in in agreement with your and Remmys’ prayer!

  • Reply Emily September 11, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Wow. So touching. This just brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Hopefully it will inspire many others to get involved in some way.

  • Reply Andrea (Lil-Kid-Things) September 11, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    What an amazing experience. I can’t wait to hear more. Prayers headed your way from NC, friend.

  • Reply Nadia Carriere September 12, 2013 at 1:08 am

    Heartbreaking but yes so hopeful. So much love to you and Jessica, Roo. You are both doing amazing things!

  • Reply Laura September 12, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    I am praying for you while you’re gone! I’m excited to hear more behind the scenes about World Vision. We’ve sponsored several children over the years. It is a humbling experience.

    My husband and I have been reading and studying and praying over the past few years to learn more about asset based community development and other sustainable practices in missional work, both domestic and international. We have two friends living on a hilltop in Honduras that are living this out in a pretty amazing way:


  • Reply Leigh Ann September 15, 2013 at 9:19 am


  • Reply Jacqueline September 15, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Roo this was really beautiful. It’s rare that we get to see your serious side and though I love the laughs and humour I also loved reading this.

  • Reply Friday Roundup | Faith, Marriage & Family Friday Roundup | September 20, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    […] recently visited Guatemala with World Vision and did an excellent series of blog posts last week: Hope in an Unexpected Place, Loving a Child that is not My Own, and Take it with […]

  • Reply Whitney Dupuis September 24, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Thank you for what you did and thank you, most of all, for bringing it to light.

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