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.
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.