Sometime this past November, I was looking around on the Mayan Families website, as I have been doing regularly since my trip to Guatemala in January of 2011. They offer so many ways to help: sponsoring a student for school, offering one-time medical help money, or food money for a particular family. The opportunity to help a family in need are all over the place in Guatemala.
Anyway, I decided to sponsor a student. His name is Santos and his photo looked so cute – I just couldn’t NOT sponsor him.
When we arrived at Mayan Families in January, we had several things planned to do with them while we were there but I asked if there was any way possible for me to meet Santos and his family. He attends school in the San Antonio Palabo school that is one of the seven Mayan Families schools.
Our hotel was in Panajachel (the upper blue circle) and the Mayan Families main office is there as well. We rode in one of their trucks to all the areas we visited surrounding Panajachel – literally up and down the sides of mountains we went.
Lord knows there was plenty to see everywhere we traveled! I was LOVING all the bright blue sky over head and the lush greenery…. it is truly beautiful.
The day we went to the school that Santos attends – it was just my sister Lena and I and Jenny from Mayan Families. In Guatemala, school starts in January so there was a LOT going on at the Mayan Families offices – getting loaded backpacks together and distributed to something like 2000 students, taking photos of each student for the website, and who knows what else was going on all around us…. there was a lot of people everywhere we turned. Anyway, with that being said, you’ll know how extra special it was that even with ALL THAT going on – they still managed to get me to San Antonio Palabo to meet Santos!
The drive from Pana took nearly 35 minutes (including the time we stopped to pick up a load of firewood to deliver to the school since we were going there) on switchback curves up the mountain – passing over roads that had places in the pavement totally washed out from the previous seasons’ rains, whew! I tell ya, it was enough to make this old girl a little squirrely sitting there. But our driver, Juan Carlos, knew his way around with no hesitation – he grew up there and drives those roads every day so to him, it was just another day on the job.
We finally rounded a curve and there was San Antonio Palobo, built literally on the side of the mountain.
Believe me, this photo doesn’t do justice to the area. It was built on the side of a STEEP mountainside. But goodness gracious, was it BEAUTIFUL!! We stopped at the school first to meet Santos and his teacher – who would go with us on the home visit because his family only spoke Katchiquel, a Mayan dialect – and we would need the teacher to translate from Katchiquel to Spanish. Then Jenny, the gal from Mayan Families, would translate from Spanish to English for us gringos.
As we piled out of the truck, Jenny said, “Grab some wood as you go!”
I piled some wood in my arms and up, up, up we went. Lena and I were huffing and puffing and thinking we should have gotten a lot LESS wood, if we’d had any idea how many steps UP we had to go! (Ok, maybe it was only ME huffing and puffing and I was doing it so loud I thought it was both of us!) Needless to say, we eventually reached the school and stood there looking stupid as the teacher ran up and down about 6 or 8 times carrying massive loads of wood. She seriously put me to shame – the way she did it like it was a piece of cake!
I was finally introduced to Santos – and they explained to him that I was his “Madrina” which means “Sponsor” in Spanish. Of course, being that it was the second day of school and Santos came from a predominantly Katchiquel-speaking family – I’m not totally sure he understood what “madrina” meant at first. He kept looking at me like “who the heck are you and why is everyone staring at me??”
It was such a thrill to meet him – even if he didn’t get it at first! He is super cute, huh??
Wait til I tell you what his parents said to me when we went on the home visit! It made my eyes tear up!