On the fourth day in Guatemala, our group needed home build help. I eagerly volunteered, and joined the home building team again. The home build for the Sajmoloj Shon family was one I could never forget. When we were preparing for the trip, we knew that the mother, Silvia, was ill with a liver disease brought on from alcoholism. This forced her to be a stay at home mother of their six children. By the time we had actually arrived however, she had passed away. This left the oldest daughter, Leslie, 14, to take on the matriarchal role in the family, while their father, Ovidio sold firewood for work to support the family financially.
At 14 years of age, it was hard to fathom that Leslie was only in first grade for studies. She was further behind than her younger siblings. With the added role of caring and looking after her family now, it appeared that she would never get an education.
While we unloaded the home building supplies, all our our brains were processing this new information and thinking of solutions for Leslie, and the family.
We dug right in on the build, minds still working away brainstorming ideas to help the family out. The build took extra planning because we had to erect the walls directly between two other buildings. After getting the material in place for each wall, Saul went around and painted the metal. Once the side walls and rear wall were constructed and painted, we had to slide it into place. All hands on deck, the team lifted the home off the ground, moved it back against the wall, and got it in place.
We took a break for lunch, and while scarfing down more PB&J sandwiches, chips, and Gatorades, we discussed our different ideas on how to assist the family and address their needs. We talked about getting a tutor for Leslie, someone from the area who needed work, whom we could send over to help educate Leslie until she could go to the the adult school. The adult school only met on weekends, so this would allow her to be around to care for her siblings while her father worked during the week. Logistics would have to be hammered out, as well as finding the right person to tutor Leslie, and potentially help around the house with the five other siblings.
With bellies full, we dug right into finishing the build. The family gathered around to watch as we lay the roof, cut and placed the windows and installed the door. Saul finished painting the front of the house, and we set up their stove system. Alas, the build was complete!!
What’s more, we brought a suitcase along for the family and food to last them about a month. Donna gave instructions to Leslie on how to prepare the meals over the new stove. Our group gathered around the family, and we prayed. We asked for God to watch over the family, to continue providing work to Ovidio to support his family, to help Leslie be strong in her new matriarchal role, and for guidance on how to best meet this families needs moving forward.
I gathered the family in front of their new home to capture their first ever family photo. It was powerful capturing this moment, and their excitement over the new home God had blessed them with. Please keep this family in your thoughts and prayers as you go about your day today, and in the coming weeks. If you want to help out, by sponsoring Leslie’s education, or the education of any of her five siblings, or any way that speaks to you, please reach out to me.