Last week I was approached by Karla's mom, Suyapa, who asked if I still needed someone to clean for me. I told her that Maria and her kids had come and done our basic before-return-cleaning. She said she did not have any work and could really use some. I agreed to have her come and help me with some of the heavier jobs still waiting to be done.
Wednesday I picked her up from church and she worked all morning washing windows, dodging the rain, cleaning screens and blinds. She would likely have finished if not for the rain. She asked if she could come back and work for me again and I agreed, so Thursday I picked her up again. She finished cleaning the sliding doors and blinds and scrubbed every last speck of dirt and mold off our white concrete entry stairs...always a dirty job. I was very pleased with her work.
While she was finishing the window above the kitchen sink, I was inside making tuna salad for our lunch. She began telling me a very sad story....they had no food in their house. She had not been getting as much work. Her husband was working up at church on the new addition, which I knew because I had seen him there, but she said he would not be getting paid as he was paying back a debt he owed to Pastor Chuck. And their water had been cut off the day before because they could not afford the L200 ($10.50).
I went right outside to talk to Don. We thought it over and decided to let her work an additional two days next week and we would advance her the money plus pay her for this week's work. That would give her enough to buy food for her family of six for the week (which she had estimated ran around L800 or ~$40.) and get the water turned back on.
Friday, after our tutoring session, Julissa stopped us on our way out and asked Ms. Ida to interpret for her. She haltingly told us that there was no food in her house. No one had any work. I asked how many people were currently living there, and she said eight. Don thought for a minute and then said he would give her money to buy food, and she began to cry. She hugged us tightly and then hugged Ms. Ida, who agreed to drive her to Coxen Hole to shop. I asked why not shop in the colonia? She said they charge more than the big grocery stores or the marketplace! Outrageous! Overcharging those who can least afford it!? Ida said "yes. Convenience stores." It is a convenience, too, otherwise they have to take a taxi or "bus"(van) to town and back. Don said we would take her as we had to go in to the pharmacy anyway. We stopped first and got her something to eat. I let her load up the cart with what her family needed: rice, beans, shortening, corn flour, wheat flour, sugar, coffee, powdered milk, eggs, chicken bouillon, 3 tomatoes, and some little packets of Tang. I asked how long that would last...a few days? She shrugged, "maybe." I guess so...eight mouths to feed.
This is a big problem here right now. One cruise ship port has been closed all summer, won't reopen for another month and as a result, many businesses and families are suffering. This problem also won't go away when the port reopens either, as not everyone is involved in that extended industry.
It breaks our hearts to see these families, especially the children, going hungry. Obviously, we cannot afford to feed them all, and we would much rather see them work in exchange for food, not grow to depend on handouts. We also cannot employ all of the hungry. What to do????? We would invite you to pray with us for a solution(s) to this ongoing problem, and if you feel led to help in some way, let us know. We will be meeting with our pastor, his wife, and another couple from church to brainstorm. I'll let you know how that turns out. In the meantime, please, please pray for these families!!