Long time no blog! I am using this time of quarantine as a way to get reacquainted with the wonderful habit of journaling and blogging with a first person voice, keeping you and me entertained in the process. You may feel like you have missed a few episodes, or rather a whole season! I will try to catch up as we go. In the meanwhile, stay safe and wash your hands 🙂
Today I woke up to an email from my friend Jay Money from Budgets Are Sexy, telling me he wanted to help with a little project I have had in Guatemala during COVID.
Because most people live day to day over there, the five week ongoing lockdown has been brutal.
People are out of food, out of work, and there is no near future where it might get better. Guatemala lives off tourism (but now foreigners are banned from entering the country), immigrants sending money (many of them living in the US and currently jobless), and exports of coffee, sugar etc. which was never very lucrative to start with.
Out of desperation, people have started putting white flags out their windows, that indicate they have no food to eat. A lot of them live off the informal economy, roaming the streets all day in hopes to sell a piece of gum or some trinkets.
But with disposable income scarce for everyone else in the society, they are the first to see their already meager income dwindle.
A tiny restaurant (in Spanish) that used to offer “pay it forward meals” where you could leave a little extra for them to feed someone in need, went from feeding 20 people a week to more than 1,000 daily! Imagine how dire things are for people to queue for hours for a $1 meal.
Resorting to putting a white flag out is an act of bravery. You can’t just go see a social worker or hit a food bank distribution. You have to let all your neighbors know you are on your last leg monetarily.
I have been sending money to friends who are organizing food distributions in Southern Guatemala, and have also tasked a community leader in my Northern reagion with doing the same.
I am trying to target mainly households with single moms, because they don’t even have a man around to go plant some corn or bring firewood. They are especially vulnerable.
Knowing Jay Money’s heart is even bigger than his mowhak, I asked him if this situation could benefit from his community fund charity.
Next thing I know, I got extra money to do good!
I don’t know how much inflation we’ll be facing in the coming weeks, my middle class friends report price hikes in supermarkets, but when I left you could get
- A carton of 30 eggs for $4
- A pound of rice for $0.80
- A pound of beans for $0.70
- A pound of cornflour for tortillas for $0.50
- A quart of oil for $2
- A pound of potatoes for $0.50
- A half pound bag of pasta for $0.50
- 3 soaps for $2
$25 buys a basic package for a family with eggs, 5lbs of rice, 5lbs of beans, 5lb of cornflour, oil, 5lbs of potatoes, and a bunch of salt, sugar, coffee, oatmeal, powdered milk for the kids, etc.
Here is a video showing the white flags, people also put red flags when they need medicine, and there are other colors for domestic violence or child neglect.
Guatemala has been begging president Trump to stop deportation flights that are bringing more cases, as that article shows, but plights keep being ignored.
The problem in Guatemala is you don’t have state support to start with. The state said they’d have a few hundred thousand care packages but that’s far from enough.
And a lot of families are hard to reach, like my little village in the jungle, where any kind of help takes much longer to arrive.
So on top of helping single mother households in my village, and the most vulnerable families, I will also match these funds with work for able men.
There are things in my house that aren’t vital, like clearing up the garden, when I won’t see another guest in months, but having that done gives a worker pride and purpose, rather than just giving a handout.
Being unemployed, especially in a macho country where men are evaluated by their ability to provide for their family, can be very detrimental for mental health.
Gang violence in the city is increasing, as a way for people to feed themselves as well. Thankfully, my village is peaceful, but petty crime has started, people steal chickens from their neighbors, crops… out of desperation.
That’s why I started giving out food and jobs, and hope to keep going until the lockdown stops.
If you would like to help, my PayPal is tdmpauline at gmail dot com, and I will use my local account to send the money without any transaction fees, so 100% goes to food. I will match your donation by providing work in my village as well.