Jul 27, 2020

A Different Kind of Casa Jackson Report

This report is slightly different to ones we have done previously; however, it shows the important work we do to continue to provide for our Casa Jackson babies, even after they have left the four walls of Casa Jackson.


Pictured is little Heidy, a child whose family we have been supporting for a number of years now. We first came to know them when they arrived at our Santa Madre Homeless Shelter in late 2018, having spent time living in the streets. Then, when Heidy and her sister Eva spent 5 months in Casa Jackson between February 2019 and July 2019 recovering from malnutrition. Now, almost a year after they left, we are still providing them with life-changing support.


We wanted to make sure that we could continue to support Heidy and her family after they left Casa Jackson as she and her sister had spent so much time with us. This year we enrolled Heidy and her older siblings, Omar, Damaris, and Cristian into our schools. Omar is studying in the Scheel Center School, Damaris is in the Hermano Pedro Special School, and Cristian and Heidy are at The Dreamer Center School. The children's mother, Doña Eva, has continued to be a member of the Club de Madres (Mothers' Club) which she became a part of while staying at Casa Jackson and now regularly receives vegetables and clothes. She also received a 45lbs. 'Amor en Caja' box of food supplies during the current pandemic.


Heidy’s family has had a place to stay for the past 6 months, but they certainly haven't had a home. Where they were living could hardly even be called a house. It was on the front porch of another house with two sheet metal walls and two blanket 'walls'. The family was exposed to the elements and at serious risk of illness.


During the COVID pandemic we received a donation big enough to allow us to build one of our ‘Casa Azul’ houses for a family, and we chose Heidy’s family because they had the greatest need. Right away, we began preparations to build them their very own house.


Our Guatemalan staff worked as a solid team to build this house in just 2 days while the family's children helped to paint the house. It was hard work but completely worthwhile as together we worked to change this family's life for the better.


We always want to stay in touch with the children who have stayed at Casa Jackson and their families to ensure that they don’t become malnourished again, but we also want to do everything we can to fight the root causes of malnutrition as well. By building the family a house and providing a safe place for them to live we ensure that Heidy and her sister Eva have a better future and a lesser chance of falling back into malnutrition.


Jun 18, 2020

Four Sisters in the Same School

When Sofía joined the preschool class in our Dreamer Center School in January 2020, she became the fourth child in the family to study there. Three of her older sisters were already studying at the school; Anelis in fourth grade, Terecita in second grade and Naomy in first grade.


The family had gone through hardship the year before. In early 2019 the girls’ mother had been diagnosed with cancer and within two months passed away. It was a huge shock to the whole family, as the illness affected their mother so rapidly. Their father, José, was left to look after six girls by himself, the youngest of whom was only a few months old. Matters were complicated even more when the oldest sister, Daniela, decided to go to Guatemala City and live with her aunts rather than having the responsibility of caring for her younger sisters.


This situation left the family in dire straits, as José had to find work in order to pay the rent and put food on the table. He was able to find a job working as a waiter in special events, although this means that he has to work long hours and the children are often left alone or with their grandmother. It is 12-year old Anelis who takes care of them in the house, cooking and cleaning as well as ensuring that their homework is done.


At the school we have taken measures to support the family during this time. We accepted in Sofía early so that she could have somewhere where she was well looked after during the day. We also changed our school hours for the family so that José could pick up the children and take them home rather than leaving them to walk by themselves. Through our sponsorship program in the Project we have found people who are supporting the family, including a sponsor who is looking into building a house for the children so that their father does not have to work as long to pay the rent.


The girls all enjoy being in the school where they have lots of friends and are making good progress. It is important for us to provide a safe and welcoming environment where the children feel confident and happy. We have a psychologist available to work with the children in the Project to make sure that they are mentally healthy as well as physically, and our staff regularly visit the family to make sure that they are safe and well.


All the girls have ambitions for the future. When Sofía grows up she would like to be a police officer, Naomy would like to be a decorator, Terecita would like to be a vet or a doctor, and Anelis (Jasmín) would like to be a teacher. We will continue to work hard to help those ambitions become a reality.


Jun 18, 2020

From Danger to Dreams

Sandra came to us a scared, timid, and forgotten young woman. Though 18 years old, she had the height, weight, and appearance of a little girl due to chronic malnutrition and neglect.

She was referred to us by the PGN (Guatemalan Social Services). Sandra’s father passed away when she was younger and her mother suffered from alcoholism and was unable to care for her, and so a month before she arrived at our Casa Jackson Hospital for Malnourished Children, Sandra was sent to live with a family that the mother knew to be looked after. This is not what transpired, however. The family that Sandra stayed with consisted of a mother, father and three children. Sandra was not treated like another member of the family, though. During meal times she was told to leave the room and the family did not share any food with her. Sandra told us that she was not given any food for a month and that every time she asked to be given some she was beaten. She was also beaten at other times for no reason at all. Sandra was also not permitted to leave the house and therefore had no means to access food herself. She told us that she survived on water alone.

When Sandra arrived at Casa Jackson, we had to adjust to be able to care for her. The first thing we needed to do was find a bed for her to sleep in as we didn’t feel that it was dignified to ask her to sleep in a crib like the other children. We reached out to another non-profit called El Amor de Patricia that runs a Bunk Bed Project to ask if they would donate a bed for Sandra to sleep in while staying at Casa Jackson. They were more than happy to oblige and delivered it the next day. This was an important part of showing Sandra that we valued her as a person by making sure she would be comfortable.

Sandra has spent nearly 4 months with us in Casa Jackson and in that time has made incredible progress. She has been on a special diet to help build her strength and it has been working extremely well. Sandra told us that when she was staying with the previous family, she would dream about eating frijoles and chicken and so we make efforts to incorporate that in her diet. She has also been a huge help with the other malnourished children in our hospital by feeding and looking after them. This has given her a sense of belonging and a feeling of self-worth.

Another important part of Sandra’s recuperation has been to build her self-esteem and confidence. Sandra never had the privilege of going to school when she was younger and is unable to read or write. We organized adult learning classes three times a week to help Sandra develop her skills. Sandra has told us that even after she leaves Casa Jackson, she would like to continue to study so that one day she can become a teacher. We will ensure that we do everything we can to turn this dream into a reality. Furthermore, we have been teaching Sandra important skills that she can use in the future. Sandra worked with some volunteers to learn how to sew. She used her newfound sewing skills to make a bag.

The kind of neglect and abuse Sandra experienced is just one of the many ways slavery exists in the world today. Sandra went from a vulnerable situation living with her alcoholic mother, to a more dangerous one living with a family that outright neglected her basic needs. If not for PGN, Sandra may have fled her home to escape the horrible treatment she was subject to and found herself living in the streets, exposing herself to being victimized by human trafficking. Instead, Sandra found her way to us. We have made it our duty to nourish, educate, and counsel her, and provide the stepping stones towards a brighter future.


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