Build a Brighter Future for 85 Kids in Guatemala

by Integral Heart Foundation
Vetted

The end of a most excellent year has arrived.

And we couldn´t have finished it better than with a TV special about our programs on the national Guatemalan TV -  Guatevision. Their hosts and crew filmed their Christmas special featuring our work with the kids and the families. We spent an excellent day of fun, games, food, visits, music, gifts, Santa Claus, cameras and action. The kids of our program visited, many for the first time in their lives, many different restaurants and places in Antigua as the invited guests and they felt like they were in heaven.

We will be on air on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in all the Guatemalan homes, and that for us is very important.

This was the icing on the cake of a very special year in which we finally opened our own place, we got many new sponsorships, were able to begin a deeper quality of help on the sponsored families and many more programs which include health, education programs for parents, and lots of fun.

Thank you all of you who made this possible and cheers to a New Year full of possibilities. We deeply appreciate your heart and you being a part of our family and wish you the happiest of holidays.

Much love from all of us in Guate! 

Mick, Debora, staff and children of Integral Heart!

 

[Below are some more photos from this great day]

Marisol with her daughter Saida and her son, Jose
Marisol with her daughter Saida and her son, Jose

Communication and understanding between the staff of a charity and their sponsored families is crucial if the empowerment of the families is to be successful. 

At the Integral Heart Foundation we could not be any luckier in that regard. Our social worker and family liaison, or social warrior as we like to call her, is Marisol; a 34 year old all-terrain woman.

Marisol is the mother of three children and a grandmother of one girl. She is happily divorced and also the owner of four dogs. In addition she is both the heart and soul of our interaction with all of the families with whom we work. She also plays a significant role in the running of our school, La Academia, in Antigua.

Marisol is the motivated, reliable, responsible and loyal person we could wish for. She always said that she was very lucky to have met us, but on the contrary, we think that we are the lucky ones.

We met Marisol in March of 2010. Debora used to give talks to the moms of another local NGO on empowerment and hope. During one of those talks Marisol, who was in the audience, broke her silence and began talking, sometimes crying about the seemingly insurmountable difficulties of her life in the slum. Debora calmed her down and afterward they talked in a private session together.

Marisol´s life was something like this: She lived in a one-roomed tin shack on the side of a rough hillside slum. She was married to an alcoholic and abusive husband. They had three young children and almost no income, the little that the husband would earn was spent on drinking. After that he would come home and abuse her physically and verbally in front of her children. On occasions the kids would also get a good part of the abuse. He also had relationships with other women, and would spend part of his earnings on them and not on food or clothing for his family.

Marisol grew up in an environment where the request for help from her culture was:; “That´s God´s will, we all deal with the same thing”. But Marisol could not and did not want to understand this.

So she came to this talk for moms in the desperate hope of getting help.

That was the beginning of her relationship with us and what was to become The Integral Heart Family. At that point Debora offered her some part time work as our housekeeper. Over the first few years, and as our foundation came into being she then began to help us with that work.

Marisol, with our guidance and support, separated from her husband and finally got divorced.

Our work at that time involved many visits to our sponsored families, a process which we trained in at another charity. Marisol learned from us and began talking to the families. We soon realized that many of those mothers trusted her with more information than they would impart to us because they considered her more like a friend than us ‘gringoes’ from a NGO.

Slowly she began earning their trust and the parents began to trust us with their children who had begun attending our various programs. Marisol had a knowledge and understanding that came from her life in a slum, and she knew all the tricks that abused women use in order to deny their situations. She also knew how to respond from their perspective.

She is still learning by attending our Critical-Thinking workshops, invited guest-speaker events and by taking other outside courses. She even took the step of introducing herself to meditation. She works in many different fields, such as social work, family visits, and receiving donors and visitors. She helped paint the school rooms and cooking and we see her all the time playing with great love and care with our younger students. Now, she is teaching and giving talks herself to the students on potential, pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted diseases, and training to the new staff on the operations of the school.

Today Marisol is the mother figure at our school, La Academia, but also the boss; she can be strong and inflexible when needed. She manages the budgets, salaries, social visits, school times and food baskets for the families and she, and her children no longer live in that horrible slum

Below you a little more of her story through photos: 

Marisol doing home visits 2012
Marisol doing home visits 2012
Cooking at our first kindergarten 2012
Cooking at our first kindergarten 2012
With a group of students 2013
With a group of students 2013
Painting the school
Painting the school
Playtime!
Playtime!
Family food basket time
Family food basket time
Marisol learning meditation
Marisol learning meditation
Attending a guest speaker event
Attending a guest speaker event
The approach to her former home in the slums
The approach to her former home in the slums
Marisol teaching a class at La Academia
Marisol teaching a class at La Academia
With the IHF school operation team 2016
With the IHF school operation team 2016
Playtime at La Academia
Playtime at La Academia

A big hello from Guatemala,

In this report we'd like to tell you how we are using a part of your sponsorship to provide our sponsorsed families with comforts that go beyond just a full belly. Your support also gives a sense of peace and trust and now also place where all of the families can come and forget about the hash struggles of their daily lives for a while.

Another great improvement has been the opening of our own school. Not only did this allow us to have a place where we meet the families, and where they could find us, but also an oasis, a safe container for their children to learn, to play, to share and socialize, but a safe container in which to relax and in doing so, giving and receiving love.

Our new school, La Academia is managed and operated entirely by Guatemalans - with huge hearts -and it is also a haven for all our families. At our school, each of our 60 sponsored students are well fed with a healthy and varied diet, recieve tutorial classes and are getting the chance to love reading and playing together as a one big family. And all of the children of the families are welcome, whether they have sponsors or not.

Surprisingly, what we are beginning to find out is that the kids and the students are now more and more eager to learn, grow, and to prosper. Their curiosity is expanding and this is compelling us to make more and more new materials available to them. They are beginning to love wisdom, and that is just beautiful.

There is also a room just for the parents and grandparents. Once a month we invite the adults of each of our sponsored children to come to the school to enjoy the space, to get know each other, to share their difficulties at home, with work or with relatives. We give them workshops on health, empowering women, the importance of hygiene, diet, violence (whether it is verbal, physical, sexual, or any other kind), and we play together as a big family. And, they are really loving this!!

We also have psychological help available for staff, students, teachers, parents, and relatives. All of this together is creating a wonderful and inviting atmosphere that, as an outcome, is bringing more and more people to us who are asking to be a part of The Integral Heart Family.

In short. the new addition of our own space to the foundation, is building a brighter future for all of us.

A great big thanks to all of you who for depositing your trust and funding with us to make this happen.
We wouldn’t be able to do it without you.

Book for browsing and study (Thanks to Sandra P.)
Book for browsing and study (Thanks to Sandra P.)
Study time
Study time
Senior students teaching English
Senior students teaching English
Family class on domestic violence
Family class on domestic violence
Parents at play!!
Parents at play!!
Priceless
Priceless
Day care for the weenies
Day care for the weenies
Jessica all smiles as usual!
Jessica all smiles as usual!

Jessica is a very special girl and she is near and dear to our hearts. We have known her since we began our work here in Guatemala in 2010. She was a student in one of the schools where we used to teach and do volunteer work.

Her case has always been particular since she has suffered her whole life from a serious heart condition that ended up in an open heart surgery.

This of course affected her school performance as she was always physically weak and also because of her constant hospital stays. As a result Jessica was several years behind her normal school year.

But she wanted to study and most importantly to be a normal child with a normal childhood. Her mom, a single mom of three children, was always by her side but she couldn’t afford the kind of special attention Jessica would need in order to catch up with her studies.

We found her a sponsor and send her to a special school; we also helped the family with monthly food baskets. Even though over the years her sponsors stopped supporting her, we never gave up on her and carried on with her support.

Today, years later, she is a normal teenager, with a new sponsor, and she is attending to our new school as well as her normal studies. We are very proud of her and the efforts her mom did for this wonderful soul.

Thank you so much to all of you that make this work possible and so awesome. We really appreciate your hearts and willingness to help other human beings.

Jessica five years ago
Jessica five years ago
Jessica recently with her sister Guadalupe
Jessica recently with her sister Guadalupe
Jessica
Jessica's mom and sister at our new school.
Fatima 2011 (and Mick Quinn co-founder)
Fatima 2011 (and Mick Quinn co-founder)

Fatima is a lovely little girl who lives in San Mateo Milpas Altas, Guatemala. We have known her since 2011 and she is one of the long term sponsored children of the Integral Heart Foundation. She always was really shy, but curious, and she is a good example of what we hope to achieve by beginning a lifetime relationship based in sponsorship and education with the children of Guatemala.

Fatima has been sponsored by Christy and Vegar (last name omitted). She is one of our few students whose sponsorship has never changed; her godparents never stopped supporting her. And, for this, her grandmother, Dona Debora, is very grateful and always reminds us when we see her how important this help has been over the years for Fatima and her siblings.

Fatima, who was four years old when we first met her has already gone through some significant losses that have made her even more introspective. Her dad died when she was 3 years old. At that time her father, her mom and two siblings had been living in a house given to them by her dad’s parents. However, a year after his death her dad’s parents decided that they needed the space and that the family had to move out (unfortunately this is a common practice in Guatemala).

So Fatima’s mom moved with her three children to her own parent’s home. The kids were taken care of by the grandparents while she (the mom) went to work every day to earn what little she could to provide for them. Then, two years later Fatima’s grandfather died. This was an even worse loss for her and he had become the father figure for her, and now being a little older, she could understand and suffer this loss even more.

Since the beginning of our work with her family, our social worker Marisol, who herself is Guatemalan, visits them at least once per month and also delivers their food baskets. This constant support we can give because of your donations also means that Fatima is less shy and more open.

Then, just two weeks ago, after Debora and Mick visited her home with visiting teachers Renata and Kirstie, Fatima came to our “Wisdom Speakers Series” class with the rest of our Philosophy/Critical Thinking students and she had a great time.

Dona Debora, her grandma, was thrilled as she told us that she herself is getting older she doesn’t have the same patience as she did before to take care of the kids. She told us that sometimes she locks herself alone in a room in order to have some peace. We are very grateful to their sponsors for allowing us this opportunity of knowing and caring about this lovely family and giving some space to Dona Debora.

Our goal for next year is to be able to have our own space in which we can accommodate the younger sponsored children every day with classes, games, activities and learning experiences, all of these kids who currently stay at home or play on the dirt streets for long hours. Many families are in the same situation as Fatima, the parent(s) have to work and the grandparents take care of them, but as Dona Debora said: “ I am not getting any younger and the kids are growing and I need to rest”.

Thank you all for such an amazing year and for all the opportunities you allow us to provide on your behalf here in Guatemala with these beautiful families.

Much love to you all and have wonderful holidays.

Debora, Mick, Marisol and all the Families at the Integral Heart Foundation.

Fatima and her sister 2012
Fatima and her sister 2012
Fatima and her mom and sister 2013
Fatima and her mom and sister 2013
Fatima 2014
Fatima 2014
Fatima with Grandma 2015
Fatima with Grandma 2015
Fatima with Marisol and her sister 2015
Fatima with Marisol and her sister 2015
Fatima in meditation at Wisdom Speaker Series 2015
Fatima in meditation at Wisdom Speaker Series 2015
 

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Organization Information

Integral Heart Foundation

Location: Panorama, Antigua Guatemala, Sacatepequez - Guatemala
Website: http:/​/​www.integralheartfoundation.org
Project Leader:
Mick Quinn
Salt Lake City, Utah United States

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