We recently got information back from a group that does mission trips down in Guatemala. Alycia was able to go visit the families and here is what she had to report:
"Chris and Julianne,
So sorry that I'm just getting back to you guys. I had planned to visit the families last week but ended up having to postpone after a couple things came up here.
But we were finally able to go visit them yesterday afternoon! Gaspar was awesome and met us at the entrance of the village to take us to the house. They live very much in the middle of nowhere, up a steep dirt road (although it is beautiful out there.)
It took me a while to get the family tree straight and figure out how everyone was connected but I think I finally got it down. We were able to hear a little bit of their stories and how the deaths of their family members has affected them. The whole experience was very somber, especially when Candelaria started crying as she showed me Gerardo's photo.
Both families are very quite and reserved (this is largely due to their indigenous culture.) America and Candelaria do not speak very much Spanish so Gaspar was able to translate into Conhobal. We first walked around their property and got to see their homes and then were able to sit down and ask them some questions regarding the information you guys were wanting to know.
Here are some of the things we learned:
1. We first let them know that you guys were thinking and praying for them and they were very appreciative and touched by that.
2. Physical needs in America's home: there are a lot of leaks in the roof ( they will need to buy new aluminum sheets and have somebody come and install them)
Physical needs in Candelaria's home: She does not have electricity or running water. She brings up water from the other home. And she uses candles for lighting. The way it works here is we would have to solicite in Guatemala City that they come to install electricity. I suggested we just bring a line up from America's house and then they would just split the monthly bill and they seemed to think that would work well. She also does not have flooring in her house. She did not mention this as a necessity but I thought I would mention it to you guys as an option for a potential renovation. She did mention at the very end that the columns holding her house up have become very week and the house is not very sturdy.
3. All of kids are in school and they are paying tuition costs with the monthly donation you guys are sending down. America will have her second youngest enter kindergarten starting in January.
4. They said they have been receiving the monthly donations from you guys. But I guess there was a little bit of confusion with the transfers. America said she has received two transfers- one for Q980 and the other for Q1,100. And Candelaria has received two separate transfers of Q2,000 each. I explained to them the amounts you guys have agreed to send the and the reason why you are sending more to America.
5. In terms of where their income comes from, there is none. So neither of the women work and before, they were just living off of whatever they were being sent from the States.
6. The last part of the conversation was about the possibility of helping them start a business. Honestly, this was one of the most frustrating and sad parts of the conversation. The truth of the matter is that where they live, there is no infrastructure or job market. It's a small village built on a hill. There are house scattered on the hillside and everyone just grows enough food to feed their individual families to survive off of. So when I brought up the idea of starting a business, it was pretty discouraging. I realized that everything I was suggested was not realistic considering their context. We suggested buying some hens and having them raise some livestock, but realistically that would be just to feed their family, not a source of income. I asked about what other people in the village did for work and they answered that 80% of everyone living there has sent a family member of the border to the States to work and send back money because there is not opportunity there.
I know you guys have probably heard a lot in the news about the influx of illegal immigrants from Guatemala and Mexico (namely children) and talking to the family about the livelihood of their village, we saw that first hand. Like I said, it's very sad and discouraging.
They did like the idea of possibly learning to sew. I think at first they were very embarrassed that when I asked them if they had any specialized skills or knew how to make things that could be sold, they said no. But then once they were a little more comfortable, they were really excited about the idea of possibly getting a sewing machine and learning to do that. The only thing I'm not sure what the market would be like for them to sell those things. Candelaria did also say that she knows how to knit hats, scarves, etc.
7. They did mention that one of their immediate needs is shoes. The girls don't have the proper shoes to wear to school.
So I know that was a lot of information but I hope that is helpful to you guys. Please let me know if you want me to clarify anything.
So basically from here, I asked Gaspar to send me (and you guys) price quotes for the reparations to the house. I will look over those quotes with you guys and let you know if the prices are realistic. I think one of the first things would be getting electricity to America's house.
I told them that you guys were thinking of maybe visiting and they were very excited about that. They were very welcoming to us and served us some excellent chicken soup for dinner.
Like I said, please let me know if you have any questions about any of that!
Look forward to hearing back from you guys,
Here is a letter from Bacilio's wife, America on their current status:
Greetings from America, Bacilio's wife,
Thank you from me, America and my daughters. We are profoundly grateful for the financial support. In truth, we don't have the means to repay you but we ask God to fill your lives and the lives of all those who collaborate and work so hard to provide this funding, that my daughters and I require for our daily needs and to keep moving forward. We pray that all of your families be blessed as well.
I want to inform you that my daughters are continuing in school. Thanks to your support, we are going to make it.
With the money you sent in August and September, I have been able to cover our general expenses, education for my 3 school-age daughters (Andrea, Simona, Jenifer Marilin) and my food and health care expenses. I am profoundly grateful to God and to you for the support and once again wish you many blessings and hope that all of your endeavors be filled with success.
America Esteban y sus Hijas
Dear Friends of Bacilio and Gerardo,
We could never thank you enough for the way you have so generously contributed to help the Guatemalan families of the 2 who drowned at Moonlight Beach at the end of May.
We just wanted to give you an update in the ways that we have used your donations so far to help and support the families.
Your donations are all tax deductible and have gone to a nonprofit called Build a Miracle run by Chris and Julianne North that builds homes for families in Mexico.
The first thing Build a Miracle did was to pay $4,000 to ship Gerardo's body home to his mother in Guatemala.
As far as Bacilio's body, the Guatemalan community here collected the funds to send him home, which worked out well because that will allow us to do more to help the families in the year ahead.
August 1, we sent our first wire transfer to the families and we will continue to send them money at the first of every month for the next 12 months.
$500 a month will be sent between the 2 families for the next year for a total of $6000 dollars
$350 a month to Bacilio's wife and 5 children and
$150 a month to Gerardo's mother (who is a widow) and little brother.
With the remaining funds (about $8,500) we would like to do 2 things - first, help fix up Gerardo's mother's home. We are talking to people in the community to figure out the best way to do that.
We are also thinking about ways that we could possibly help the 2 families set up some sort of business that would help support them in the years ahead.
We will continue to update you over the next year to let you know other ways we are able to help.
Thank you for making such a lasting impact in the lives of these families - both in the financial way you are supporting them and the way you have helped them to know God's love through your love of them. They are thankful for your prayers and thankful that they are no longer invisible.
Below is a translated letter from the families and a letter we wrote to them explaining how we wanted to help.
Chris and Julianne North
Here is an update on what is going on with the families of Gerardo and Bacilio. Below is a letter sent to the families and their response back:
TRANSLATED LETTER FROM THEM:
Dear Mr Chris and SFCHS Students
Dear brothers in Christ, America's and Candelaria's friends send you warm greetings.
By means of this letter we want to sincerely thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the good desire and charisma with which you are taking on the task of helping us in our moment of need.
We thank merciful God who has put it on your hearts to support our family. God in his infinite grace will know how to repay in your lives, this gesture of obedience and love for those around you.
We await in hope of a visit some of you can make to Soloma, we already offer you a warm welcome in the name of our God almighty. As such we also ask that God multiply the blessings for you and your families.
You are in our prayers,
America and Candelaria and families
TRANSLATED EMAIL WE SENT TO THEM:
To Candelaria, América y their children:
For us it is a blessing to be useful and help you during trying times.
Students from SFCHS worked hard on their campaign to raise these funds and they hope to be able to help support Bacilio's and Gerardo's families each month for a good amount of time. Our goal is to provide part of the family's monthly expenses that are no longer covered with the loss of a great man, Bacilio, and to make it possible that all of the children from both families continue in school. Depending on how everything goes, and what ideas are thought up, we have also discussed using some of the funds that have been raised, to help start a small business, a trade or some other economic activity or opportunity that can provide income for the families in the long term...we can discuss this over time.
Some of us here might even like to visit Soloma during the coming year.
We ask please, that each family write a thank you letter that we can translate and give to the contributors who have supported this campaign. They would also like to know what your long term plans and dreams are, what you are thinking of doing long term (although we understand that you are in a period of mourning and it will take time to begin to think of such matters). Additionally, we would like to receive each month, a list of how the funds were utilized.
We finally have a bank that is able to manage the fund transfers so we will make a transfer next week.
Chris on behalf of the SFCHS students and families and all those who supported the effort to help out.
It's been a while since we have updated - Chris and Julianne were on vacation. We are back in contact with the families and have gone through their finances. We will be providing $350/month to Bacilio's wife and daughters and $150/month to Gerardo's mom and brother. This will start up immediately as the bank information is available and the international transfers are able to take place. Chris also received all the girls grades from this past year and they are all doing well in school, and we want to keep them there!
We are still working on the idea of helping them set up some type of business and potentially doing a Mission Trip down there next year to check in on them and see how we can help out first hand.
We are so blessed to have had so much outreach for these families, thank you to all who have contributed and kept the families in your prayers.
We will keep you posted as more happens throughout the month of August.
Blessings to each of you.
BACILIO'S VELORIO AND MASS WILL BE AT ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST CHURCH, 1001 Encinitas Blvd., Encinitas, CA 92024, TOMORROW FRIDAY FROM 6PM-11PM.
THE FORMAL SERVICE/MASS WILL BE AT 9PM.
I am sad to report that Bacilio was taken off life support last night and passed away shortly after. This was a hard decision for the family, but it was determined there was no hope for a recovery for him. We will continue meeting with the family and ensure that the funds raised are used wisely to help both families of this tragic accident. Gerardo's body was sent back to his mother in Guatemala on Thursday (paid for by your donations). We welcome all feedback and ideas. Blessings to everyone for their support in this endeavor. We will keep you posted with regular updates.
Just a quick update on what is happening with all the funds you have helped us to generate. Today we will be paying for Gerardo's body to be transported back to Guatemala. In addition, there are some funeral expenses that need to be taken care of.
We are investigating ways to help set up some type of business for Bacilio's family so that they can be self-sustaining. We encourage your ideas in this space. In addition, we are looking into funding education to ensure the kids stay in school and have a better life.
Thank you again for everyone's kind words, prayers and ideas on how to help. God bless you all!
We just got news on the Mass for Gerardo:
GERARDO'S VELORIO AND MASS WILL BE AT ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST CHURCH, 1001 Encinitas Blvd., Encinitas, CA 92024, TOMORROW WEDNESDAY FROM 6PM-11PM.
THE FORMAL SERVICE/MASS WILL BE AT 9PM.
I wanted to give an update on Bacilio/Visilio. As of last night, he was still on life support with no change in his status. Keep praying for him and his family. We continue to be amazed by the outpouring of support for them.
Thank you to everyone for donating so generously. We are thankful that we will be able to provide some comfort to these families and take off some of the stress. You all have beautiful hearts. God Bless You.
Wow, we are so humbled and blessed with the outpouring of support for these families. Truly God is at work here! Thank you to all who have donated so far, it is extremely moving and the families are so appreciative. The attached photos are from the hospital last night where our kids got to meet and be thanked personally by the family and friends of Gerardo and Visilio and our planning meeting prior to the hospital visit.
At the hospital with family and friends
Strategizing last night on fundraising
Julianne North and her helpers!
As many of you know a group of Santa Fe Christian freshmen students were involved in rescuing two people from the ocean at Moonlight Beach on Thursday, May 29. The two people rescued were sent to the hospital and were in critical condition and on life support.
The victims were unidentified for 3 days before any family members were found. Fortunately, on Sunday, a couple of us were able to visit them at the hospital as well as over 20 of their friends and family members and get to know them. We found out that it was an uncle (Vasilio) and his nephew (Gerardo) in the ocean that day.
When we were there, the 2 victims were still on life support and did not have any brain activity.
We took the family members back to the beach and explained that the 2 of them must have been caught in a riptide and how difficult it would be for people who didn't know how to swim. We told them about the Santa Fe Christian students finding them and helping to bring them to the shore.
We also told them about how over 100 students from Santa Fe Christian School stood next to them on the beach as they were receiving CPR and prayed for them and their families.
Unfortunately, Gerardo (the 17 year old boy) passed away on Monday morning, four days after he was found in the ocean.
Vasilio and Gerardo both come from an extremely poor area of Guatemala where there is not even a sewer system set up in their community so they all have outhouses for bathrooms.
Vasilio, wife and five kids live in Guatemala, but he moved to The United States 20 years ago to find work to help better support his family. He would try to send them $300 - $400 a month so that they could buy food and pay for electricity, clothes, etc. Vasilio continues to be on life support with no brain activity, so the family has no one to support them.
The young boy, Gerardo, just came to the U.S. three days before he went to Moonlight Beach in order to go to high school here. His family was just hoping for him to have better opportunities than he ever would have had at home. His mom lives in a one room shack with a dirt floor in Guatemala. She has a hole in the ground for a toilet.
She is a widow with a 7 year old son at home and earns $5 a day cleaning clothes or any other type of work she can get.
We're not sure why God had us there at that moment - maybe it was to find the 2 of them because otherwise their families would never have known what happened to them - they would have just been missing.
Maybe another reason we were there was because now that we know their story, we can help them.
We really want to do something to help out this incredible family. They’re are so sweet and grateful and could use our help in many ways. That's why we have set up this Gofundme account.
If anyone wants to help out, here's what we would like to do for the family:
1. Raise $5,000 to send Gerardo's body back to his mother in Guatemala. She could not fly here to be with him in his final days, because she did not have the money or papers to come.
2. Raise $5,000 to fix Gerardo's mother and 7 year old brother's home with a concrete floor, bedroom and kitchen. We will see if we can have someone build a septic tank so that they can have a flush toilet and shower.
3. Raise $350 a month for a year to support Vasilio''s wife and 5 children - total of $4200 for a year of food and other expenses for the family
4. Raise $150 a month for a year to support Gerardo's mother who now earns $5 a day - total of $1800 to support her and her 7 year old for a year
One of the greatest gifts for these families is that in this tragic time, they will feel the love of Christ from their brothers and sisters here, who don't even know them, yet are willing to help them.
If you would like, you can write what you want the money you donate to go towards.
Thank you for being Christ's hands for these two families who have suffered so much not only this week, but for much of their lives.
Here are some thoughts from the Santa Fe Students who were involved in the rescue:
Kerryanne: It has been a blessing to meet the family and get to know such incredible people. I can't even imagine what they are going through right now, I was overcome with sadness at the hospital and I don't even know them. I want to do whatever we can to help them.
Katie: It was such a sureal experience but I know that God put us all there for a reason. At least we were able to give them a fighting chance to live. Even though we had no clue who the person was, we still did everything in our power to help save them, unsure of a good outcome.
Jack: I hope that the family stays strong through Christ during this time in their lives. I am praying for them during this surreal experience.
Kyle: I can't imaginge what the families are dealing with, and I hope the will be able to find peace through Christ. Im glad we were able to impact their lives by giving them a chance.
Joey: I really can't fully understand what has happened and I can't imagine what Bascilio and Gerado's families are going through and my sincerest condolences go to them
Baylee- I'm just glad that there was no one else harmed, God put us there for a reason and im greatful we could represent him in the best way possible. I hope we can continue to help them by raising money for there families.
Sami: It is comforting to know that God put us all there for a reason, though we may not know the reasons now. I pray that the families find comfort in this sad situation and that we are able to raise money to support them.
Maddie: It was such a life changing experience but I'm happy that God placed me and my friends on the beach at that time. I was so happy to help and give them a fighting chance to live.
Julia: It was a blessing to have such a great group of people there to help. God put this group of people there for a reason knowing they would step up and do their best to save these peoples lives. Now it is our job to help these families as much as possible.
Clay: What happened that day was a life changing experience that I will never forget. I continue to pray for the families of the vicitms, I cant imagine what they are going through right now. I know that God does everything for a reason and i am sure that this situation is no exception. The families are in our hearts and minds.
Your donations are tax deductible and 100% of the funds donated will go to the victim's families. No donation is too small! God bless!