Up somewhere in the mountains that join Escuintla and Cuilapa lives a boy, in a small community called San Ramon. This community is so small it's not even on the map.
His wheelchair is rusty and he sits there, smiling, while his mom cooks over the open fire. He has a brother; it's obvious to me that both have special needs. The older one stutters when he speaks to me, mom only speaks Mam and the situation pulls my heartstrings. This boy, the one in the wheelchair is drooling, his pants are saturated with urine, his limbs are rigid ... That's how he was born they say.
The wheelchair was a donation by the mayor's wife, but it is not in a good state. This boy has never had any therapy, no consults with professionals, probably has never been diagnosed and his family was never given the chance to help him. I think that if I had been here years before maybe his story would've been different and so would mine, but it's never late for stories to take a turn right? I sneak a picture of him sitting on his wheelchair and send it to my friend Amanda. I have tears in my eyes, but I've cried every day since February and I'm trying to keep my feelings in check.
We move around the community, we visit the school. Lynn takes photos and Michelle asks questions and the image of this family stays with me, that boy. Many people with special needs in Guatemala have no services available to them. Most services are in the city and that's expensive for families just making it through the day. So what do you do with a child like that as a parent? Sit and wait for him to die? I couldn't accept that.
So I came home and spoke to Amanda, about how powerless I had felt, how hopeless the situation appeared to be and how I could no longer be a bystander. So here we are, months later, and DIGNA is a reality.
DIGNA hopes to be a platform of inclusion for all people with special needs. Our first goal is to set up a restaurant run and catered by people with special needs. They will be trained, accompanied by our volunteers and paid a worthy salary for their work. They will be taught skills that will allow some of them, to live independently in the future. I understand not everybody will be able to participate in this project, but we hope that with the income generated by the cafe that we will be able to offer services to other people with special needs. I would love for us to start opening cafes all across Guate, but we're not there ... yet!
So today I'm reaching out to you. I'm blessed beyond words and thankfully don't need anything personally, but I need your help. Opening this cafe needs start-up capital. We are hiring a Program Director that needs a salary as she will be living in a house with our teammates, taking care of them and teaching them the skills to be successful in this adventure.
So if you find it in your heart to share some of the many blessings you also have in your life and want to, even briefly, join me on this path that I've decided to walk please make a donation to DIGNA. If not today, maybe tomorrow, maybe next month ... we will be here helping, learning and growing. Join me, after all, we are part of the #sameteam #mismoequipo.
Photo by Lynn Johnson