From Steve( Jack, Uncle Jack, Senor):
Hello to family, old friends, and new friends who would enjoy being good neighbors with a family in Mexico!
We are just back from two months in the Yucatan. While there, I saw an article in the paper about a family in Tizimin who was asking for financial help to replace a leaking roof. I said, “We should help them with this.” A few days later we were in Tizimin for a ballgame, and through the usual Mexican serendipity, found the family. After visiting with them, the idea of trying to help them build a new house quickly took root.
This Mayan family was warm and welcoming. They are: Flor and Antonio, the grandparents, their daughter Antonia, and her children Karen, 14, and Julio, 4. Antonio can’t work much anymore, and all of Antonia's wages at the local “ loncheria" go to food and keeping Karen in school. The house reminded us of a casita from our Peace Corps days in EL Salvador 50 years ago: dirt floor, hammocks, cooking fire on the floor, leaking tar paper roof, and wood slat walls.
Agri, her employer, who helped us find the house, stood in the doorway and looked me in the eye, and said, “These are really good people!” It was a turning point for us. They were shy as we left, but Flor gave Mol a big smile and a hug, and we felt right about the project.
We went back two weeks later, and Antonia had done what we had suggested. She had found builders and had two estimates. She chose the lower one, saying, “We don’t need doors or windows or bathroom tiles; we just need to keep the kids dry from the rain.”
We met the daughter, Karen, as she arrived from school. She is in her second year of secundaria, a real testament to Antonia’s determination. She wants to go to preparatoria, which costs $60 a semester - totally out of their reach. Karen and Antonia both told us that she loves school and has “ganas” to continue. Mol asked her what she wants to be, and she immediately answered, “a lawyer.” She deserves a place to take a shower and do her homework.
Our old Peace Corps instincts kicked in, and we would like to build the house and include funds for Antonia to start a business in the afternoons. She mentioned wanting a tricycle-type hot dog cart, and Flor wants to have chickens and turkeys, since she had had to sell them all to make ends meet.
I went with Antonia to the bank to open her first ever account, so we can send funds for the building directly. We explained that we would send money in chunks, so they could begin construction as soon as possible, and Liliana, her sister-in-law, agreed to send us photos of the stages of the project from her I-phone . With help from her, and Agri, and Wendy, the newspaper reporter, we believe Antonia can manage this project successfully.
As we were leaving, Antonia hugged us and teared up, thanking us for our help This will be life changing for her whole family. As a friend said to us yesterday, “ It’s about building houses, not walls."