I just now got a text from Chris North. He was crossing back over the border to the US and received the sweetest call from Andrea (the oldest daughter of Bacilio). The family is really missing all of their American friends (especially Marvin, Gerardo's younger brother, who became especially attached to Matthew). They are all doing well and the chicken business is well underway. They are very grateful for all that this amazing group of supporters have done for them.
To update you on our progress, we are a little shy of only needing $4000 to cover our expenses. Thank you to everyone who contributed over the past year!! What a blessing!
And, we now have a number of monthly donors that will be contributing to sustaining these families as they work to build their business and keep the kids in school. So far, we have commitments for $130/month in funding! AWESOME!! Keep these families in your thoughts and prayers, such a great thing you all are supporting!
I will be updating you later this week (or early next week) with the progress that Habitat for Humanity has made on their homes.
Visiting Guatemala and If you still want to help . . .
After a week filled with blessings beyond measure, we wanted to first thank all of you again for your generous support, because without that, we’re not sure how these families would have survived this year. We explained to the families that it wasn’t US who had given them this gift, but rather over 250 of you who had opened your hearts to care for them.
Second, we would like to share with you ways you can continue to help if you are still interested and third we want to let you know what has been spent so far.
Sitting with them on the last day, all of us with tears in our eyes knowing that our trip was over and that we may not see each other again, we couldn’t help but have a sinking feeling when we were explaining that we had spent well over what had been collected for them and that we would only be sending half of the $500 monthly amount we have been sending the 2 families for the next 2 months and then that would be it.
They were very appreciative and hopeful that they will make something from their chicken business, but the truth is, we don’t think they will make enough to feed and support 2 mothers and 6 children with the 30 chickens and coup that we have provided for them.
If we lived there and could dedicate more of our lives to teaching them to support themselves, that would be great! But, that is just not the reality of this situation. Therefore, we are hopeful that some of you will be inspired to reach into you hearts once again and pledge to make a monthly donation of $5, $10 or any amount to keep these families afloat. This will allow them time to work out the kinks with the chicken business.
25-50 families committing $5 - $10/month could make all the difference in the world. Your monthly donation can easily be set up on our GoFundMe website and can be stopped at any time.
We tried to leave the family with everything we could for them to be safe, warm and comfortable because, due to the lack of education, language, and any form of income possible in the remote area where they live besides the chicken business, we knew that there would not be much chance of them being able to buy things on their own after we left.
So, here’s what we have spent:
Total Raised on the GoFundMe Site = $21,900
$4,000 – Transport of Gerardo’s body back to Guatemala (June 2014)
$6,000 - $350/month for America and $150/monthCandalaria (July 2014 – June 2015)
$2,042 – GoFundMe Fees
$11,500 – Habitat for Humanity (houses for each of them)
$183 – Doctor’s bills and medicine for Candalaria
$1250 – Uniforms/Necessities/Household items
$1700 – Chicken Coups for our 2 families and Chickens for a Chicken business for them and for 3 of their siblings who live next to them. (These siblings will be helping our families with their business and are also in great need, so we decided to help them too.)
$2300 – Furniture for both houses
Total Spent to date = $27,500 (we are short $5,500)
It was a blessing to get to know these kind-hearted people. They continually taught and amazed us by their gratitude, faith, and resilience throughout this whole process. We know that God placed them in our path for a reason. We are thankful to have been able to share and continue to share this journey with them and with all of you.
Thanks for all you have done to make this possible!
Update from Wednesday/Thursday:
On Wednesday we spent most of the day shopping for necessities with the families: school uniforms, school supplies, toothbrushes/paste/floss, diapers, some clothes/shoes, household items. We did this at the local market in Huehue. We also took them to McDonald’s and had lunch and let them play in the Playland for a few hours. They had a great time, and of course, had never heard of or seen a McDonald’s before.
On Thursday, we packed everything up and headed back to their homes in Soloma. This is about 3 hours North of Huehue at about 10000 feet elevation. On the way, we stopped in at the younger kid’s school and talked with the headmaster and the kid’s teachers. It was good to have a chance to connect with these teachers and see how the kids were doing. We stressed the importance with the moms that the kids need to be at school every day. Everyone there agreed that the kids were great kids, but they had missed quite a bit of school. We worked out a scholarship arrangement with the moms. The agreement is they ensure the kids are in regular attendance and getting good grades and we will pay $25/child/month going forward as long as we have funds available. Everyone, including the school officials seemed pleased with this arrangement (and the school will track the progress and report to us on a monthly basis).
After arriving home, the extended families had lunch prepared for us and then we met with Habitat for Humanity to talk about the work needed for the homes. This took a few hours. We also spent a few hours talking to the moms and the extended families about some health issues/medication for Candalaria, and finally the chicken business we are funding. This was many hours of translating from English to Spanish to Kanjabol (the local dialect there in Soloma) and then back to Spanish and then finally back to English. All told, we spent about 8 hours at their house before heading back down the mountain. In the end, we have overspent the funds that have been raised by the GoFundMe site but we truly believe that what we have done this week is the bare minimum needed to sustain this group of families here in Soloma. We are asking you to open your hearts and checkbooks once again for this cause. After spending a week with America and Candalaria, their children and their extended families, we see what a loving and hard working group they are. Three of the five families are without a husband raising a number of kids. We want these children to have a better shot at life. Our goal is to improve their current circumstances so they ensure getting to school each day. The chicken business is a way to help them become more self-sustaining.
We will send another message soon with all the details on what has been spent this week, and what is needed going forward.
Hi friends and family,
This is Kerryanne and Katie B from Guatemala and we have been here for three days. Yesterday we went to a swimming pool and took the family swimming for their first time ever. They were all really excited and although it was freezing they all had huge smiles on their faces. There was a huge slide and at first they were all scared, but after we showed them that it was fun and safe they were all in. When we got back to the place we are staying at, we taught them how to cut and sew little bears that we are making for all the kids in the orphanage. Gerardo and Bacilio’s family were so happy to be able to help others by making bears and bracelets for the others. We had a big chicken dinner and the Guatemalan family was shocked and very excited to see how much food there was. They were so thankful the entire time and Candelaria, Gerardo’s mother, has said “gracias” more than anything else this trip.
Today, we visited some Mayan ruins and had a great time running around. These kids are such happy and friendly people to be around and so helpful and sweet. We feel blessed to finally be able to meet them in person and get to know the amazing people that they are. We know that Bacilio was a great person to have raised five beautiful and incredible children. And Gerardo obviously had a great and lasting impact on all of his family. So far all of them have helped us realize the true impact that family can have, especially in tough times.
From Julianne North regarding their day yesterday with the families:
Today we had the blessing of meeting the families of Bacilio and Gerardo at their homes in Guatemala. It was an overwhelming experience for all of us. Overwhelming for them to hear the story of exactly what happened that day when their loved ones were found at the beach, and overwhelming for them to have some actual people and faces to thank for the generosity that was shared with them by so many.
We were probably just as overwhelmed with the opportunity to be able to not only meet them, but to hug them, laugh, cry and pray with them as stories were shared. We were also overwhelmed by the fact that because of the generosity of so many of you, we could see that this family has been able to survive a year that otherwise might have been impossible.
After getting to know one another, and eating a chicken soup that they had prepared and stood around watching us eat, without taking a bite themselves, we toured their homes. There were many emotional moments, none moreso than when Candelaria, standing on the dirt floor in her metal shack, started telling us how Gerardo had made the only thing she owned except for an old bed, the simple woodburning stove called a “plancha” that sat on the ground in the corner. She could barely choke out the words before breaking down and sobbing.
While walking around the property, we learned that they had bought a cow, who had just had a baby calf, and two pigs with some of the money that we had sent.
They also used some of the money to cover school expenses for Gerardo’s brother and Bacilio’s four daughters.
Preparing them for the future:
As the year of sending them a monthly transfer is coming to a close, we were trying to brainstorm with them ways that we could help them to set up some sort of business to give them a little income and decided that raising chickens might be something they could be successful with – although it would not really bring a huge income, at least it would be something.
We gave Bacilio’s brother, Mario, $400 to buy materials to build chicken coops over the next 3 days that would house 25 chickens. Full grown chickens cost about $20 each, so we will buy some for them before we leave.
We also met with Habitat for Humanity and they are ready to start building for the families on Monday. They have been out to meet the families twice, made sure that all the paperwork for their land was in order, and set up their workers to make the 3 hour journey from where they are located to where our families live. They are going to meet us on Thursday with the families to make all final decisions.
Thanks to the generosity of all of you, we are paying Habitat $6,000 to build a 2 room block home for Candelaria – Gerardo’s mom, which will include a latrine (much more sanitary than the outhouse they have, and the only option since they have no sewer system in place where they live), a water filtration system, and a smokeless stove, which is much better than the ones that they use that fill their homes with smoke.
For Bacilio’s wife and 5 children, we are going to pay Habitat about $3,000 to remodel their home by adding a new roof, and inside walls to divide their sleeping area as well as a latrine, stove and water filter.
Thanks to a mission team that runs a school and orphanage in Huehuetenango, we were able to bring the 2 families back with us to spend the next four days together. We got there just in time to take them out to a restaurant to eat, which I’m pretty sure was a first for all of them. Candelaria (Gerardo’s mom) sat at the table, looking at the menu with tears pouring down her face. She must have said, “Gracias, Muchas Gracias about 1,000 today.
Katie and I are leaving today for Guatemala. We are excited and a bit nervous to get down there. We really have no idea what to expect. Chris and Julianne and the rest of the North family have already arrived in Huehuetenango where Julianne connected with a local Missions worker, Alycia. Her group has helped us to set up the trip with the families of Bacilio and Gerardo. They will bringing the families from Soloma (where they live) to El Terrero, Huehuetenango today to stay with us at the school that Alycia works for a few days. Then we all plan to go back to their village in Soloma later in the week. More to come as the week progresses.
Thank you for all the words of encouragement and blessings.
I wanted to post an update to all of you who so generously supported this effort last summer. Since then, the funds that you all helped to generate have been used to transport Gerardo and Bacilio's bodies back to Guatemala, and we have been funding monthly living expenses for the families. We said we would do that for one year, and that time is coming to a close.
The North and Becknell families are travelling to Guatemala the first week in June to meet with a few local agencies and check in on the families. Our goal is to have work done on each of the houses (or replace if necessary), provide supplies and see about setting up both families with some sort of business to help sustain them. We will keep you all posted as to how things are going down there.
If anyone would like to donate clothing for us to take with us, please let me know. We will be looking for clothes for the mom's and the girls as well as Gerardo's younger brother.
More updates to come as we get closer. Thank you again for helping out these families and Happy Mother's Day to all the moms!
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!
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.
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.
First, thank you to all of our supporters over the past year. Your support has done amazing things for the families and it very apparent now that they could not have survived without our help. We are down in Guatemala this week working with two organizations (More than Compassion and Habitat for Humanity) in an effort to improve the living conditions for these families. The original funds that we raised, will cover much of what is being done. We are also setting the families up with a small chicken business, so they can help to provide for themselves. Additionally, we purchased a sewing machine and have taught them the basics of how to use it. We have had a number of talks this week with the families about the blessings that have come their way and how they need to continue to ensure the children go to school, the moms work hard and they pass it forward. We feel confident that they will succeed in all of these.
To date, the original $21K has been spent: 1) $4000 to ship Gerardo's body back to Guatemala 2) $6000 for monthly stipend to both families 3) $12,000 paid to Habitat for Humanity to build/update houses (including water filteration and smokeless stoves).
4) $2,000 for GoFundMe/PayPal expenses
In order to accomplish these additional items, we are asking for a few more things: 1) Money to set them up with a chicken coup, chickens and supplies (~$2000) 2) $ 3000 for beds, tables and couches for the houses 3) $1000 for school and household supplies
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, 2014. 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.
Baciilio 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.
Bacilio, 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!