Friday, May 7, 2010

Happy Mother’s Day, Review in Hill Rag, Talk May 26, Meeting w PC Director, Honduran Truth Commission, Please Help Promote Book for 3 Kids' Ed

Happy Mother’s Day to all my readers who are mothers, Feliz Dia de la Madre.

The May issue of a local paper, the Hill Rag, has a nice review of my book and an announcement of a talk and reading at Riverby Books, 7 pm, May 26, 417 E. Capitol, (202) 543-4342.

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez reports that he already has 100,000 Twitter followers and he hopes to add his mentor and role model, Fidel Castro, to that list.

In Honduras, a Truth Commission has been set up with US and other international support to investigate the ousting of President Manuel Zelaya last June. Zelaya supporters have dubbed the commission a farce and have vowed not to cooperate.

My interpretation work continues to be a source of energy, concern, and enlightenment. One of my unemployment appeal clients (himself here legally under Temporary Protected Status) was worried about his teenage son, who had come to this country illegally because of fear of being forced to join a gang in his native El Salvador. Now the son is scheduled to appear before a judge in immigration court, who is likely to send him back. The father, now jobless, does not have the means to hire a lawyer to help defend his son.

In a child welfare case where the Spanish-speaking mother could only visit her four children, now in foster care, once a week at a public agency, I had an experience that was a first for me. The three younger children were bilingual, but the oldest, who was deaf, knew only English sign language. So imagine a scene where I am there as a Spanish-English interpreter and the older daughter has a sign-language interpreter in the same room. The mother could only communicate with her older daughter via the two of us. Oh, and a social worker was also present who needed to know what everyone was saying. My head was spinning after two hours of that.

As long as Honduras was in throes of the Zelaya affair, I wasn’t sure what my future relationship with that country would be. But now that matters seem to be settling down, I want to move forward, using book proceeds to help finance my Honduras projects.

As most blog readers already know, I’ve been back to Honduras six times since I left at the end of 2003, helping out with a number of medical brigades, including International Health Services of Minnesota, Operation Smile, and several others. The school for the blind in Teguc and the adult center for the blind in Santa Lucia, as well as the rehab center in Choluteca, are Honduran facilities that I regularly visit and assist both financially and with material donations.

Bessy, a paraplegic woman living in Gausaule, at the Nicaraguan border, is someone else I have assisted, although she caught me unaware last time, reporting that a footrest had fallen off her wheelchair (the one we got for her with Timoteo, as in my book) and she couldn’t go out any more. When she told me about the problem, the temp was 103F, with no light inside her hut (see my earlier photo on this blog), and Rev. Daniel was standing outside, perspiring heavily and waiting impatiently. I couldn’t think of what to do except press a few bills into her hand, which was no solution, and I doubt that she or her family can solve the problem themselves or they would have already done so. And now, with Daniel back in Guatemala, I don’t know what I will be able to do next time I go, because he had a vehicle, however, old and rattling, which he was willing to put to my service if I paid for fuel. I am wondering now if Bessy could have had her feet tied together somehow onto the remaining footrest and gone around like that. She does have sufficient arm strength to propel the wheelchair. But that possible temporary solution did not occur to me at the time.

So, next time I go, probably not until Feb. 2011, I will have to do something about Bessy. But I sincerely hope that she will figure something out herself and not remain for a whole year without leaving her hut, lying in bed, reading the Bible to herself aloud, as when I first found her before we got her the wheelchair. But, of course, this is seven years later and it was a used wheelchair to begin with, so it’s not surprising that something gave out. However, even as disabled as she is and without any income except what her mother earns by selling produce at the border, she needs to try to think about a solution for herself and not wait passively for someone else to figure it out for her. A problem with all these folks for me is that I have no communication with them until I can actually locate them in person—no phone, no Internet, no mail. I never know how I will find them next time—or even whether I will find them. Santos, the elderly man with Parkinson’s, has completely disappeared. Where did he go, did he die? I just don’t know and his former neighbors seem not to know either. I have come to rely on technology for communication since I live at such a distance from Honduras. But that doesn’t work with many of these folks.

I have plenty to do already every time I go to Honduras, but next time, I would like to add an education project, that is, paying higher education fees for three young people graduating from high school this coming November. They are all age 17 and all have been mentioned in my book and on this blog. I tried to interest Kiwanis in helping them, but was told that the organization is pulling back, not adding new commitments. I serve on the board of an organization that has been working in education in Honduras and Kenya, but the director and founder now prefers to focus exclusively on Kenya. I had hoped my book might sell better than it has, allowing me to realize this education plan, but, so far, although the book has received high praise, that has not translated into big sales. On Sun. May 2, for the first time, I sat out all day at a table outside Tortilla Cafe near the Eastern Market, selling my book with the permission of the Salvadoran proprietor. How many books did I sell? A grand total of two. At this rate, it will take years to move the inventory still being held in boxes in my living room.

So I’m asking my blog readers, most of whom I hope are also readers of my book, that if you liked it, please help promote it among your family and friends, ask them to order it on to give as a gift to their college, association, or public library, or to their mother or grandmother for Mother’s Day, because Mom and Grandma can be Peace Corps volunteers too, just as I was. Let’s get this ball rolling!
Here are the three prospective high school grads whom I hope to help by paying their education fees directly to the facility where they will enroll, because I don’t want their very needy families to talk them out of the money and prevent their realizing their dreams and potential.

First is Jorge, an ill-fated young man living with his family in Choluteca, whose left-hand fingers were amputated some years ago, as you already know from my book. When I saw him last Feb., he confessed a desire to learn computer science after he graduates from high school. He is a bright kid, understandably sensitive about his missing fingers, which he hides as much as possible. He also gave me a marijuana plant amulet, which I didn’t recognize as such! His mother died and his father remarried and now has several younger children.

Second is Neris, whose photo with me years ago adorns the lower right-hand corner of my book’s cover. Her farewell letter to me is also reproduced after the end of the book. Last I saw her, you will recall from my recent Feb. trip blog, her mother had moved out of their home in El Triunfo to be with a new boy friend, leaving Neris in charge of the family’s shop, as well as her younger siblings. That Neris has continued in high school despite these new responsibilities is a real tribute to her.

And, finally, there’s Marciel, one of 11 children, whose mother was at the Choluteca hospital during my last visit, staying at the bedside of a brother badly burned by firecrackers that had gone off in his pocket. I hope that he survived. Marciel herself has facial scars from earlier burns from an overturned kerosene lamp. After being self-conscious about attending school because of her scars, she is now reportedly doing well in her studies.

If the book should really take off, I’d also like to provide more educational help to Sandra and Arcenia, two of my ortho patients, whose photos have appeared in my book and who have been mentioned on this blog. But let’s start first with the three already mentioned, who, at least, will have finished high school by the time I plan to go again to Honduras in Feb 2011.

Their photos are shown above, Jorge, R, with his father and Rev. Daniel, L; Marciel cooking in her mother's stead; and Neris with Daniel and her pet cat.

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