An SOS mother has been hanging up clothes in the courtyard -…
An interivew with Mariana García Perez, Born 18.1.1949, Guatemala
An SOS mother has been hanging up clothes in the courtyard at Children's Village Jocotán, Guatemala
To go with this picture I have an interview with Mariana García Perez, who was born in 1949 in Guatemala:
An Introduction to Mariana "I had the idea because I loved being with children and had already worked with them. I found out that these children were motherless and thought they needed the help of a mother." Mariana is an SOS Children's Village mother in Guatemala, who has been there right from the start. She is a prime example of one of a first generation SOS mother.
She is a mother with "mucho amor" for the children, a mother with all her being. At least that is what Mariana is now, but as she says, she used to be irascible and impatient. Living with the children has changed her. When Mariana started working for SOS Children's Villages, she had completed three years of primary schooling. During her career as an SOS Children's Village mother, she has quietly caught up on her education. Even during our long conversations, this subject hardly ever comes up. Mariana enthuses about her training to be an SOS mother and about the constant in-service training she still receives.
For many women, who take on the profession of an SOS mother, it is a positive step forward .In the developing countries, this starts with the fact that the women get access to education, as well as the chance to be a working woman and, in some countries, to be able to live on their own. For the women who come from the poorest backgrounds, being an SOS mother means they have taken a step up socially, have material security, even into old age, and receive training and prestige as a working woman. These women have taken the opportunities presented to them and are able to pass this on to the children in their care.
The Story of Her Life "Even if we did not have very much, at least we had something." My father's name was Pio García and my mother was called Amalia Perez. We were four children, two boys and two girls. Now there are only two of us still alive, one brother and myself. I was born in Dos Quebradas and was the third of my parents' children. My father died when I was twelve years old. By then there were only three children living at home, because my eldest brother had already married. We worked together with my mother in the fields. My older sister stayed at home and did the housework, because she did not like working in the fields. Then she got married. My job was to look after my married brother's animals and to help with the coffee bean harvest.
When I was seventeen, one of the sisters said that I could work in the school. I did the washing there, cleaned and made sure that the children's clothes were clean. I liked working for the children. When the children were older, between twelve and fifteen years old, the mother superior sent me out with them to work in the fields as well. Time passed. I worked there for eleven years and in the meantime my mother died.
There was no school and no teacher in the place where I grew up. However, my sister read an advert in the paper, which said that it was possible to learn by doing a correspondence course. I was already able to write a few letters and so I filled out the piece of paper and asked for the correspondence course from the capital. One day I received all the papers. They sent me all the books. So I worked all day and learned at night, but I only got as far as the third year.
I enjoyed working with the children for eleven years. Then I had problems and went to the town of Chiquimula to work. I was there when the first houses were built here in the SOS Children's Village. One day, Auntie Luisa (Note: Luise Sinnhuber was then the project director for SOS Children's Villages in Guatemala) came to visit Father Gabriel and he recommended me to her. Then she came to Chiquimula and spoke to me. That's how I came to SOS Children's Villages. Father Gabriel convinced me to take the job, even though I was a bit afraid. At first I didn't want to take the job, but he came twice and told me that I would be able to go on a course and that I should at least give it a try. So I filled out the forms. A fortnight later, I got the letter saying that I had been accepted and could attend the course in Quetzaltenango.
Could you describe your parents in more detail for us? My father was a farmer. He worked the land. He grew maize, black beans, animal feed and sugar cane. He made unrefined sugar from the sugar cane. He did that every year by hand. In order to get the juice out of the sugar cane you had to use three sticks; one big one and two smaller ones. One man stood at each side, the sugar cane was in the middle and two oxen walked in circles to get the juice out. The sugar juice was then cooked in a big tub. You needed a lot of wood so that it cooked hard enough to turn into syrup. Finally, the syrup was poured into pipes where it cooled and hardened. My father was a small man. He was thin but was a good worker and enjoyed working. He had four brothers and four sisters.
My mother was from Muyurcó. She was also one of nine children, five boys and four girls. She also liked working. She used to get up with my sister at three in the morning to grind corn on a stone. That was hard work. She worked the land and weeded the maize field. I used to work together with my mother a lot. We gathered in the beans and picked the coffee beans. Even if we did not have very much, at least we had something.
Can you remember your grandparents? I can only vaguely remember my grandparents from my father's side. On my mother's side I only knew my grandmother. She was a tall, thin woman and she spoke Chortí, the indigenous language. My parents couldn't speak it any more because my grandfather couldn't speak Chortí. My grandparents were the same as my father - they were farmers.
Are you still in touch with members of your family? One of my uncles from my father's side is still alive. He sometimes comes to visit me when I am at my little house. My brother also visits me regularly on my days off. My younger brother is dead. He was dragged off and killed by the guerrillas. My big sister is also dead already. We were neighbours in Camotán and her children, three girls and three boys, still live there. I sometimes visit them.
Do you know a woman who is a role model for you? I admire one of my nieces: she was ten years old when my brother, her father, disappeared from the face of the earth. We didn't know what had happened to him. He just disappeared. Two years later, the mother also deserted the children. My niece was the eldest and she took on the role of the mother. They lived with my other brother, and she brought up her brothers and sisters. She only got married when the other children didn't need her anymore. She is the woman I admire most.
Do you have a good friend that you can talk to? Yes, I have one friend here at work and another one outside. That's my niece, but she is like a friend to me. I talk about everything that happens outside of the SOS Children's Village with her. I think that everybody needs somebody that they can talk to.
What are your particular strengths? A sense of responsibility. I am responsible for everything I do here. And I try to keep everything nice and clean. Order and responsibility are very important to me.
SOS family at the lunchtable at Children's Village Tarija, Bolivia
The SOS School Tarija, by assisting 620 students and almost 300 families, becomes a very important space to identify risky situations that affect children, mothers or the family as a whole. Through the social work the teachers do in their role as Social Process Facilitators, they gather and identify the requirements and needs of the participating families and especially the situations where the children's and adolescents' rights are violated. One of those children was Gover, an eight-year-old boy who is just in third grade of primary school.
"It's early in the morning and I must go out with my father, it's Saturday and I don't have to go to the school, I see him and I'm just very sad .., he can hardly walk; lately, I see his feet are swollen so he can stand up just with the help of his cane; however, if we don't go out, we won't have anything to eat. Thank god, there are solidary people who give us some coins; otherwise, the little money we earn selling bags in the market on weekends wouldn't be enough as my father is already very old and he can't do anything else and my mother abandoned us a long time ago, leaving my three siblings and me with my father.
I was lucky because I entered school when I was almost seven years old, I'm already in third grade. However, my younger brother, although he's just seven years old, he cannot enter school yet because he must be with my father from Monday through Friday while I attend school.
On Thursday night, it was very cold so I couldn't attend my physical education class the next morning, and I really like it, as I had a backache because of the hardness of my bed. My teacher understood me and she told me that all the mothers and fathers of the Family Committee, included her, got organized and they decided that the money they would earn by selling the things of the kiosk during a month would be for my family. With that money, we will buy two mattresses for the two beds we have and blankets for us to be warm.
Besides, I already got my marks report and I studied hard so now I'm the best student of my class and I'll have a scholarship too so I'll continue studying and when my father can't walk anymore, I'll bring the money for my family. I tell my teacher and classmates about it during the break when we play and have fun together as those are the only moments I enjoy being a child."