Friday, October 10, 2014

How can this be?

The town is small.  The municipality is large.  The small government clinic attends to the needs of people who do not have healthcare.  These are people who work in the informal economy and much of the care is centered around pregnancy, birth, the care of young children and of old women.  A few men come in for check-ups and vaccines.  This community north of San Salvador includes a broad range of living conditions, and the care area is huge.

Today we accompanied the chief doctor, the head nurse and a health promoter as they did a home visit to investigate the death of a 2 year old boy who reportedly died of malnutrition.  We were told to prepare to walk a long distance.  We were told to carry water.  We were told that the child died because the family did not care for him properly.  There were many things which were not told.  The reality of this dead child's short life and the lives of others in the home leaked out secret by secret, breaking our hearts bit by bit.

A little boy was the first to greet us.  He is six years old, very small with stick thin legs and arms.  He wore a "necklace" which was an old waistband from a pair of men's underwear.  The health promoter pointed out his little stool where he could sit with us on the veranda in front of the adobe house.  The grandma moved the stool to the other side of the veranda, away from us.

The doctor took a stapled pack of papers out of her metal clipboard case - the baby's medical chart.   On the back of the last page, she began to take notes:  the exact age of the deceased (2 years, 2 months and some days), the circumstances of his birth, the history of illness, the comings and goings of the family members.  The baby's mom is 19 years old.  The grandma cares for the six year old.  His mom and dad were both murdered.  The grandfather works.  There is no food.  The goats gave milk, but now they don't.  There are plants all around, but there is no food.  We saw a sack of grain in the house, but there is no food.

The health promoter and nurse had been to the home many times in an effort to educate the family and care for the boys.   As the doctor asked questions of the grandmother, the nurse opened her big red bag and pulled out an apple.  She gave it the little guy; then out came some packages of vanilla cookies and some grapes.  He held it all in a little bag, and would not eat anything despite much urging.

A field of low growth and a family of goats stood between us and a less-sturdy home made from corrugated tin.  As we talked, a young woman quietly emerged from the tin house and walked toward us.  She wore a faded yellow Sponge Bob shirt, and a tattered maroon skirt which was decorated with a few dirty stickers.  She sat on a concrete block behind my friend.  We rearranged the plastic chairs a little so that she was in the circle.  In a few moments, she was standing behind my friend, hiding.

"How old are you?" the doctor asked the grandma.  She did not know.  "What year were you born?"  The grandma paused and said, "I cannot say.  My man has the papers and it is for him to say."

"What happened on the day the baby died?"

"He was tired from breathing.  He was making a noise.  I put him on the bed.  I left to do something.  When I came back, he was dead," the grandma recalled.

"So, you left him to do something and then he was dead?"

"He died in his mother's arms."

It wasn't clear who was caring for him when he died.  It was clear that the mom, hiding behind my friend, was choking down her emotions.  The doctor asked questions about the nurse's visits and the promoter's visits.  The investigation concluded, and the team focused on talking to the two women about nutrition for the 6-year old.  I walked over and crouched near the little boy.  He was enjoying the company of the dogs and ducks who wandered about the patio.  "He can eat duck soup, or fruit from the garden or a little bit of flour"  I walked over and crouched down next to his seat.

"Are the ducks your friends? Like the dogs?  What do the ducks say?  Quack, quack..." I made funny duck sounds.  The little guy smiled.  I quacked and woofed and he giggled a little.  I pulled a grape from his bag and encouraged him to try it.  The doctor had finished her questions and she came over, pulled a cookie from its wrapper.  He took a tiny bite.  The 19-year old never said a word.  She smiled a little, all of her front teeth were gone and her back teeth were rotted black.  I slipped over to her corner and whispered in her ear,  "Do you have someone to talk to?  A pastor or priest?"  She nodded.  "You can talk to the health promoter or the nurse, whomever you trust.  You have the right to live your life."

We walked a distance away from the house, and I turned and motioned to the sad mother whose baby had died from malnutrition.  She paused and waved a little bit, posed with a slight smile, and I took a photo of her standing half-hidden behind the pila (concrete sink).  I turned and walked down the mud path past the latrine with no walls, to the barbed wire gate, and down the muddy rock trail to the road.
The health promoter needed to visit additional homes.  She headed up the hill, carrying the vaccine box and waving good-bye.

The rest of our team turned and headed back to a main road.  We walked quietly for a bit.  "I was there for the vigil," the nurse shared.  "There was no light, no candle and not one flower on the caja (coffin or box).  The family did not even have one cup of coffee for the guests.  I went and bought some things for a proper vigil."

"The father is a big man, very dark  Sometimes I would come and there would be a huge quantity of dogs viciously barking.  They were there when the man was there.  He controls everything.  No one can talk except him.  The boy would not eat anything unless the grandma said it was OK.

The grandmother had told us that she and her husband slept apart.  "He's too hot," she complained.  We laughed awkwardly at the time.  We walked back toward the main road.  The nurse spoke quietly:  "The husband is in a sexual relationship with his own daughter.  We think he is with the three daughters, the one out with him now is beautiful so he takes her.  This one is not so beautiful, but he is with her when he is at home.  The baby was his child.  There was another baby that died when it was six months old.  Neither that one nor this one had a proper funeral.  I was there.  No flowers, no candles, no coffin.  The body was put in a cardboard box, like an animal.  He buried the box in the yard.  No cemetery. Like an animal."

We were all worried about the little boy who would not eat even a grape without permission.  The nurse said the grandma would eat that food.  The boy has no one to care for him because his parents were murdered.  His mother was pregnant and very large when she was killed.  We asked if it the deaths were related to gang violence.  The nurse said it may have been that, or some kind of internal justice.  The baby she was carrying was probably the grandfather's.

The more that was revealed about this family's horrific existence, the more we struggled to figure out how this could be.  Where were the police?  Where is the protection for the daughters, and the little boy?  "We could make a denunciation," said the doctor, "but we have no evidence, only suspicions.  The threats will then come to us and we will lose our lives."

Later in the day we sat in on a big group meeting at the civil defense/youth center.  The doctor spoke about the morning's investigation.  The police will probably try to investigate, but they will have to be careful not to cause trouble for the medical team.

In the meantime, a little boy and a family of women live under the oppression of the grandfather,  We carry with us the tragedy of this family and ask,  how can this be?


Monday, October 6, 2014

Super Health Promoter!

We drove down the second most bumpy road of the day.  It was a long distance from the clinic, too far to walk for a child or for a mom who is weak from illness.  It's no wonder the mom missed her appointment.  The doctor or the health promoters sometimes walk to visit the patient, but with today's access to the health ministry's pickup truck, the team was able to drive.  As we bumped along, my friend and I almost wondered if it would be easier on our bodies to walk than to be jolted side to side, despite the hot sun.

The two of us are shadowing a community-based family health team (called an "ECO").  Healthcare reform was implemented during the Funes administration, and the Salvadoran government continues to work to increase the number of ECO's in rural communities.  This ECO is based in a converted community center and depends on the cooperation and fund-raising capacity of the local mayor's office, community leaders and the medical team in order to be sustainable.  The team is made up of a doctor, a nurse, three health promoters and a utility guy who runs the appointment desk, does the cleaning, dispenses medications from the pharmacy and drives the pick-up.

We arrived at the patient's home in the mid-afternoon.  We hopped out of the truck and were greeted by cows.  Big cows.  "Two months ago, a guy got killed by this bull," the doctor told us.  "Really?" we asked.  She was dramatic.  She did not want to through the cow pen to get to the house.  Suddenly one of the health promoters, a small man with bright blue eyes and a lively spirit, leaped over the barbed wire and ran through the cow yard waving his arms and shouting "yee-ha" like a cowboy.  He ran to the house to see if the cows could be relocated.  The nickname we gave him earlier that day, "Super-Promotor de Salud," was sure to stick after this crazy stunt.

A few minutes later, Super Heath Promoter returned with bad news, the cows could not be moved.  He told us the cows would not do anything to us, so, one by one we ducked through a space in the barbed wire and walked by the cows.  The yard was soft with black dirt and a little bit steamy with fresh manure.  The doctor, my friend and I were welcomed by the patient into her home.  "Come in, sit down," she insisted.  We sat on plastic chairs.  The only light coming into the adobe house was through the open door.  A small table in the corner was covered with a torn red lace cloth and piled high with the family's belongings.  a few things hung from the ceiling.  The doctor and the patient spoke quietly.  Diabetes, hypertension, HIV, dental problems.  The dentist comes once per month.  She would see the dentist on Monday, but did not want to stay for an appointment with the doctor because she wanted to go to her daughter's school for the Day of the Child festivities.  The next clinic day would be Thursday.  "Will I live until Thursday?" asked the woman.  She was serious.  "Come on Wednesday.  I will make a special time for you," said the doctor.

A young face had been peering around the curtain to the back room of the house.  As the doctor and her patient finished talking, the little girl came to sit by her mom.  "Good afternoon," we smiled, "nice to meet you."  We asked if she would like to have her picture taken.  Her mom sent her back to get her shoes.  She stood in the doorway and she smiled for her photo.  No one from far away had ever visited before.  No one had ever taken the little girl's photo.  Maybe the doctor can take a printed copy to the little girl.

We were thanked for our visit.  What a surprise to have guests from so far away.  We picked our way back through the cows and the poop.  We ducked through the barbed wire.  We got back into the truck.  "Will she come for her appointment?"

It's a long way to walk.

 

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Corn Fiesta

After marching with flags, balloons and a few thousand other Lutherans through the hot, sunny streets of San Salvador; after listening to speeches, admiring community banners, honoring the king and queen of the national youth group, singing a couple of songs and clapping wildly for the youth dancers; after listening to the story of the Subversive Cross; after meandering over to Pizza Hut for a quick lunch and a bit of luscious air conditioning ... we were ready to celebrate corn.

Every year, the Corn Fiesta is celebrated on the afternoon of the Anniversary Celebration for the Salvadoran Lutheran Church.  A few years ago, the planning for the Corn Fiesta was turned over to the youth.  Maybe this is a way in which to make an old tradition seem fun for the younger crowd.  As the afternoon sun baked the pavement, gringos piled out of their little buses and Salvadorans emerged from their community trucks and cars, and headed toward the covered area near the big portrait of Jesus.  People gathered in the circle of plastic resin chairs. There was a little bit of waiting-around-time, an opportunity to meet up with delegations from different parts of the US and Europe.  You never know who you might meet at the Corn Fiesta!  This year:  Bavaria, Washington DC, California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Bishop Gomez traditionally begins the fiesta by recognizing the Mayan ancestors' cultivation of corn and their story of creation in which humans were formed from corn.  Thanks and praise were given to God for the harvest. A drought has destroyed the corn crop in about half of the countryside.  It seems difficult to celebrate when the food situation is so dire for so many, and might explain why several Salvadoran communities were not able to participate in the day's events.

The youth band from Soyapango provided dance music - not your average corn-fiesta-folk-music, but some pretty hard-core rock.  Refreshments were served:  the central moment of the fiesta, when each guest receives a hot ear of corn wrapped in a small white napkin and rich atol de elote (corn milk) served in a styrofoam cup.  As we sat in a patch of shade munching on the corn, someone commented, "This corn is dense.  It really fills you up.  It's a meal."  I think that pretty much describes the role of corn on the Salvadoran table...whether eaten off the cob or as tortillas or tamales, corn is a high-calorie food which fills you up.  Salvadorans are people of the corn.

Most of our group loved the corn milk.  Seriously, these particular Lutheran Church women make the best corn milk I have ever tasted.  It is smooth, not chunky, with real cinnamon and no floating corn silk. My opinion aside, one of our guys just could not drink it, "I just don't like this stuff."

His comment made me think about the previous August.  During that trip, our delegation spent a lot of time visiting families in their homes.  Everywhere we went, as a gesture of hospitality, families offered us plastic chairs in the shade, boiled ears of corn from their milpas, and styrofoam cups full of steaming atol de elote.  We spent a lot of afternoons picking corn silk from our teeth and sweating our way through hot cups of corn milk.  Near the end of the week Pastor Santiago whispered in my ear, "The group is really eating all the corn!  I am surprised.  Are they all OK?" We just had to laugh about the corn and corn milk which was brought out everywhere we went!  We were always so full!   I did write down one comment in my journal from the last day:  "It's just so hard to drink another cup of this stuff you have to chew!"  On the next page is a big stain labeled with the words, "Julia's corn was here."

People created from corn, corn tamales, corn pupusas, corn tortillas, ears of corn, corn milk, corn fiestas...that's a lot of corn!

Like most people in the Americas, I have a relationship with corn.  When I was a kid, there were a couple of weeks every summer during which we ate corn for lunch and corn for dinner, ears of corn drenched in butter and salt.  We purchased bright yellow sweet corn from local farmers - small ears for the kids and big fat ones for Mom and Dad.  Sometimes the corn would be a little tough and my dad would say, "This is field corn."  We chewed our way through it, hoping the next kettle-full would be tender and sweet.  We froze corn for the winter.  Today, the corn at my grocery store is pale yellow and white and every ear looks the same.  I buy corn from small farms.  I think about genetically modified seeds, mono-culture farming, corn production for animal feed, ethanol production and the impact chemical farming practices have on the environment and our health.  I have learned some things about corn production in the Americas.  I need to learn more.

The Mayan ancestors established corn as the source of daily bread, as the stuff of survival for the people of El Salvador. The Corn Fiesta brings honor to this simple grain which provides Salvadorans with calories and full stomachs. At this year's fiesta, after the refreshments, the youth drum corps from the bishop's church played some high-energy music.  Dancers gathered to step and jump to the rhythms.  It was a great testimony to the rich energy which corn provides for the people.

The Corn Fiesta happens on a very full and busy day, both for the Salvadorans and the visiting delegations.  The fiesta provides time to give thanks and celebrate and taste and enjoy.  It is an honor and a blessing to share in the celebration.  I believe it is also a responsibility to reflect upon the experience and upon our own relationships with corn.

During this year's visit, our delegation ate corn with a family at an organic farm where Bishop Gomez provided seeds that had been saved by indigenous people.  The site provides classes for farmers to help them move away from chemical-dependent seeds and practices.  There, we learned about compost and natural insect repellent -- knowledge we can apply in our own gardens in the US.  At this year's fiesta, we ate and drank corn which was grown in a large organic garden, tended by students and adults and which produces food for the meal program at the Lutheran homeless shelter.  This garden is supported in part through Lutheran World Relief.

When we eat corn, when we eat animals which eat corn, when we use products made from corn, it is good to ask ourselves, where did the corn come from?  how was it grown?  how did its production impact the environment?  how did its production impact small farmers and family farmers?  Whether we are connected to the Mayans through ancestry or geography, as Americans we are all people of the corn.



Monday, August 18, 2014

Let's Play

"Want to play Los Soldaditos?" my little buddy asked.  He grabbed the spiral Spiderman notebook and a pencil.  He turned to a right-hand blank page.  "OK, you draw about 4 little soldiers on different parts of the page, like this."  He drew 4 stick-figure soldiers in strategic locations on the page.

"Then you make 2 or 3 little tanks, like this."  He drew 2 small rectangles with little guns sticking out off of their sides.  Satisfied, he looked up and said, "OK, you are the guerrillas."

He turned the page over and then turned another page.  On the back side of the second page, my little buddy drew 4 stick figure soldaditos and 2 tanks in strategic locations.  These were the "armed forces."

"Here are the rules," he explained, "each soldier or tank gets 3 shots.  You take a quick look at the other person's page, then draw an arch to where you make your shot.  Color really hard with your pencil to show where your shot lands.  Then turn the page, and see the dent in the paper (this is the back of the opponent's drawing) and color that darker.  When you look at the other person's page, you can see the mark through the paper and that is where your shot landed."  His first shot took out one of my tanks.  My first shot was a miss.

This game reminded me of Battleship.  "Where did you learn this game?" I asked.

"I made it up," said my little buddy.  He makes up lots of games.  He entertains himself while his mom is at work.  He has missed so much school because of gang harassment and moving around that he cannot re-enter school until the new year begins, and he will have to repeat this year.

"Good shot," he said, as he made an X over a tank I just hit.

We lobbed shots back and forth until I only had one little soldier left and three tries to hit his last tank and little soldier.  "Let me help you," my little buddy said.  He didn't want the guerrillas to lose.  The armed forces made some bad shots so that the guerrillas could catch up.  He took a bonus shot on behalf of the guerrillas, but when he missed he said, "Oops" (his new favorite word) and declared the game a tie.  When he plays by himself, I think Los Soldaditos usually ends in a tie.

"Now let's play checkers!" my little buddy said. He turned to another page in the notebook...




Friday, August 1, 2014

Borders

When God created the world God did not mark it up with borders, but borders were probably inevitable. Creation includes the food chain.  Creation includes weather. Creation includes geographic separations. Creatures seek out safe places to nest, to sleep, to protect their babies. Many creatures hang out in groups.  There is strength and comfort in that. Creatures need to protect themselves and their resources. Borders make sense.

Lake Suchitlan - Feb 2013
Migration is also part of creation.  Birds that hang out in Canada on sunny July days make their way to Lake Suchitlan in El Salvador in the winter.  Native peoples followed the bison across North America in order to sustain themselves.  Famines in Europe led boatfuls of people to cross the ocean.  Violence in Cambodia led migrants across another ocean.  There is that within creatures that calls them to move, sometimes to survive, sometimes to thrive.  Borders don't make sense.

This summer, my niece needed a job.  Like many college grads, she is searching for a way to survive until she finds that career in which she will thrive.  Prospects for a 2-3 month job near home in the middle of the USA were difficult to find, so she took a childcare job in Spain.   The job did not turn out to be all sunshine and roses, but she had a good place to live, was well fed, got to see new places and made a little money.  As US citizens, we take it for granted that if we have the resources, we can hop on a plane and move ourselves to find work or take a break from work or learn about the world.  How many times have I heard, "Your US passport is your ticket to anywhere," or "Your US passport is your guarantee of safety."  Of course this is not true if you fit a certain ethnic profile or you struggle economically.  Still, for my niece it was pretty easy to migrate.

The economy in Spain is in a slow recovery.  Their unemployment rate for recent college grads is well above the 12% rate recently cited in the US.  I can imagine that Spanish politicians and parents and young adults might have a little attitude about a US 20-something coming in and taking a job which could have gone to a Spanish citizen.  Yet, my niece has a skill that was needed - fluency in US English and in Spanish.  Spanish visa and immigration policies allowed for the easy crossing of borders for work.  My niece entered, worked, and went home to her family.

This management of the border makes sense.  Enter, work, go home to the family, repeat as necessary.  Let's face it, we have all kinds of work that either we cannot do because of lack of qualified persons (been in a physics lab lately?) or deficit in the quantity of persons needed to do the work (as in agriculture).  The jobs are not all sunshine and roses, but they provide money for families and opportunities to learn.

Most families, wherever they live, want to be together in their homes.  Most families will sacrifice some time together so that a parent can travel for work.  What would it be like...for the thousands of Salvadoran children who have traveled alone to the US southern border so that they can be united with mommy or daddy or both...if the US had efficient, functional immigration policies which allowed parents to enter, work, go home, and return to work if need be?  I know, many critics will counter with the argument that everyone will overstay their visas and no one will go home.  But, if it were not so crazy difficult to get a visa, if people didn't have to sneak into the US to find work, if we figured out a way to bring all of those who are living in the shadows out with a plan that would preserve families, I believe the separation culture of sneaking and overstaying could be broken.

Children are coming to the border, as are adults for many reasons, but it has become clear that one of the main reasons is because they want to be with their parents.  As one Salvadoran woman said to me, "It is not natural for creatures to abandon their young.  The young are not protected."  (She always calls people "creatures.")

A few years ago, a friend came to me overcome with worry.  His wife had left to go work in the US some time before to help support the family.  He could not go due to health reasons.  She could not risk returning to El Salvador and losing her work in the US.  The marriage suffered.  They agreed to divorce.  Their two little girls missed their mom.  Unknown to the father, the mom arranged for the girls to travel to the US with a coyote.  The dad woke up one morning and the girls told him they were leaving.  They were age 12 and age 8.  He could not stop them.  At the time he talked with me, he had not heard from them for 10 days.  The last he had heard was that they were walking across Guatemala.
A few days later, he learned that they had safely made it to the US.  Now they live with their mom.  They miss their dad, but there is no way they can come to see him.  They send him photos.  Photos can cross borders.  I think God intended that creatures could too.

 


Thursday, July 31, 2014

The "Madrina Letters" Part 3

The following letters are not real, but the facts are real.  Names have been changed.  Several young people who have known me since they were little ones call me "Madrina" - it is a term of endearment which means "Godmother."


Dear Madrina,


Our prayers were answered!  I have work.  I am very excited.  I will start on Monday.  I will care for a cancer patient in her home - two 24 hour shifts per week.  It is a probationary job, but I feel really good about it because I am reminded of the care I gave my mother.  My cousin will babysit for my son and I can pay her too.

God bless you!
Your Amiga
__________

Dear Amiga,

Congratulations!  We are so happy for you!  You have a gift for caring for people who are very ill.  May God bless you as your new life begins!

Your Madrina
__________

Dear Madrina,

I lost my job.  I cared for the woman for three days.  She died.  Now the agency won't pay me because I did not work for a whole month.  I know this is wrong, but I have to move forward.  I can't be sad because I have a new job!  I was talking to a lady at church and told her about my work as a nurse.  She said she needed a nurse to care for a family member.  I have already started working!  I work six days a week from 7 am to 5 pm.  It is difficult with my son - he will have to stay home alone.  But I will give him a chore list and studying to do and he will do it.  

God provides!
Your Amiga.
__________

Dear Amiga,

You are right - God does provide!  It is not right that you were not paid.  Yet, the care you gave your patient for 3 days was surely a beautiful thing for her.  God must have placed you in her life for a reason.  We can't always understand the way things work out.  It is good that you are continuing forward with your new life.

Your Madrina

Friday, July 25, 2014

The "Dear Madrina Letters" Part 2

The following letters are not real, but the facts are real.  Names have been changed.  Several young people who have known me since they were little ones call me "Madrina" - it is a term of endearment which means "Godmother"
________________________________________________
Dear Madrina,

I am wondering if you showed the doctors up north the photo that you took of my leg.  I am so ashamed of my skin.  I only wear jeans.  Let me know what the doctors say.

My big brother dropped out of school.  We need him to work to help support the family.  He is working at a mechanic shop.  Maybe you did not hear that my dad left for the United States.  I am worried about him because we have not heard from him for a long time.

My little sister and I continue with our studies.  Did you like the necklace I made for you?

Love, 
Yenny

Dear Yenny,

I do love the necklace that you made for me!  I wear it often and people ask me where I got it. I tell them that you made it for me.

The doctors here do not know what kind of infection you have on your leg.  It looks like it might be under the skin.  They say that you need to go to see a doctor in your town.  Can your mom take you there?

I remember the time my husband and kids and I stayed at your house.  You and your brother and sister were pretty little!  I remember your brother was taking recorder lessons at the church and he liked to play for us.  I will never forget how you all slept on the floor, using your clothes as a cushion so that we could sleep in your beds.  That was one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for us.

I am very worried about your dad.  Families at our church are praying for him.  

Love, 
Madrina
______________________________________________

I hoped Yenny's dad was not lost.  He had tried to catch rides and walk to make his way to the United States twice before.  One time, he made it across the border and worked for a few months before returning home.  He has family in Virginia.  He asked me if Virginia is close to Canada - he was thinking of going to Canada.  I drew a map of North and Central America with the states and we talked about the long distances he would need to cover.  I thought maybe this would deter him, but no.  He wanted a good job so he could provide for his family.

Dear Madrina,

My dad came home.  He is in bad shape.  The coyote took his money and beat him up and left him in the desert to die.  I don't know how he made it home.  He can hardly move.  My mom said that the whole experience made his disease much worse.  He has Parkinson's disease.  What if he can't work?  Our uncle has a car repair shop in the north part of El Salvador and my brother went to work there.  At least he is away from the gangs.  Our street is bad.  We can't go outside after dark.  I need to go to a different school.  

Love,
Yenny

Dear Yenny,

It was great to see you during my recent visit.  It seems like your new school is very full of students.  It must be difficult to concentrate when your classes meet in the common area.   It's nice that you have a place outside for gym class.  It was fun to be at school on the day when the government gave out shoes to the students!

After we left the community I was so surprised to see your brother standing by the road nearby.  We stopped when we recognized him and I had a chance to talk with him about his work and his girlfriend.  It was good that your relatives could help your dad set up the little shop by the side of the road to sell things for cars.  The pastor bought a steering wheel cover and your brother installed it, which made him pretty happy.  Your dad seemed a little more steady and able to speak a little more clearly.  Thanks be to God the local clinic has the medicine he needs.  

You are all growing up so quickly.  Stay safe and listen to your mom!

Love,
Madrina

Maybe big brother is in the gang, and maybe not.  I couldn't tell.  Hopefully Yenny's dad makes enough money so he can pay the weekly "rent" which allows him to have is store alongside the road.