During our eye care mission trip in August we met Juana Mendoza. Her daughter-in-law accompanied her by bus from their village in Primavera, Ixcán. She complained that her vision was very blurry and had been for several years.  She said, “my poor vision doesn’t feel good and I don’t like it anymore.”

Juana was diagnosed with cataracts and sight restoring surgery was recommended.

I’m asking for your help to restore her sight.

But, before you get your checkbook out, please read on to hear her story.

I don’t know about Juana’s early years, but when she was 15 or 16, in the early 70’s, she moved to Ixcán with her parents. She married and started a family of her own. They were poor subsistence farmers like all the other families in her village. But they had their own land and they were optimistic about the future.

That was about to change, drastically.

When the Guatemalan civil war spread to the Ixcán region, Juana had 6 children. Farming in the jungle was hard work and large families were necessary to plant, grow and harvest the crops.

In the early 1980’s the Guatemalan military moved through the Ixcán region with a series of massacres. One after another, villages were raided and burned as the soldiers methodically sought to find the opposition guerillas fighters. Hundreds of villagers were systemically killed. Juana and her family fled into the jungle, like most of the population.

This was the beginning of intense hardships for Juana and why she needs your help today.

The fleeing population, thousands of people, eventually were identified as 3 groups: some turned themselves over to the military and lived under the control of the army, some fled to Mexico, and became refugees, and some fled to the mountains and spent the next 14 years as nomads, constantly moving to stay away from the soldiers.

Juana and her family were in the latter group, called CPRs (Civilian Population in Resistance). In 1986 Juana’s husband was captured and killed by the soldiers, leaving her with the 6 children. On another occasion, one of her children, a daughter, was lost in the mountains and never found.

Juana struggled on, keeping her remaining family together as they out-witted and out-maneuvered the military to stay safe. In 1996 peace accords were signed and after 14 years Juana was able to safely bring her family out of hiding. The village of Primavera was formed for the CPRs, where they could start their lives and livelihoods over again.

The struggles Juana has endured can be seen in the creases in her face and the resilience of her tired body. Your donation to Enfoque Ixcán will bring light back into her eyes by restoring her vision with cataract surgeries.

Juana, now 67 years old, lives peacefully in a friendly, progressive village and is much more comfortable than the years she spent on the run in the mountains, but life is still difficult. One of Juana’s children has “mental problems” and she has to take care of him. And, widows in Ixcán often struggle to earn enough to keep food on the family table. Fortunately, as she kept the family safe in the mountains, so now, her children are able to share what they have with her.

When you donate to help Juana, I won’t be sending you a calendar, a pen or address labels, or some other form of swag. At Enfoque Ixcán, we use your donations strictly to help our patients with eyeglasses, eye surgeries and eye health education.

What you will receive is a warm feeling deep in your heart that comes from helping another human in need.

You’ll also have the enduring thanks from Juana whose quality of life after her cataract surgery will be improved so that she can enjoy her children and grandchildren, who she so courageously kept safe for so long.

Best wishes for a healthy and happy holiday season,
Scott Pike, OD

P.S. Every other month our Eye Health Promoters in Ixcán take patients to an eye hospital to have cataract surgeries. Your donation will assure Juana is able to travel with the next group of patients. Thanks for your donation, and thanks for caring.