05 Jan SPECIAL REPORT: Special Mothers’ Christmas Party
By Paul Kvinta
I’m not used to seeing the Special Mothers decked out in heels, jewelry, chic blouses, and done-up hair, but there they were at the annual Dorie’s Promise Christmas party this week, living large in one of the fashionable salons of Casa Ariana in downtown Guatemala City.
Gone were the blue T-shirts and sensible shoes that these hard-working women wear daily to care for three-dozen orphans. On this day waiters in tuxedos served them café con leche and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Elegant gift baskets awaited them at their tables. There was hugging and joking and laughing as breakfast was served, and Alejandra Diaz, DP’s director, stood and praised these women for their dedication and commitment. “What you do for the children is so important,” Alejandra said. “I thank you for all your hard work and all of the love you show them every day.”
I’ve been visiting Dorie’s Promise for three years now – as a volunteer and prospective dad – and there’s never been any question who the heart and soul of this organization is – the Special Mothers. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate and admire Alejandra and her dedicated office staff. I’m grateful for the cleaning crew, the drivers, and the maintenance guys. And there’s certainly no one I’d rather have a leisurely cup of coffee with than Dr. Francisco Castro, DP’s jovial and brilliant pediatrician. But as the name suggests, the Special Mothers serve as the only parents the children here have. It’s not easy work. There are mouths to feed, butts to wipe, skinned knees to bandage, and mountains of laundry to fold. I once witnessed a Special Mother skillfully bathe five three-year-olds at once, and not one of them cried. I’ve seen them resolve playground disputes that make the Palestinian-Israeli conflict look easy.
I often wonder how these women can muster the energy and love this job requires given the difficult circumstances of their lives. Many of them live in sketchy neighborhoods and have been held up at gunpoint during hour-long rides to work on clunker city buses. I know of one young woman who lost her husband in a tragic car accident, and another who lives in a house that leaks terribly when it rains. Almost all of the Special Mothers have their own children or grandchildren at home to tend to when they get off of work.
But the Christmas party offered a well-deserved respite from life’s difficulties.
“This is all so elegant,” said Mama Nico, admiring the graceful archways and exquisite paintings of Casa Ariana. Later, during the secret raffle, Nico won a pair of comfy house slippers. “I can definitely use these!” she chirped. As the party wore on, DP staffer Desi Stephens floated around the room snapping photographs, and a hilarious motivational speaker stressed the power and importance of positive thinking. Finally, as the waiters cleared plates and offered second and third rounds of coffee, Alejandra Diaz and others from her staff hugged and thanked each woman individually. I felt glad to know them, and I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate job title – Special Mother.