Canadians would consider Anastasia Xon’s life ‘living on the edge’. She is used to it and has been doing so since she was a child.
Anastasia is 37 years old. She and her husband and five children live in Panajachel in the upstairs of Guillermo’s mothers house. The municipality cut off the electricity three months ago. There is a penalty that just keeps accumulating until they can afford to restore service.
Even at that Anastasia is up at 5:00 am every day to do the laundry before nine when the water supply is turned off.
Millions of Maya survive on a few torillas and a little salt, often all they can manage each day for food. Getting enough food became a serious problem for Anastasia recently. Her husband Guillermo is allergic to bee stings.
His breathing has been affected and as a fisherman he can no longer dive. A few weeks ago the Bomberos, the Fire Department, rushed him to the hospital following a diving incident fishing to feed his family.
Guillermo needs an epi-pen, but no one here seems to have heard of it. He also needs a medical alert bracelet; if he is bitten and has an allergic reaction, people will just think he’s drunk. Or worse, Anastasia says the doctors tell her his life is at risk.
Is it surprising that he also has high blood pressure? There is no money to pay for medicine.
This past week visiting Paso Por Paso members arranged to have Anastasia’s electricity restored, and for Mayan Families.org to supply Anastasia with bag of corn for torillas and a supply of beans and rice.
There is another connection with Anastasia.
During the past year she has been a Canada-Maya Scholar. The Orillia Committee thought that she was graduating in November with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and that Anastasia would then be able to seek a well paying job.
The fact is that she was eligible at this point in her studies for a technical certificate. But she would have to pay Q10,000 to sit the exams. Further, she needs two more years to complete the degree or face an increased cost for every new course she might want to study.
Anastasia’s Canada-Maya Scholarship has been extended for two more years. When she graduates she will be part of less than 1% of Maya women with a degree.
Anastasia speaks excellent English and Spanish. She also is fluent in three Maya languages. She has worked since she was nine. She knows first hand about poverty and she puts her faith in education and determination.
There are holes in Anastasia and Guillermos’s metal roof. There is no railing on the stairs. The plastic on the open windows is ragged. But soon there will be electric lights, a little more food, and the chance to study at the university.