Sharing her good fortune

Smithsburg girl, adopted from Guatemala, sends money to help family

Smithsburg girl, adopted from Guatemala, sends money to help family

July 18, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

The little girl who 11-year-old Lily Mackley helped lives in a one-room house in Guatemala.

Her name is Veronica Par. She is 10 and has five siblings. The youngest, 1, sleeps in the bed with the parents while the rest of the children sleep on cardboard pallets on the concrete floor. Her father earns $16 a week as a gardener. Her mother earns $2 a week by making beaded jewelry.

But thanks to Lily, who lives in Smithsburg, Veronica's family has one less thing to worry about.

In April, Lily used her birthday money to help offset Veronica's school expenses. Lily said she did it because she felt obligated to help her people.

Lily was born in Guatemala but was adopted and has lived in the United States since she was an infant. She lives with her sister, Anna, 8, who was also born in Guatemala, and her sister, Vanessa, 15, who was adopted from Canada.


"It's easy for (us), but it might not be easy for them to earn up that money," said Lily, who begins her first year at Smithsburg Middle School this fall.

In Guatemala, school can be an elusive dream for families who can't afford the supplies, said Dwight Poage, director of Mayan Families, a nonprofit charity group that helps raise money for low-income Guatemalans, especially young girls.

"Usually boys are sent to school, girls are sent to work," Poage said in a recent phone interview.

Lily donated $120 through Mayan Famillies. The organization has sponsored more than 700 children, Poage said.

Guatemela is a Central American country about the size of Tennessee.

More than half of the country's 13.3 million inhabitants are decendents of the Mayans, the native people who flourished in Guatemala long before Spanish colonizers arrived.

Today, Guatemala is characterized by wide income disparities. Violent crime because of widespread poverty remains a serious concern, according to the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, part of the U.S. Department of State.

Lily's mother, Kathie Mackley, said she looks for opportunites to keep her Guatemalan daughters in touch with their culture. All three girls attend a cultural camp in the summer. They eat Latin cuisine and attend ethnic festivals, though they are almost always held in and around Washington, D.C. The girls are also being tutored in Spanish.

Lily said someday she hopes to go to Guatemala. She said she wants to do more for her people when she gets older.

"I'm thinking one day in the future, when I'm older, I can be a volunteer for medical care or for teaching," she said.

Next birthday, she plans to hold a party. But instead of gifts, she'll ask her guests to donate money.

"I want people to think that we can all change people's lives ... just by giving money for school or just by doing something helpful," Lily said.

Mayan families

Lily Mackley, 11, of Smithsburg, was able to donate her birthday money to offset a Guatemalan girl's school costs through Mayan Families, a nonprofit organzation dedicated to helping low-income Guatemalans. Check it out online, at

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