Monday, May 28, 2012

If nothing else, a better night's sleep

Moments ago, I sent the following email to Louis Bachicha, executive vice-president of sales for Sealy Inc. in North America.
I don't know if I found the right email for him and I have no idea if he's the right man to ask for help, let alone if he'll even read this. But I came back from my usual weekend craft day at that sad, fetid foster home that I have had the great misfortune to stumble upon and I just felt like I had to do something. 
Sealy is the biggest manufacturer of mattresses in the world and has plants in El Salvador and Guatemala, both of which border Honduras. Like I told Mr. Bachicha, better beds for these kids will not turn their lives around or save them from what I fear will be much sorrow and deprivation to the end of their days. But it's something, isn't it? 
If you read this and know of a better way to make this happen, a better person at Sealy Inc. to contact, a better mattress or grade of plastic that I should be looking for, I welcome all practical advice. 

Hello, Mr. Bachicha. I'm a Canadian currently living and working in Copan Ruinas, Honduras, as a Cuso International volunteer. I have recently begun helping at what is essentially a permanent foster home for 30 children here in Copan, and I am writing to ask for your advice and guidance. 
Given that Honduras is second only to Haiti in the Americas in terms of poverty, I'm sure you can imagine what state these children live in. I go up there every weekend to do crafts and such with the children, who are desperate for activities, and many days I feel completely helpless to do anything more meaningful for these kids than to sing songs (they love the Hokey Pokey) and make paper garlands with them. This is not a place of hope, and I am quite sure there will be no happy endings for most of these children. 
However, there is one thing that I think I can do that will improve these children's lives a little every single day, and that is to secure 15 of the most durable mattresses out there wrapped in industrial-level plastic, and at least give them a little comfort every night when they go to bed. Right now, the children all sleep in a single room on 15 bunk beds. But in fact so many of the foam mattresses are either shredded, filthy and wet, covered in excrement or otherwise in a state of complete ruin at any given point in time that on Sunday when I was there, I saw that only three beds actually have mattresses on them. 
Three beds for 30 children, which has to mean that most of those children are sleeping on the filthy concrete floor. Even the wood struts for the bunk beds have been broken by heavy, heavy use and no money for repairs, making many of them unusable right now no matter what.
I can figure out how to get those wood struts repaired. I can also raise money for 15 mattresses, and I hope I can also deduce what kind of plastic you'd need to wrap them in to protect the mattresses and make the beds easy to  clean regardless of whether they were assaulted every night with the nervous fingers, restless sleeps, poor bathroom habits and the various illnesses of children ranging in age from infancy to 14 and growing up in intense poverty and deprivation. 
But what I can't figure out is how I'll ever source 15 mattresses close enough to Honduras that I can get them here, or how to get the best price so that I stand a chance of raising that money among my friends in Canada. I need help to know what type of mattress I'm even looking for - I think probably a variety they use in prisons would be most suitable! This foster home/orphanage has virtually no operating funds and is essentially a private facility run by one woman. If I hope to do this, I need to make a very careful purchase that can last for many, many years, because there simply isn't any money in that place for anything beyond the (very) simple diet that these kids eat, and certainly not for replacing mattresses.
And so I'm writing to you. I don't know what you can do, and I'm sure Sealy hears pitches like mine all the time. But I see from your Forbes profile that you're roughly the same age as me, and that we have the shared experience of working in Canada. Perhaps you're a parent, as I am, and regardless I'm sure you're a person whose heart would break just like mine does at the sight of these 30 children growing up in atrocious conditions. You know your business, and perhaps you also know how I might go about finding 15 mattresses that can withstand everything that those children will subject them to.
I hope you can help me get them better beds. It won't change the course of their lives, but I would certainly sleep better knowing that I did something to ensure that at least 8 hours of every day of these kids' lives is a little more comfortable, a little less submerged in filth and disease. Thank you for your consideration. 

Sincerely, Jody Paterson


Owen Gray said...

Let's hope Sealy has a heart as well as a bottom line.

Janice said...

Jody, I'm wondering if you might also contact Mountain Equipment Coop about camping mattresses and sleeping pads. They seem like a company that is interested in social issues. Perhaps not a permanent or best solution but given these items are lightweight and waterproof and probably could be shipped easily it might provide a start. I hope Sealy comes back with a positive response.

Janice said...

I was also just looking at sleeping mats from disaster supply stores. Perhaps something to consider. Check out this link:

Ian Lidster said...

Jody, I wrote you an email but it wouldn't go through for whatever reason, so I'll send my message to you via FB.

Lennor said...

1Dear Jody, finally I am reading your blog again. Did you get mattresses for the kids?
What a disaster...