I first traveled to Guatemala in 2004. That trip was strictly for personal reasons, as I was going there to meet my Guatemalan-born daughter, who was in foster care at the time, as my family and I awaited final approval of our adoption. Even though I was quite focused on the task at hand, I couldn’t help but notice the many contrasts in the “Land of Eternal Spring”. Beautiful modern buildings stood side-by-side with tiny make-shift houses; and modern cars shared the roads with men and women in traditional Mayan attire leading oxen and goats to market. The heavily-polluted air of the mostly grey cities hung in stark opposition to the pristine air of the countrysides, where lush green vegetation grew all along the slopes and hillsides. In the midst of it all were the people: most of them honest, hard-working folks trying to get by on very small incomes. I couldn’t help but respect and admire their persistence – often in the face of great struggle – to support themselves and to create better lives for their children.

Children Incorporated changes the lives of young people all around the world, but never has the impact of our work been clearer to me than after this visit to Guatemala.

Returning to Guatemala

I returned to Guatemala on two occasions over the next decade, and I grew to have a particular fondness for the country and its people. It wasn’t until this year in July, however, that I was truly able to witness first-hand the incredible work that Children Incorporated is doing in the country. Along with my co-workers Luis Bourdet, our Director of International Programs, and Shelley Callahan, our Director of Development, we visited five of the seven Guatemalan schools where the Children Incorporated sponsorship program operates. At each school, we were welcomed with open arms and treated like royalty. As our group arrived at each center, we were surrounded by happy, smiling youngsters who were genuinely glad to have us as their guests. Our wonderful volunteer coordinators also greeted us warmly and shared many touching stories of how these children and their families depend upon assistance from our organization so that these youngsters may attend school, receive clothing and food, and have opportunities to learn skills that will help them find jobs when they reach adulthood.

While in Guatemala, I met with many of our sponsored children at our affiliated projects.

Children Incorporated changes the lives of young people all around the world, but never has the impact of our work been clearer to me than after this visit to Guatemala. There, we met a man who as a child was enrolled in our sponsorship program. As a result of the assistance he and his family received, he graduated from school, went on to attend university, and is now a teacher at one of the schools where we have sponsored children. He credits Children Incorporated with making this all possible. I also spoke with a single mother of three who had stopped by one of our program sites to collect badly-needed food items provided to her as part of our sponsorship program. As she gave me a big hug, in broken and limited English, she told me that without Children Incorporated, her family would not be able to afford enough food to eat each month. She would also be unable to afford to send her children to school. As tears rolled down her cheeks, she asked me to let “everyone in America” know what a blessing Children Incorporated is to her family, and many others like it.

An incredible appreciation

I left Guatemala with an incredible appreciation for the country and the strong, resilient people who live there. I also left with a clear understanding of what Children Incorporated means to them. Though Children Incorporated is quite small in comparison to other child assistance organizations, the scope of life-changing work that we accomplish is huge. On a daily basis – not only in Guatemala, but all around the world – we are offering people hope for their futures; an upper hand as they struggle to make ends meet, and even to survive. I hope that you will join us as we continue to positively impact the lives of children and families all around the world. Your donations make our work possible; therefore, you are the ones who are truly responsible for the opportunities we are providing. Thank you very much.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN GUATEMALA?

You can sponsor a child in Guatemala in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in Guatemala that is available for sponsorship.