Tag Archives: guatemala

Supplying Families in Guatemala City with Food

After spending three days visiting our affiliated projects in Guatemala, Luis Bourdet, our Director of International Programs; Ron Carter, our President and Chief Executive Officer; and I arrived at the last project we would be visiting: Casa Central in Guatemala City. Founded in the mid-nineteenth century and run by the nuns of the Sisters of Charity, Casa Central has a long and honorable history of ministering to children living in poverty, offering them a place of refuge from the instability and crime that pervade their neighborhoods.

Providing children with food to take home is an important way to keep them healthy so they can attend school.

When we arrived in the early afternoon, we were greeted warmly by our Volunteer Coordinator Sister Estefanía, who showed us around the center. The center is a large two-story facility that comprises classrooms for primary and secondary schools, a social assistance center, courtyards, and an industrial-sized kitchen. Beautiful flowers grow in pots along its walkways, and some of the buildings there are painted bright colors. These things make the environment at the center a cheery and welcoming one.

As we walked, Sister Estefanía explained to us that children between first and twelfth grade attend school at the center. There, they are not only provided with a good education, but they are also given a safe place to learn and play during the day while their parents are at work.

A powerful ending to an amazing trip

After touring the school, we made our way to the social assistance center area, where our sponsored and unsponsored children and their parents were waiting to meet us. Chairs were lined up on two sides of the room, and there was an aisle down the middle. Two long tables full of food items, like cereal, grains, cooking oil, and spaghetti noodles, stood in the front of the room. Luis addressed the crowd of more than fifty families, all of which listened patiently as he described how grateful we are to have the opportunity to help support the children we serve through Casa Central.

Two long tables full of food items, like cereal, grains, cooking oil, and spaghetti noodles, stood in the front of the room.

When Luis finished, Sister Estefanía invited each family, who had brought their own large woven bags with them from home, to approach the tables. Two other Sisters began filling their bags with food items. Once the bags were full, some of them stood as tall as the children!

As the families left with their food through the back door, we said goodbye to each one, shaking the parents’ hands – and they all had big smiles on their faces. I, too, was smiling – thinking about just how lucky I am to be working for such an amazing organization as Children Incorporated. To see that these families are receiving the food items they require for proper nourishment, and to know that their children are healthy enough to attend school – all thanks to our sponsors and donors – was a great way to end a very special trip to Guatemala.

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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.

Our Incredible Work in the Land of Eternal Spring

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.

What Tourists in Guatemala Don’t See

Historic Antigua is the former capital of Guatemala, and it is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Situated in the Central Highlands region, the town is surrounded by three volcanoes. It is known for its many renovated – and some beautifully deteriorating – colonial relics and civic and community structures, such as museums and libraries.

Antigua is a quaint scenic town that attracts tourists from all over the world, welcoming them to enjoy Guatemalan culture and food, or to learn Spanish at one of the dozens of language schools in the area. What most tourists will never see in Antigua, though, are the conditions in which impoverished local residents – including our sponsored and unsponsored children and their families – are living.

What most tourists will never see in Antigua, though, are the conditions in which impoverished local residents – including our sponsored and unsponsored children and their families – are living.

Feeding families in need

On a recent trip to Guatemala, our President and CEO, Ron Carter; our Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet; and I visited our affiliated project Sagrada Familia in Antigua. This community center is located among many fancy restaurants, hotels, and private residences in the middle of town, close to the public schools that the children enrolled in our program at Sagrada Familia attend.

The Sisters that run the center provide kids in need with educational, nutritional, and medical support – in large part thanks to their Children Incorporated sponsors. In the afternoons, children visit Sagrada Familia, where they receive help with their homework, have a place to play and study, and are given bags of food to take home once a month.

When we arrived at the center, our Volunteer Coordinator Sister Isabel let us in through two large wooden doors, which open up to a concrete play area surrounded by classrooms, a kitchen, and administrative offices. Sister Isabel explained to us that beyond the help the children are receiving through sponsorship at Sagrada Familia, the center is also able to provide a great deal of support to the local community.

Three times a week, the Sisters feed nearly 200 families that would otherwise go without meals. They also offer vocational programs such as dressmaking and cooking, so that the parents of our sponsored and unsponsored children may have the opportunity to learn skills that can help them gain employment or obtain higher-paying jobs to better support their families.

Learning English for the future

Ángel is learning English so that he will have better opportunities for employment upon graduation.

After visiting with our sponsored children and their parents, Mr. Carter, Luis, and I went with Sister Isabel to visit Ángel, who is enrolled in our program, and his family. Ángel is fifteen years old and in high school. He lives with his mother and sister in a three-room home made of tin and concrete, perched high up on a hill in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Antigua, where many of the impoverished residents in the town live.

There, away from the city, utilities such as electricity and running water are inconsistent. When I entered the home, I noticed that there were holes in the living room floor that exposed the dirt below. I wondered – knowing that inclement weather can be very dangerous for houses like theirs that are damaged or deteriorating – if this family feels safe during the rainy seasons.

While speaking with Ángels’ mother, we learned how she struggles to make ends meet as a single mom, and that our program is a huge help in ensuring that her family has enough to eat, and that Ángel stays in school instead of dropping out to work. Thanks to his sponsor’s support, Ángel is able to attend school, where he is also studying English. He and his mom both feel that this will help him to have more opportunities for employment after he graduates – possibly even in the tourism industry, which is a bustling one in his hometown. Mr. Carter, Luis, and I agree with them, and feel that even though Ángel faces a great deal of adversity living in poverty now, he is on the right track to having a brighter future in Antigua.

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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 and search for a child in Guatemala that is available for sponsorship.

Overcoming the Limitations of Poverty

In the city of Tecpan, located some sixty miles west of Guatemala City, the majority of the roughly 50,000 inhabitants claims direct descent from the Mayas. Despite their rich cultural heritage, however, indigenous people often find themselves marginalized, left to endure the brunt of poverty and its associated effects, which are common in Guatemala.

On a recent visit to Guatemala with Ron Carter, our President and Chief Executive Officer, and Luis Bourdet, our Director of International Programs, we went to the Tecpan School, our affiliated project where we support about one-third of the children in attendance. Run by nuns of the Hijas de la Caridad (Daughters of Charity) Order, the school strives to aid the impoverished children of this region by offering them a well-rounded education.

“I had more opportunities; I can’t say it was just because of the efforts of my mom and myself – it was also the efforts of my sponsor who made me the person I am today.”

– José

The school itself is located on beautifully-kept grounds; well-manicured playgrounds and soccer fields inside the school’s compound are surrounded by brightly-painted classrooms where 570 students between the ages of five and fifteen attend classes daily. The children come from small villages in and around Tecpan. In addition to offering regular primary and middle school classes for the children, 200 young adult students from the community also study at the school on the weekends so that they may receive a diploma – but still work to support their families in the process.

Indigenous families struggling to survive

When we arrived at the school, we were taken on a tour by our Volunteer Coordinator Sister Virginia. Sister Virginia told us that many of our sponsored and unsponsored children come from indigenous families that are very poor because they work in agriculture on rented land where they make very little money. She explained that this year has been especially hard on families because the rainy season in Guatemala wiped out valuable crops, which kept families from earning the income they had expected.

As a result, Sister Virginia continued, our program is extremely important to the Tecpan School and the families we help to support. Children primarily receive school supplies and tuition payments through sponsorship funds, as well as uniforms and shoes. Also, their families receive bags of food every two to three months, which helps them immensely.

 Meeting José

José’s sponsor supported him through school, and he is now a teacher helping other children at the Tecpan School.

After we finished our tour, Sister Virginia introduced us to a former sponsored child, now in his early thirties, named José. José’s mother worked at the Tecpan School when he was a young boy; he would even sometimes go to work with her on the weekends. While he was growing up, his mother struggled financially; so our volunteer coordinator at the time offered to enroll José in our program so that he could receive the support he needed to attend the Tecpan School, which is much less crowded than typical public schools in Guatemala and is, therefore, better equipped to give children the attention they need in order to succeed. From kindergarten through high school, José’s sponsor helped to support him. Thanks to his academic achievements, he was able to enroll in college, where he studied environmental engineering and mathematics. After graduating, José returned to the Tecpan School, where he is now a math teacher. José had this to say about his sponsor and Children Incorporated:

“It was Children Incorporated who helped me through sponsorship so my mom didn’t have to pay for all my school expenses, clothes, and food by herself. I had more opportunities; I can’t say it was just because of the efforts of my mom and myself – it was also the efforts of my sponsor who made me the person I am today. There are other children from this community that have had the same limitations that I had growing up. I know that this program helps a lot of children in the community.”

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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

The Importance of Home Visits

In all of my visits to our affiliated projects around the world over the last few years, I have yet to meet a volunteer coordinator who does not visit the homes of our sponsored children. Our coordinators feel that home visits are important for many different reasons. Visiting the homes of children in our program helps to forge a strong partnership between parents and coordinators, because parents often feel more relaxed and comfortable at home, as opposed to in a school or office environment.

Home visits help to establish strong, positive communication between our coordinators and our sponsored children’s parents and guardians.

Home visits help to establish strong, positive communication between our coordinators and our sponsored children’s parents and guardians. They can also motivate parents to get involved or become more involved at their kids’ schools and activities when a school administrator takes time out of their day to visit their homes, showing their concern for the children’s well-being.

One of the most important aspects of home visits is that they give our coordinators a glimpse into the lives of the children we support. They offer a perspective on each individual family’s struggles, what they are lacking, and what they find to be the most difficult challenges in their lives. When our coordinators see these harsh realities for themselves, they become better-equipped to provide each child in our program with the exact support they so desperately need. Additionally, when our coordinators visit the homes of our sponsored children, we, in turn, get a better idea of what a tremendous impact our programs are having in the lives of the kids we help to support.

Every child included

On a recent trip to Guatemala, I met with our Volunteer Coordinators Sister Ana María and Katy at Santa Isabel Ana Seton in Guatemala City. Named after a North American nun who was canonized in 1975, Santa Isabel Ana Seton serves children in pre-school through the ninth grade in one of the city’s poorest districts. The school is on a large compound, the center of which consists of a concrete playground that is surrounded by classrooms in which 575 boys and girls attend elementary and middle school.

Visiting the homes of children is important in knowing how to support them.

As we toured the school, Katy explained that she and Sister Ana María make it a point to visit the homes of each and every one of the children enrolled in our program. Since the school day is very busy, Katy knows that it is less effective to try to talk to children at school, when they are busy with their hectic schedules, and laughing and having fun with their friends. She also realizes that it is essential to learn about students’ home lives, see what conditions they live in, and meet their parents and guardians. She finds that when she is able to ask specific questions to parents in a place where they are comfortable talking to her, they tend to tell her exactly what they are struggling with; then, Katy ensures that they get what they need.

Many parents have indicated to Katy that there is not enough food to eat at home on the weekends. In one instance, a parent lost their job, and was therefore no longer able to afford school fees. Other parents convey that they are worried about their children’s safety; in these cases, Katy recommends that the children enroll in skills training programs after school so that they aren’t out in the streets while their parents are working, and are better prepared for life after they graduate from school.

Individual attention for each child

At Children Incorporated, we often talk about how proud we are that we are able to give individual children the attention they deserve. In contrast to other child sponsorship organizations, our coordinators know the children enrolled in their respective schools, orphanages, homes, and community centers personally, and are therefore familiar with each individual child’s circumstances. Our policy is to consider the needs of each sponsored child; and thanks to special people all over the world – people like Sister María and Katy – who are willing to go above and beyond every day, we will be able to continue our work for many years to come.

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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.

Returning to Guatemala

Guatemala is a country that is known for its beautiful lakes, volcanoes, Mayan ruins, and brightly-painted buses; unfortunately, however, its residents struggle with widespread poverty, illiteracy, crime, and high rates of unemployment and underemployment. Even though the country boasts the largest economy in Central America, Guatemala faces many social problems, and it is one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

The income distribution is highly unequal, with more than half of its population living below the national poverty line. Guatemala City, the nation’s capital and home of our affiliated project the Juan Apostol School, is no exception to these conditions.

An incredibly proud moment

When our President and Chief Executive Officer, Ron Carter, first visited the Juan Apostol School in 2014, he didn’t know what to expect; he knew little more than what he had been told about the project from our Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet. Founded in 1964, the Juan Apostol School serves children living in the surrounding impoverished area, ensuring that they receive a well-rounded education. The school also offers skills training courses so that students may have increased employment opportunities after graduation.

Mr. Carter and Tita with students at the Juan Apostol School in 2014

Luis had explained to Mr. Carter that the school serves elementary to high school-aged children in two different buildings. There, they receive instruction in core academic subjects, including English. Additional courses in drama, arts, and music are offered, too. Luis also explained to Mr. Carter that many of the children in our program there come from single-parent homes, and that many suffer from neglect and malnutrition – and some, even abuse.

When Mr. Carter arrived at the project, he was greeted by our Volunteer Coordinator Tita, who gave him a tour of the school. She further explained that the Juan Apostol School and the Children Incorporated program are enriching the lives of more than 500 children. Mr. Carter wrote this about his first visit:

“I had an absolutely wonderful visit to the Juan Apostol School; I honestly cannot say enough about Tita and the incredible warmth and hospitality I was offered. It was much more than I had expected. When I arrived at the school, a group of the kids had cooked for me, and they were so proud to show off their cooking skills. It was a real spread, too – salad, spiced shrimp, steak with a spicy chili pepper sauce, and cheesecake. I tried all of the food, then took a nice tour of the school – only to be told that another group of students had prepared more food! This time it was a chicken dish in delicious mole sauce, traditional rice, and tamales!

“I also had the opportunity to meet some of the young people in our program. One young man, Hugo*, is a senior this year. He has been in the Children Incorporated program since he was very young, and he has really excelled academically. He is the band director for the school, and they have won many trophies as a result of his skills. Furthermore, this same young man had a serious dental problem a while back; his front teeth had been badly damaged, and he was ashamed to look at people face-to-face and to smile. Children Incorporated paid to have his teeth fixed, and now he has a wonderful smile. Seeing this made me so incredibly proud of the work we do!”

We have also provided funding for all of the school’s skills training programs, including computer repair and graphic design courses. Additionally, we were able to fund the construction of new classrooms at the Juan Apostol School, in order to house an increased number of students.

More impressed than ever

Upon Mr. Carter’s return to Guatemala with me and Luis this past June, Tita and the school director, Mr. Morales, greeted us warmly at the school entrance. As we toured the school, Tita explained that in the last four years, the school has grown exponentially. Now, more than 1,300 children are in attendance between the two campuses, and the Juan Apostol School ranks top in the area.

Tita and Mr. Morales feel that the school is successful as a result of high parent – as well as student – participation. Not only do parents attend regular meetings at the school, but they also help with fundraising; and some even take skills training courses like cooking, sewing, and cosmetology alongside students, so that they may have an upper hand in the job market, and thereby better support their families.

As we visited with Children Incorporated kids in their classrooms, Tita expressed to Mr. Carter her gratitude not only for our sponsorship program, but also for the additional support that we provide to all the students. Thanks to our Hope In Action Fund, Children Incorporated has been able to purchase instruments for the school’s award-winning band, so that students who otherwise couldn’t afford to do so could participate.

We have also provided funding for all of the school’s skills training programs, including computer repair and graphic design courses. Additionally, we were able to fund the construction of new classrooms at the Juan Apostol School, in order to house an increased number of students.

As we continued our walk between beautiful open-air school buildings and playgrounds, I could tell that Mr. Carter was more impressed than ever with the Juan Apostol School and everything it is doing to help children in need. While discussing with Tita how happy he was to see the school expanding their programs each year, Mr. Carter also spoke of his desire to find more sponsors for the unsponsored children on our waiting list, so that even more kids could benefit from the amazing efforts of this impressive school that continues to have a huge impact on the community year after year.

*Name changed for child’s protection.

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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.