Tag Archives: guatemala

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

Carlos is learning English in school so he can 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 Carlos*, who is enrolled in our program, and his family. Carlos 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 Carlos’ 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 Carlos stays in school instead of dropping out to work. Thanks to his sponsor’s support, Carlos 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 Carlos faces a great deal of adversity living in poverty now, he is on the right track to having a brighter future in Antigua.

*Named 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 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

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.

Emergency Relief After a Volcanic Eruption

In early June, the eruption of the Volcano of Fire near Antigua, Guatemala caught residents living nearby by surprise. By the time the eruption was over, more than one million people had been affected; approximately 3,000 people had been displaced from their homes, and about 250 people were missing. The eruption caused direct damage to five villages in the area surrounding the volcano, including the town of Antigua, where our affiliated project Sagrada Familia is located. The aftermath of the eruption engulfed the neighboring towns not only in thick smoke, but also in heavy ash and hot gases. In addition, huge rocks tumbled down the volcano, blocking roads and destroying homes along their paths.

The eruption caused direct damage to five villages in the area surrounding the volcano, including the town of Antigua, where our affiliated project Sagrada Familia is located.

The Coordinadora Nacional para la Reducción de Desastres (CONRED), a Guatemalan government agency for disaster reduction, quickly set up fifteen shelters after the catastrophe to help displaced residents who were in need of food, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, and bedding during this time of crisis. As soon as we heard news of the volcanic eruption, Children Incorporated asked our amazing supporters to donate emergency relief funds that we could send directly to Sagrada Familia, where our volunteer coordinators were working hard to provide daily support for families who had lost their homes and were living in shelters.

A huge thank-you to all of our donors who have contributed to our Guatemala Relief Fund to help those affected by this natural disaster. Funds are being utilized for the purchase of cooking oil, sugar, flour, rice, beans, nutritional drinks, salt, canned vegetables, soups, baby food, filtered water, and canned and bagged fruit juices to feed families; mops and brooms, bleach and disinfectants, rags, latex gloves, and buckets for water and sanitation; and toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, towels, and diapers. We are so grateful for your support!

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HOW DO I DONATE TO THE GUATEMALA RELIEF FUND?

You can contribute to our Guatemala Relief Fund 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 donation portal, create an account, and donate to our Guatemala Relief Fund.

Saying Thanks to Sponsors

Located just southeast of Mexico, Guatemala is the most populous country in Central America. Its spectacular mountains boast a wealth of natural resources and stunning biodiversity. For centuries, this land served as the core territory of the renowned Mayan civilization. Following two centuries of Spanish colonization, Guatemala gained its independence in the early nineteenth century, only to endure another 150 years of political instability and civil unrest. Additionally, this area is prone to devastating natural disasters, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and hurricanes, which cause mudslides and flooding. Despite recent economic growth and successful democratic elections, Guatemala still struggles with widespread poverty, illiteracy, crime, and high rates of unemployment and underemployment.

Though a seemingly small gesture, for these children and their parents, creating something handmade as a way of saying thank you to sponsors shows just how important our sponsorship program is to them, as well as to the school and community.

These maladies are perhaps even more pronounced in the city of Tecpan, located some sixty miles west of Guatemala City. The overwhelming majority of Tecpan’s 50,000 inhabitants claim direct descent from the Maya. However, despite their rich cultural heritage, indigenous people often find themselves marginalized, left to endure the brunt of poverty and its associated effects. For this reason, the Tecpan School, one of our affiliated projects in Guatemala, is incredibly important to these families. Run by nuns of the Hijas de la Caridad (Daughters of Charity) Order, the school strives to aid the impoverished children of this region; and thanks to the help of their sponsors, children and their families are receiving basic needs, which helps them to break the cycle of poverty.

Showing appreciation

Recently, we received pictures from our volunteer coordinator at the Tecpan School of children and their mothers making small gifts of handmade bracelets and bookmarks for the kids’ sponsors as a way to show their gratitude for all that our sponsors do to help these families. Though a seemingly small gesture, for these children and their parents, creating something handmade as a way of saying thank you to sponsors shows just how important our sponsorship program is to them, as well as to the school and 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 donation portal, create an account, and search for a child in Guatemala that is available for sponsorship.

A Thousand Shoes for a Thousand Kids

As the end of the year approaches, I can say that the Children Incorporated staff as a whole is amazed by what we have accomplished thus far in 2017, thanks to our incredible sponsors and donors. When our President and CEO, Ron Carter, sent out a letter in December of 2016 asking our supporters to help us reach our goal of providing 1,000 pairs of new shoes to sponsored and unsponsored children at our projects in the coming year, we never dreamed the response would be so tremendous.

Just three months after launching our Shoe Fund campaign, our supporters had already donated more than $30,000 to ensure that children in our program in Latin America, Africa, and Asia would receive new shoes. We can’t thank you enough for what you have done for these special young girls and boys.

The importance of shoes

There are a lot of basic needs that children go without on a daily basis – something we understand all too well. Providing basic necessities, like clothing, food, hygiene items, and educational support, to kids is the foundation of our sponsorship program, and we believe that each and every one of these aspects is incredibly important in helping children have a greater chance to succeed in life. So why did Mr. Carter want to focus in particular on getting shoes to kids in need?

“Over the years, we have heard many heartbreaking stories about children who are unable to attend school because they don’t have wearable shoes.”

“Over the years, we have heard many heartbreaking stories about children who are unable to attend school because they don’t have wearable shoes,” says Mr. Carter. “In some cases, children attend school only every other day because they have to share a single pair of shoes with a sibling. We have always made a point of providing good, solid shoes to these children, knowing that shoes can be very expensive. As such, the Children Incorporated Shoe Fund campaign has been one of our most meaningful endeavors.”

1,235 pairs and counting

We are very grateful that our donors understand that items that can sometimes appear small and insignificant can really improve the lives of children. Shoes may not seem like a big deal, but as Mr. Carter stated, it’s sometimes the difference between a child going to school or not.

Because of you, we have provided children at our affiliated projects the Pedro Poveda School, Guarderia El Angel, the Lourdes School, the Santa Clotilde Orphanage, Villa Emilia, the Montero Home, and the Cristo Rey Mission in Bolivia with shoes this year. Thanks to you, children at Hogar Santa Julia and Hogar Santa Maria in Mexico have brand new shoes to wear to school. If it weren’t for you, children at the Dandora Community Center in Kenya, the Rainbow ‘Erdata’ Center in Ethiopia, Chrishanti Lama Sevana in Sri Lanka, La Milagrosa in Costa Rica, and Santa Isabel Ana Seton in Guatemala wouldn’t have received new footwear, either.

To date, we have provided 1,235 pairs of shoes to kids in need, and we will continue distributing shoes in the upcoming months.

Thank you for all that you do to help children – we couldn’t do it without you.

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