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Guatemala

Guatemala

Rural poverty hasn’t changed much in Guatemala during the last 20 years, according to the World Bank. Close to 75 percent of the population is estimated to live below the poverty line and almost 58 percent live below the extreme poverty line, which the World Bank defines as struggling to afford even a basic basket of food. For the country’s indigenous population the poverty rates jump even higher with almost 90 percent facing crippling poverty and few resources.

Salesian missionaries working and living in the country have been providing for the basic needs of Guatemala’s youth while helping to break the cycle of poverty in their lives. They work extensively with poor youth and their families at youth centers, orphanages, parishes and primary and secondary schools, as well as technical schools, vocational training workshops and two universities.

More Missions In Guatemala

Provide technical & vocational training

More than 800 indigenous Q’eqchi’ (Mayans) in remote mountainous regions of Guatemala are participating in a three-year course at a Salesian-run Don Bosco Center in the area. The course includes basic academic classes in addition to technical training that gives students employable skills to help them find jobs in their communities.

Under the leadership of Salesian missionary, Father Anthony De Groot, the Don Bosco Center has also developed an extensive teacher training program. Fr. De Groot came to the Carchá mission in the Alta Verapaz region of Guatemala in 1975 and has been helping youth break the cycle of poverty and improve their lives through education ever since.

Today, more than 850 local students are enrolled in a series of teacher training courses. Upon receiving their teaching certificates, these students will go on to teach in some of the 600 villages throughout Guatemala that participate in the program.

Rescue children facing adversity

Salesian missionaries operate a summer youth program in the municipality of San Benito in the El Petén region of northern Guatemala. The program offers classes in Spanish and English, mathematics, computers, arts and crafts, music and dance as well as provides organized games for participants. Operated out of a Salesian youth center in San Benito, the program gives youth the opportunity to get away from difficult home situations or harmful time on the streets. Youth are instead able to engage in productive activities in a family atmosphere that fosters peace and stability.

Father Giampiero De Nardi, a Salesian missionary in San Benito, noted remarkable progress made by a girl from a home for children during her participation in the summer program. Having previously lived with a violent father, she hadn’t wanted to have anything to do with the program. Eventually, she became interested and engaged in the program and found her situation improving. This year, Fr. De Nardi noticed she was actively engaging with the other children and enjoying all the activities.

Empower girls & women through education

The Community Centers of Opportune Stimulation of Talita Kumi project facilitated by the Salesian-run Foundation for the Development and Education of Indigenous Women in Guatemala provides services to women and young children.

The children attending the community centers receive pre-primary education that is facilitated by volunteers from the community with the help of Salesian staff. At the end of each day, the children receive a serving of rice and a cup of cereal cornflower drink. The mothers are also able to bring rice home as an incentive for their participation in the training processes. The project works with mothers to educate them about values, children’s rights in education, health, strengthening children’s self-esteem and early learning.

Respond to disasters & emergencies

Salesian missionaries living and working in communities in Guatemala helped to provide food aid and other support to families affected by a 2014 drought in the country. Guatemala’s government issued a state of emergency after 256,000 families, most living in rural areas, lost their crops and experienced food shortages due to the severity of the drought.

The El Niño weather cycle caused a prolonged heat wave in what otherwise would be Central America’s rainy season, killing thousands of cattle and drying up crops across the region. Farmers growing peas, green beans and broccoli estimated they lost up to 40 percent of their crops. In addition, almost 80 percent of corn and beans, staples of the Guatemalan diet, withered on the stalk leaving little to be harvested.

Because of the drought and food shortages, an estimated 500,000 children under the age of 5 were at imminent risk of starvation, which is devastating in a country that already struggles with chronic malnutrition. According to World Food Program, the chronic malnutrition rate for children under 5 is 49.8 percent, the highest in the region and the fourth highest in the world.

Provide youth centers & safe activities

Salesian missionaries in San Benito Petén opened a new youth center in the village of La Cobanerita. The youth center provides poor and at-risk youth with additional educational and social support and a meeting space to build relationships with peers and engage in safe after-school activities. Tutoring and life skills training, as well as recreational activities and sports, are also available.

“The new Salesian Youth Center provides a safe space for youth to meet with their peers and connect with caring adults who can help with homework and other needs youth are facing,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian missionaries across Guatemala provide education, workforce development and social services and are focused on helping poor youth, including street children.”

Provide clean, safe water

Salesian missionaries have undertaken several new projects including the construction of a new youth center, distribution of ecological filters for water purification and HIV/AIDS prevention and care in the municipality of San Benito in the El Petén region of northern Guatemala.

Since the local water is unsafe and often sickens those who drink it with dysentery and disease, the filters are vital for the many poor families in the area who cannot afford to buy bottled water. The new filters last for five years and produce enough drinking water for five or six families. Close to 50 filters have already been distributed through the project which was generously funded by donors from Italy.

Deliver life-saving meals

Children participating in the Community Center of Opportune Stimulation of Talita Kumi project facilitated by the Salesian-run Foundation for the Development and Education of Indigenous Women in Guatemala have received access to better nutrition thanks to a shipment of fortified rice-meals. The donation was made possible through an ongoing partnership between Salesian Missions and Rise Against Hunger.

The children attending the community center receive pre-primary education that is facilitated by volunteers from the community with the help of Salesian staff. At the end of each day, the children receive a serving of rice and a cup of cereal cornflower drink. The mothers are also able to bring rice home as an incentive for their participation in the training processes. The project works with mothers to educate them about values, children’s rights in education, health, strengthening children’s self-esteem and early learning.

The rice is very important for the project because it contributes to the attendance of the children and the participation of the parents in the training processes. It also provides an important nutritional support to the children, many of whom are growing up in risky environments due to poverty. Chronic malnutrition is a threat for those under 5 years old in these communities. The community also faces food shortages when the weather is bad, there is no work or there are crop losses.

Children have an opportunity to play at the center, study and spend time with their peers. Later in the day, they receive their afternoon rice-meal, which is prepared by Salesian staff with the help of local families who bring water and firewood as well as tomatoes, onions and oil when these supplies are available.

Deliver essential equipment & supplies

Youth involved with the Salesian-run Foundation for the Development and Education of Indigenous Women in Guatemala, also known as “Talita Kumi,” have new shoes as a result of an ongoing partnership between Salesian Missions and TOMS, a company that matches every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. Salesian Missions is one of TOMS One for One® giving partners.

In May 2012, TOMS began distributing shoes to youth in communities served by the Talita Kumi Foundation. Talita Kumi is present in more than 1,000 indigenous communities in northern Guatemala and serves more than 88,000 school-aged children. TOMS shoes are provided to families that participate in Talita Kumi’s education, health and economic development programs.

Youth living in rural Guatemalan communities are constantly on the move but lack options for transportation and normally do not have enough money to buy shoes. To get to school, students must walk close to 30 minutes on rocky, wet trails through the mountains. While at school, students participate in classroom learning while also engaging in outdoor sports and recreation activities. After returning home, students are often expected to help their parents perform tasks such as farming, milking cows, caring for animals and gathering wood for fires. Without shoes, these young people are at risk for injury and diseases such as parasites, skin fungus and respiratory diseases, among others.

As a result of TOMS shoes, youth enrollment and participation in school has increased and students are more prepared for school activities. Shoes also provide students with a sense of dignity. Angel, an 11-year-old recipient of TOMS shoes, previously endured a painful walk to school barefoot in mud, rain and over rocks. As a result of the shoes, the trip to school is safer and easier.

Improve health services

Salesian-run programs in the El Petén region continue efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS and provide treatment for those who have the disease. The area has the third worst incidence rate for contraction of HIV in Guatemala. Despite the fact that the project that financed this work has ended, Salesian missionaries continue to do prevention work and offer medical care and other social services for those infected with the virus. Missionaries continue to seek additional funding and are working with the Office for the Prevention of AIDS of the Episcopal Conference of Guatemala, which is operating many of the existing prevention programs for women in the country.

Images

From Guatemala

From Guatemala

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