Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: March 08, 2021

New Hope for Indigenous Families in Guatemala

Whenever disaster strikes, those who are already poor suffer the most heartbreaking effects. After Hurricanes Eta and Iota devastated the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of indigenous families in rural Guatemala last November, our compassionate donors together with Salesian missionaries on the ground intervened to rebuild their lives.

The floods came without warning to the Maya Q’eqchi’ communities of San Pedro Carchá. Spawned by these powerful storms, the rapidly rising waters quickly submerged everything the community had proudly worked for: their vegetable gardens; their livestock; the huts where they lived and raised their families. Helplessly, residents watched as the deluge robbed them of their basic needs, their way of life and their dignity. Flood-related mudslides blocked the mountainous paths that connect San Pedro Carchá to the outside world, which threatened the delivery of life-saving humanitarian aid.

Since 1975, Salesian missionaries have been serving in Guatemala, so they were well positioned to respond to the crisis. Undeterred by the physical and logistical challenges before them, Father Jorge Puthenpura and his fellow missionaries set out on foot with all of the food kits, clothes, blankets and personal hygiene items they could carry. When they arrived to discover entire families huddling under nothing but nylon “roofs” for shelter, they vowed to do even more. With help from our caring donors, they have already made measurable progress toward restoring a sense of normalcy and hope.

“We are thoroughly humbled—and enormously grateful—for the selfless generosity of our friends,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Their foundational gift means that Fr. Jorge and his team were able to procure modest parcels of land, build simple houses and re-establish small vegetable gardens for 48 families who lost everything in the storms. The real human impact of this is impossible to overstate.”

Donations have also seeded a larger project with a broader intended reach. Named Techo, Terreno, Trabajo (“Roof, Land, Work”)—words Pope Francis has used to describe key social justice issues—the project will help families throughout Guatemala who suffered losses due to Hurricanes Eta and Iota. Led by the Salesian-run Foundation for the Development and Education of Indigenous Women in Guatemala, Techo, Terreno, Trabajo will distribute food and other emergency supplies, provide agricultural and livestock training and assistance, and establish locally based and managed economic initiatives that support environmentally sustainable opportunities for work.

Already, 279 families (nearly 1,400 people) across 12 different communities have participated in the project. Salesian missionaries have provided chickens and materials for coops, and workshops on building the enclosures and caring for the animals. Families have also learned how to establish and nurture small fruit orchards, and several have already done so. Not only will the trees eventually provide food, but they will protect against erosion and future mudslides.

“It’s heartwarming to learn that so many families are now able to move forward with hope,” concludes Fr. Gus.

Our mission helps victims of disaster recover and rebuild their lives … and their hope. What’s your mission?

Learn more about our work in Guatemala.

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