December 4 ~ Guatemala
We fell in love with this country over 8 years ago when we traveled here for the first time. I have been showing you pictures of the colorful clothing, natural beauty, glorious flowers, intricate beadwork, an opulent wedding, and a few examples of the sites to be experienced here in our beloved Guatemala.
But this is only one side of the story. Sadly there is a huge contrast between the haves and the have-nots.
Many of the indigenous Mayan people have suffered greatly over the past years. The 36-year long Civil War wiped out large numbers and greedy bureaucrats made land grabs cheating families out of their homes and property.
Many small villages have limited or no education available for their children, access to clean water may still require long walks where women carry heavy containers back to their home balanced on their heads, food quality and quantity (nutritional value) is sorely lacking and medical facilities and treatment either not available or not affordable.
The machismo culture where the father is head of the family often also means they are resistant to family planning, birth control or a vasectomy. Families are often too large with mothers giving birth year after year. Children are suffering from malnutrition.
Living conditions consist of small one room homes, dirt floors, walls made either of corn stalks covered in mud or cement blocks, with a corrugated tin roof. Having a bed and/or a stove is a luxury.
Children learn to sell wares from an early age and/or beg for handouts.
Stray dogs roam the streets, often abused or starving.
If uneducated, the average salary for an Indigenous Mayan may only be the equivalent of $4 USD per day!
Here are some pretty startling figures as provided by Cooperation for Education:
- 75%: The illiteracy rate in many rural areas of Guatemala
- Two-thirds: The proportion of Guatemalan children living in poverty
- $4 a day: The average daily earnings of a rural, Guatemalan family
- Nine out of ten: The proportion of schools in rural Guatemala that lack books
- 60%: The percentage of entry-level jobs in Guatemala that require computer skills
- 79%: The percentage of Guatemalan middle and high-school students who lacked the opportunity to learn to use a computer prior to the start of their program
- One out of ten: The proportion of rural Guatemalans who attend middle school
- 1.8: The average number of years an indigenous Guatemalan woman stays in school
Is there a solution to help those most in need?
There is no one answer. One size does not fit all. There are however some incredible people here on the ground that have devoted years of their lives to helping those less fortunate. They are able to be respectful to the local culture, yet contribute to giving a hand up, not just a hand out.
Helping villagers with sustainable projects, building schools, bringing in water systems, nutritional information, medical clinics, vocational schools and training, and family planning are some of the goals.
I would like to introduce you to a non-profit group where I personally know the people involved. They are MAKING A DIFFERENCE.
Sharon is from Australia and her husband Dwight from the USA. Together they have built an organization that is hands on taking care of immediate needs. Sharon is a bundle of energy and somehow manages to juggle an endless number of balls in the air. When a family is desperate for help, they know that if they knock on her door, they will receive assistance.
They have a preschool program, dental and medical clinic, elder care program, carpentry shop, computer training, school scholarship program, orphan program, nutrition counseling as well as family planning help, just to name a few projects.
With the holidays fast approaching, many of us are looking for a gift idea. How about choosing one of these worthwhile projects and making a difference in the life of someone. There is such a variety of needs, that I am hoping at least one of these will touch a part of your heart. Make a donation in the name of a family member or loved one or a memorial donation to remember someone dear to your heart.
Here are some links for specific information on a variety of areas.
Charlie Gomez Medical Clinic: We met this young man a few years back and were so impressed by his love of life, positive “can do” attitude, and work ethic. After a horrific electrocution accident as a child, he underwent many years of difficult and painful medical treatments. Sadly he passed away this year from a seizure. It is our wish that his memory live on in the form of helping others.
And of course Hope for the Animals. This program actively does spay and neuter clinics, vaccinations, education and rescue for injured animals.
When I visited Sharon the other day, she said her greatest focus at the moment is earning donations for Holiday Food Baskets. Over a few days the line goes down the block of families waiting to receive this wonderful and nutritious gift.
One of the programs that has touched my heart is the Children in Critical Need. I watched some of these beautiful children playing at Sharon’s compound. There were orphans, severely malnourished children, and the physically handicapped. These children have lost parents and/or their primary caregivers and often do not know where their next meal will come from, but this day they were simply young children playing and enjoying a fun afternoon.
Here is a link to their Quick Donations page with a list of a variety of different projects.
I especially like that on their web page they introduce you to individual children or adults with a specific problem or need. You can “adopt” someone and know that you are making a difference in THAT person’s life, not just making a donation to an unknown recipient.
There are two other groups that I want to introduce you to, but due to the length of this write-up, I will save them for a future post to give you more specific information about them. But until them if you want to take a quick peak, click on the links to check out Amigos de Santa Cruz run by Pat Torpie and Wings with Sue Patterson at the helm.
Gratitude Moment: Today I am grateful for wonderful friends who have opened their homes to provide us a comfortable bed and loving hospitality.