This village of 35,000 native Kaqchiquel indigenous and Ladino people sits high in the mountains, at the base of the Fire Volcano (Volcan de Fuego) near Antigua, Guatemala. It is comprised primarily of hard-working, Christian families working in agriculture, and living in extreme poverty (less than $1/day/person). Public water comes into homes, but is only available for 1 hr, two times per week. Women spend most of their day collecting wood to cook with, then cook meals over an open fire, do laundry by hand at a public facility, repair clothing and maintain the home while taking care of several children and extended family members. Some women also make handicrafts, or grow vegetables, to sell in the local market. Many women suffer from respiratory, and eye problems due to working over an open fire inside the home. Most men who have jobs depart just after sunrise on foot, some walking miles through the mountains to work long days doing strenuous agricultural manual labor, returning home just before dark. Most children do not have proper shoes, proper nutrition, or access to education due to the high cost of public education.
Children in the village live in homes with dirt floors, cane walls that need to be replaced annually, leaky tin roofs, and often fight malnutrition due to parasites from the soil and non-purified water.
Since Guatemala is a young democracy, and struggles with the powerful influence of narco-trafficking from Columbia to the U.S., corruption, and proper distribution of resources, the government does not provide many of the social programs that developed countries enjoy. For this reason, churches and NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) attempt to fill this gap by providing these services.
Our mission works directly with a local NGO based in San Juan Alotenango called a Cocote. It is a faith-based community service organization, comprised of citizens from San Juan, and has over 30 years of experience. Their goal is to serve the poorest of poor in their community, and provide education to as many children as possible, in order to break the cycle of extreme poverty.
They provide humanitarian aid in partnership with several faith-based and government organizations.
Since this is a new village for us, we will be learning more about what they do throughout the spring and summer months.
This summer we will be offering a 2 hr VBS program in the afternoon for 150-300 children that will include Bible stories, crafts, music, games, and service components. Bible school is one of the most requested projects from community leaders, due to the high risk of gang-life for teens in the capital Guatemala City, that families and churches are combating with the Word of God, and the love and hope of Jesus.
Our Stove Crew will be installing Eco-Plancha high-efficiency stoves in children’s homes. These stoves burn 70% less wood, and reduce smoke by 99%. This will improve the daily lives of dozens of women and children for many years, especially the women who spend much of their day collecting wood, and who suffer from eye and respiratory problems from smoke from open fires in the kitchen.
Our Humanitarian Aid Crew will have several projects with and for the students and their families. Depending on our crew’s abilities, possible Humanitarian Aid projects may include: Distributing shoes, clothes, toiletries, health kits, and school supplies, teaching hygiene and dental care classes, and will offer some basic healthcare, anti-parasite meds, and vitamins to the students, and their families. Potential mission projects at each site may change as needed.