Nutritional Program Combats the Global Food Crisis

Nutritional Program Combats the Global Food Crisis

By: Samuel Llanes   |   Posted: March 04, 2010

Severe drought threatens thousands of children and families.
Julia and her daughter Yeimy ar part of a family who has been severely affected by the food crisis that occured in late 2009 in Guatemala.

Rains drenched the Guatemalan soil in December 2009, turning the withered vegetation green and giving a glimpse of hope for this year's crop production. The unusually cold weather that also affected many parts of the world cooled the typically hot and dry weather of the Dry Corridor, the name given to this area of Guatemala where, "apart from droughts there is a tendency to have inconsistent patterns of rain, with some periods receiving excess rain." The green of the trees gave way to the usual brownish look that makes the people dwelling there feel home.

A Hard Reality

Julia was highly affected when the food crisis hit Guatemala in late 2009. The crisis affected 54,000 families in this Dry Corridor, especially, due to the weather phenomenon called "El Niñ¯¢ that caused a drought in this area. This drought affected seven Guatemalan municipalities.

"My husband had to leave home to look for a job in Pet鮬" says Julia, who finds it hard to deal with this situation as she suddenly is responsible for tending household duties and maintenance.

"My husband thankfully found a place to work sowing corn, and the latest news we have is that it has full grown and soon, they will be ready to be harvested," says Julia with a smile on her face.

The food crisis that affected the Dry Corridor forced hundreds to leave in search of a job or a better place to live.

The jobs that people strive to find are mainly related to agriculture (sowing and reaping). People usually head toward the Guatemalan southern coast or to the northern part of Guatemala in search of such work.

Julia's husband sends money to her periodically, but the amount barely covers the need of the four family members: Julia and her three children, two boys who are 12 and 13, a 4-year-old girl, Yeimy.

"Both of my sons work taking care of goats or simply watching a piece of land that belongs to somebody else," says Julia. "They make about 60 cents for all the time they do this."

Julia works washing clothes for other people and for that, she is paid $ 2.40. She might earn that money twice every two weeks if she is lucky, but typically she earns it just once every two weeks. Still, she smiles and encourages little Yeimy to attend the Compassion-assisted child development center, Nueva Visió®® 

A Significant Hand

When first interviewed, Julia was not a believer. "I am not a Christian," she said with reluctance, back in December 2009. But now Julia says, "I am a Christian. I have accepted Jesus Christ. This is just one of the many things God has accomplished through her child's attendance at the child development center.

"Yeimy has been with us for almost one year," says Alicia, Yeimy's tutor. "She was very shy at the beginning, and it was hard to encourage her to go and play with her friends. She cried several times maybe because she wasn't used to be with other children.  

"Yeimy has changed and has become more friendly and interacts more with her friends here at the center. She has two friends that she gets along with very well," says Alicia.

Malnutrition: An Outcome of Poverty

A significant benefit that little Yeimy has attained in this hard time in the Dry Corridor, thanks to Compassion, is that because of the annual medical checkups, she was diagnosed with moderate malnutrition and gastritis. In response to this, she was made part of the center's nutritional program to Strengthen Children with Malnutrition.

In this program, and according to the last medical checkup, Yeimy weighed 39 pounds, having gained 2 more pounds since her first medical checkup. "The program has been of a great blessing for the children here. We have cases in which this help is really needed and gratefully received," states Mirsa, Program Coordinator for this center.

This nutritional program includes monitoring the weight of each child every two weeks, as well as a workshop for the children's mothers to teach them how to prepare economical but nutritional meals.

Each of the student centers that have this program offers a workshop in which the cooks  learn how to prepare nutritious meals for the children. This can differ from one place to another, depending on the typical food that is found where the Guatemalan student centers are located.

This is one of the menus that student center GU-984 has for their children attending this program:

  • blended Beans
  • spaghetti with tomato
  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 3 tortillas
  • plantain with honey or boiled
  • oatmeal drink

"I am very thankful with God and Compassion International because, thanks to it, Yeimy has had food that we cannot give her," says Julia joyfully.

Hope Outshines Devastation

The year 2009 was very dreadful for inhabitants of the Dry Corridor. Many children did not go to school because their families did not have enough money to buy school supplies and text books.

"The Christian church is not doing enough efforts, if nothing, to help in this crisis," says a day laborer, Baudilio.

This is why Compassion is equipping the local churches to respond to the need. Having started Jan. 18, 2009, during the food crisis, Compassion is helping families by allowing three siblings of each sponsored child in the Dry Corridor (for children ages 4 to 15) to eat one meal in our student centers.

"The outcomes are being fulfilled and many children have gained the weight expected for their age," states Ariel Castellanos, Program Facilitator.

Compassion has gained a very precious status in the village of El Rosario. "We are now respected as student center. Today, we have many different benefits than before, and parents are very happy about it," says Mirsa. "When we started, people did not believe in the program. They do now, and they respect us in the community."

Today, 40 mothers are volunteering to help as they cook for the 415 children expected to come to Nueva Visió® ©n El Rosario, Zacapa.

The Student Center's staff is very thrilled about this nutritional program and knows this will have a huge and deep impact in the lives of many of our children.

Unimaginably More

In the midst of the food crisis and struggles, Yeimy received something she did not expect: a Christmas present. When asked what she was expecting, she didn't seem to understand the question. Perhaps her family does not have enough resources to buy her a gift. After a while, she finally came up with an answer. Yeimy said, "Candies!"

Yeimy got more than candies. She received a blouse and a skirt, clothes that will alleviate her family's struggle to meet her basic needs.

According to the center workers in Guatemala, Compassion gives much more than meals and gifts: Compassion enables children to dream, to have hope, and to have faith in God as they face a very hard life.

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