In Guatemala's Central Region
Geography & Climate
- The central region lies between the Sierra Madre de Chiapas Mountains to the south and the Petén lowlands to the north.
- The region is made up of a series of high valleys enclosed by mountains, with altitudes up to nearly 12,000 feet.
- Temperatures range from 57 to 95 degrees in the dry season (November to March) and from 14 to 80 degrees in the cold season (late October through February).
Most people in the central region make a living through small-scale farming. But families rarely produce enough to meet their basic needs, and poverty is extreme.
Because of poverty, people in the central region often become involved in drug trafficking to make money.
Children at Home
Parents, grandparents and children make up the eight to 10 people who live in most homes in the central region.
The father harvests sugarcane in southern Guatemala for six months of the year.
While this income is needed, the long separations are difficult and result in the breakup of marriages and families, particularly if the father starts a life with a different woman while he is working far from home.
Issues and Concerns
- Guatemala City experiences a significant number of crimes against women and bus drivers, along with kidnappings of the wealthy.
- Corruption of the judicial system makes the crime issue worse and nearly 90 percent of the cases remain unresolved.
- Throughout the region male chauvinism, the disintegration of the family, and a high rate of extreme poverty contribute to problems.
- Most rural areas lack clean running water and sanitation systems.
- High unemployment and lack of variety in diet result in chronic malnutrition, especially among children. Seven out of 10 children under 5 are malnourished.
Local Needs and Challenges
The extreme poverty of the central region affects children the most. About 85 percent of the population doesn’t have enough food, and children are often chronically malnourished.
To earn money, some children work for the powerful drug cartels to smuggle drugs between the Guatemala-Mexico border.
Child sex trade
Human trafficking of children is all too common as families send their children to the cities with complete strangers who have promised to find them jobs. Usually, these “jobs” are in the child sex trade.
Schools and Education
- The many students who leave school to harvest coffee or sugar in other parts of the country generally don’t return to their studies.
- Also, the infrastructure doesn’t support enough qualified teachers.
- The government has recently offered incentives for parents to send their children to school. While this has improved attendance, many parents continue to make their children work to contribute to the household income.
Compassion Guatemala works to ensure that every registered child is able to attend school, and it provides additional support, including tutoring, at the child development centers.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
Children who attend child development centers learn basic hygiene habits that will keep them healthy.
Families in impoverished countries generally do not know about the value of brushing teeth, washing hands, or covering mouths when coughing. Yet in areas where disease and infection are rampant, these simple activities can make the difference between life and death.
Compassion’s holistic approach focuses on each child’s spiritual, economic, social and physical development.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
In partnership with local churches, Compassion is bringing real help and hope to impoverished children in Guatemala’s central region, providing:
- regular nutritious meals and snacks
- health checkups and medical care as needed
- the support needed to attend school
- after-school activities to keep children off the streets and away from harmful influences
- arts, sports, cultural and science activities that help them explore and develop their unique talents and abilities
- the opportunity to attend vocational training courses to improve their chances of obtaining meaningful, well-paying jobs in the future
- training for caregivers to educate them about good parenting practices and child protection. Partner church and Compassion center staff are trained how to detect signs of child abuse among the children they serve, as well as the actions to take when it occurs.