In Guatemala's Northern Region
Geography & Climate
- This is the northernmost region of Guatemala.
- Blanketed by tropical rainforest, the northern region is hot and humid year-round.
- During the rainy or wet season from May to December, the northern region experiences a high rate of rainfall, up to 150 days of the year.
- This region is famous for its Mayan ruins, especially for Tikal, a magnificent archeological site popular with tourists.
Job opportunities are few for families in this region, and most are unable to provide for even their most basic needs.
Lack of food affects more than 86 percent of people, and children commonly suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Children at Home
Most homes have four children, and both parents work.
Many of the men work during harvest season in the fields or in regional plantations that export watermelons and other melons. Women contribute to household income by selling food or other items.
Homes are small and sparsely furnished, usually made of wood or cinder block, with dirt or brick floors, and tin roofs.
Issues and Concerns
- Because of unemployment rates of up to 80 percent, parents seldom make enough to adequately feed their families.
- Guatemala has the fourth-highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world. Nearly half of children under 5 are chronically malnourished.
- Children also commonly suffer from intestinal infections, respiratory ailments and allergies, and parasites.
Local Needs and Challenges
Throughout the region, malnutrition is common.
Drug trafficking and illegal immigration are a source of violent crime.
Beyond sixth grade, access to public education is limited, and not many can afford to attend private schools. Relatively few children secure the available public school spots, and the rest so have no choice but to wait a year and reapply.
Schools and Education
- In the northern region, fathers take their sons to work with them when the harvest of corn, fruits and other crops begins. These children rarely return to school when the harvest season is over.
- The Guatemalan government has recently offered financial incentives for parents to send their children to school.
- While this practice has improved attendance, many parents continue to keep their children out of school so they can work and 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 registered at Compassion centers learn skills that will help them in their studies and when they move into the workforce.
Using technology to study and to play educational games encourages their proficiency on the computer.
Compassion’s holistic approach of addressing the spiritual, economic, social and physical aspects helps children develop into healthy, well-rounded Christian adults.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
In partnership with local churches, Compassion is bringing real help and hope to impoverished children in Guatemala’s northern region, providing:
- regular nutritious meals and snacks
- health checkups and medical care as needed
- the support needed to attend school
- Spanish lessons. Most children speak a Mayan dialect in their homes, but their school classes are taught in Spanish. To help them overcome this obstacle, the centers in 11 communities provide a course in Spanish. As a result, throughout the region, children’s academic performance is improving, fewer are repeating school years and fewer are dropping out.
- vocational training in such skills as electrical wiring and commercial baking to enable them become self-sufficient adults in the future.