In Guatemala's Western Region
Geography & Climate
- Guatemala’s southwestern coastal region lies between Mexico and El Salvador. It includes four states with altitudes ranging from sea level to 3,281 feet.
- This region’s major cities include San José and Mazatenango.
- Western Guatemala has beautiful volcanic sand beaches.
- The climate is hot and humid year-round. Average temperatures vary from the high 60s to 110 degrees.
- Many rivers cross this region, and during heavy rains they are prone to flooding.
- Flooding and strong tropical storms may cause widespread destruction, wiping out homes and livelihoods.
Because of the lack of job opportunities here, many adults emigrate to Mexico during harvest seasons for temporary work on large farms. Some bring their children with them to work as well.
Often, fathers leave their families to emigrate to the United States in search of work. As a result, many children grow up in fatherless homes.
Children at Home
In this region, both parents may work. Men are generally day laborers, while women work seasonally to harvest coffee or sugar.
Most families have three to four children, and when these children become old enough to work, they become harvesters with the rest of their families.
The harvest season runs from November to January, and many children who leave school to work do not return.
Issues and Concerns
Drug-trafficking cartels are prevalent, and many innocent people are caught in the crossfire of ongoing drug wars.
The smuggling of goods and people across the Mexican border is also common.
The western region experiences high rates of sexual molestation and child neglect.
High unemployment contributes to drug and alcohol abuse.
Local Needs and Challenges
Fathers frequently desert their families, leaving mothers to raise several children on their own.
About 85 percent of the population doesn’t have enough food, and malnutrition among children is common.
Many people are lured into the trade to make money.
Especially in the region’s sugarcane fields, child labor is a serious issue.
Schools and Education
Each town has at least one school, but schools sometimes don’t have enough supplies for the children. Some don’t even have desks or chairs.
Low teacher salaries contribute to a shortage of teachers.
Often children leave school to work with their fathers as seasonal day laborers; many do not return to their studies so they can continue to work.
School attendance varies, but generally as few as 10 percent of youths finish high school.
Countrywide, only about 2 percent of Guatemalans attend a university, and only half of those graduate.
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
At their Compassion centers, children are separated into age-appropriate classes to learn about topics that will help them develop into healthy young adults.
They eat nutritious food and also receive health checkups regularly.
They study God’s Word to better understand His love for them, and they spend time writing to and praying for their sponsors.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
In partnership with local churches, Compassion is bringing real help and hope to impoverished children in Guatemala’s western region, providing:
- regular nutritious meals and snacks
- health checkups and medical care as needed
- the support needed to attend school
- training for their parents to decrease the negative effects of family separation and high incidence of child abuse. Classes called “Tender Parenting” provide parents the Bible-based guidance they need to raise their children well.
- training in such viable income-generating skills as carpentry, commercial baking and tailoring to help young people avoid the temptation to emigrate. These extra-curricular training classes are also a good opportunity for youths to spend their free time with people who are a positive influence on their lives.