Latest update

Although the economic effects of the pandemic persist, COVID-19 infections are trending downward in Guatemala. The average daily number of new cases was 303 in the week preceding 6th April. As of that date, the country had administered enough doses to fully vaccinate 0.3%its 17.2 million people.

The number of Guatemalans who do not have enough food has nearly doubled during the pandemic as families have suffered income loss and unemployment, according to the World Food Program. Devastation from Hurricanes Eta and Iota last year caused many families in extreme poverty to go into debt in order to eat. Children are now even more likely to become malnourished and stop going to schools – 1200 of which were damaged or destroyed in Central America – as recovery efforts proceed slowly. Water systems remain contaminated, causing exposure to life-threatening illnesses.

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COVID-19 in Guatemala

How is Compassion currently operating in Guatemala?

  • Are Compassion centres open?

    Compassion child development centres have suspended in-person classes and activities as well as home visits.

    Staff and volunteers are making home visits to stay in touch with children and follow up on their needs. They also provide monthly magazines with program content so children can continue to learn about God and ways they can take care of themselves. Some classes and activities are held virtually.

    Local staff have delivered over 521,000 food packs and nearly 203,000 hygiene kits to children and their families. Additionally, they have facilitated medical support for nearly 11,000 individuals.

  • Are children receiving letters?

    The majority of letters are delayed in Guatemala, which means it may take longer for you to receive letters from your sponsored child. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write! We encourage you to continue sending your sponsored child letters of encouragement and hope. What a joyful day it will be when those letters are delivered!

  • Are gifts being delivered?

    Gifts continue to be distributed in Guatemala. Staff members have been given the option to disburse monetary gifts to caregivers, where appropriate. This applies to family gifts and child gifts. Families may spend the gift on whatever they consider most important to meet family needs. The caregiver will decide the best use of the money, recognising that sometimes purchasing food or paying rent is in the best interest of a child.

How you can pray

Thank you for praying for children and families in Guatemala who have been impacted by COVID-19—and the local staff and churches who continue to serve them in difficult circumstances.

Please join us in praying for the following:

  • Pray that God would protect and keep a child safe and allow his mother and grandmother to recover COVID-19 quickly.
  • Pray for healing for Elizabeth and wisdom to doctors as they treat Elizabeth’s condition.
  • Pray for strength and encouragement for Maria’s father as he processes the loss of his leg not only physically but also emotionally.
  • Pray that God would continue to prevent COVID-19 from spreading and heal those who are ill.
  • Pray for God's wisdom and peace for local partner staff and leadership, as they minister to children and their families.
Making face masks in Guatemala

Making face masks in Guatemala

When face masks and hand sanitiser suppliers ran out of stock, former sponsored child Yonathan wanted to help the vulnerable in his Guatemalan community.   Read more open_in_new

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Please note: Due to the current pandemic, most child development centres in Guatemala are temporarily closed. Our local church partners continue to meet the urgent needs of the children through home-based care.

A snapshot of Compassion's Child Sponsorship Program in Guatemala

Compassion’s program is contextualised across countries and communities, as well as age groups.

  • Children aged 1 to 3 receive home-based care.
  • Children aged 3 to 12 visit the Compassion centre for three hours a day, two days a week.
  • Students aged 12 to 19 attend the centre for four hours on Saturdays.
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Compassion Program Activities in Guatemala

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Compassion assisted children in Guatemala typically attend the child development centre at their local church before or after school. Older students attend on Saturdays. Here is an example of what a typical program day looks like for children in Guatemala.

Devotional time - Children are taught to pray.

Spiritual lessons - Children sing songs and learn Bible stories. Young children aged three to five receive a preschool Bible, those aged six to eight receive a children’s picture Bible, while older sponsored children receive a youth Bible, then a study Bible.

Break and snack time - Children can play in a safe environment and develop friendships. They are often provided with a substantial snack during program activities. A snack often consists of cereal and a banana, a sandwich and fruit.

Social-emotional lessons - Children learn conflict resolution skills and how to develop healthy self-esteem. Many of the children come from challenging home environments and are taught social and personal skills.

Lunch and social time - Children generally receive lunch at the centre. A typical meal usually consists of meat (chicken or beef), rice, vegetables and tortillas. They may also have chicken broth, a piece of chicken, vegetables and tortillas. They often receive a hot beverage called atol made from different cereals like corn and wheat. In the hot areas of the country, they might receive lemonade or juice.

Health lessons - Children learn practical health and hygiene lessons.

Letter writing and career planning - Older children work with local staff to identify their strengths and interests and set goals for their future.

In addition to Compassion’s curriculum, older students can choose to undergo vocational training to build their skills in carpentry, pastry baking, seamstress training, beautician skills, or handicrafts. Some centres have partnered with a government organisation INTECAP (Technical Training and Productivity Institute) to provide sponsored children with the skills they need to become competitive in the workforce. Parents are invited to meetings to discuss topics such as child development and health issues.

The greatest needs impacting children living in poverty in Guatemala

Poverty is rising in Guatemala, with indigenous people and rural communities most affected. As crops fail in ongoing drought, many families are gripped by famine. Almost half of the nation’s children are chronically malnourished—one of the highest rates in the world.

After almost four decades of civil war ended in 1996, Guatemala made significant ground in the fight against poverty.

Despite its economy being the largest in Central America, the nation is still racked by some of the worst poverty, malnutrition and maternal-child mortality rates in the region—and the gap between rich and poor is growing.

There are many underlying issues: crop failure caused by drought and a changing climate; political corruption and cronyism; a lack of protections for workers leading to rampant wage exploitation; rising violence at the hands of drug cartels and gangs. Their combined destruction has seen a record wave of Guatemalans flee the country in recent years, most headed for Mexico and onward to the United States border.

In all of this, it is the poorest families that suffer most. Many are entirely dependent on remittances sent back by family members who have emigrated to the US—and more and more of those who haven’t gone yet will go soon, unless these underlying issues are addressed.

Local churches across the nation are stepping up to protect their people from extortion and violence, to offer shelter and food where they can, to meet basic needs and provide children with an environment of safety and security, where they can learn, grow and play without fear.

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