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A hunger crisis, predicted to get much worse by the autumn, is already beginning in regions of Guatemala, triggered by loss of income due to lockdowns and the disruption of food production and distribution. Schools remain closed throughout the country, and all individuals must wear masks in public spaces. A curfew remains in place at night.

According to Compassion Guatemala, supporting families affected by unemployment and protecting children against COVID-19 infection remain the greatest needs. In order to target these issues, local churches have been providing food relief and health education where possible. They have also been preparing for when program activities are able to resume.

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COVID-19 in Guatemala

How is Compassion currently operating in Guatemala?

  • Are Compassion centres open?

    All of Compassion’s local church partners and child development centres in Guatemala are closed in line with local guidelines.

    Local centre workers continue to reach out to children and their families through weekly phone calls, and often pray with caregivers and children during these times. Frontline church partners have delivered 209,729 food packs and 76,771 hygiene kits to children and their families. Additionally, they have facilitated medical support for 2636 individuals. They have also distributed art kits and children’s magazines.

  • 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, although they are currently delayed. Staff members have been given the option to disburse monetary gifts to caregivers, where appropriate. This applies to family gifts and child gifts (including birthday and final 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:

  • Wisdom for Compassion Guatemala and for local centre staff as they seek to protect and care for children, their families and local church partners during COVID-19.
  • Protection against COVID-19 and quick recovery for Josue as he recovers from respiratory disease which has weakened his lungs.
  • Protection over former Compassion sponsored child Yonathan as he makes face masks to help protect his community from COVID-19.
  • Strength and healing for Celeste as she undergoes treatment for anaemia and malnutrition.
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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