GUATEMALA: New collaborative project launches to build homes for poor families in San Benito Petén
(MissionNewswire) Families living within the Salesian mission in San Benito Petén, located in the El Petén department of Guatemala, have new homes thanks to the support of Fundepaz, a nonprofit organization led by Father Fernando Echeverria, a Colombian priest living in the United States who has raised funding for the construction of two new homes.
According to the construction schedule, the first two houses will be completed by the end of this year and in 2019, there are plans to build another 20 houses. Many of the families in the region who receive services from local Salesian missionaries live in houses made only of sheet metal, making them extremely hot. There are others who cannot afford sheet metal and live in homes made from four poles covered with black nylon sheets.
“To think that children live in these conditions sometimes horrifies me,” says Father Giampiero De Nardi, an Italian Salesian missionary active in San Benito Petén.
Father De Nardi met Father Fernando Echeverria of Fundepaz by chance. Father Echeverria had not heard of the Salesian mission in San Benito Petén but became interested in the area after reading about the various challenges facing the country in recent years and the many problems that continue to afflict it.
While visiting Guatemala in search of a project to help the population, he discovered that the Petén region is considered one of the worst in the country. He contacted a local journalist who attends the Salesian parish and then met with Fr. De Nardi to discuss working together to build houses for the poor.
“As always, God opens paths that we do not even know,” says Fr. De Nardi. “I thought this is the Providence of God who sends me the opportunity to help many people. And clearly I did not have to have it repeated twice.”
Salesian missionaries operate a summer youth program in the municipality of San Benito that offers classes in Spanish and English, mathematics, computers, arts and crafts, music and dance as well as provides organized games for participants. Operated out of a Salesian youth center in San Benito, youth in the program are able to get away from difficult home situations or playing on the streets to engage in productive activities in a family atmosphere that fosters peace and stability.
In addition to the summer youth program, Salesian missionaries in the region offer educational programs and social development services. They have also started several new projects including the construction of a new youth center and distribution of ecological filters for water purification.
Rural poverty hasn’t changed much in Guatemala during the last 20 years, according to the World Bank. While 70 percent of Guatemalan citizens live below the poverty line, the number is as high as 91 percent for its indigenous population. Many rural residents in Guatemala have only completed a 6th grade education. This is largely due to the expenses required to send children to schools which are often located far from their homes.
Salesian missionaries working and living in the country have been providing for the basic needs of Guatemala’s youth while helping to break the cycle of poverty in their lives. They work extensively with poor youth and their families at youth centers, orphanages, parishes and primary and secondary schools as well as operate technical schools, vocational training workshops and two universities in the country.
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World Bank – Guatemala