GUATEMALA: Salesian Missions, Feed My Starving Children Delivery Arrives Just in Time to Help Flood Victims
(MissionNewswire) Rural poverty hasn’t changed much in Guatemala during the last 20 years, according to the World Bank. Close to 75 percent of the population is estimated to live below the poverty line and almost 58 percent live below the extreme poverty line which the World Bank defines as struggling to afford even a basic basket of food.
For the country’s indigenous population the poverty rates jump even higher with almost 90 percent facing crippling poverty and few resources. The Salesians have been working in Guatemala, particularly with indigenous populations, to help break the cycle of poverty and provide access to basic needs and education.
Recently, the mountainous area of La Tinta was affected by devastating floods. Many families across four remote villages lost everything and were struggling to meet even their most basic needs of food and shelter.
The Salesians working in Altaverapaz, an area with 250,000 Q’eqchi’ indigenous inhabitants, offered assistance to those in need. A food delivery arrived before the floods thanks to a partnership between Feed My Starving Children and Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. So the Salesians were able to respond to the emergency immediately with a large quantity of protein-enriched rice.
“The Salesians are on the ground already working with local populations so the response to emergencies like this is usually very quick,” explains Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions. “Because of our existing infrastructure our partners trust us to be able to get supplies to people in need.”
One of the biggest challenges in the delivery of the rice was navigating the mountainous terrain surrounding the remote villages. Much of the usual path from Altaverapaz to La Tinta was wiped out by landslides. Father Vittorio Castagna, working on behalf of the Salesians, was able to reach the villages of Kaqiha’ and Samiha after a four hour drive combined with a three-hour hike. When he arrived at the affected area he was met with a scene of total devastation.
“Unfortunately, the residents of these villages are forgotten by the international media but the Salesians have been here to provide for them,” says Fr. Castagna. “We have come to provide assistance in many circumstances. This time we were able to help close to 50 families affected by the landslides.”
Emergency situations aside, the Salesians have been providing ongoing assistance and education to the indigenous Q’eqchi’ people for many years. They are most focused on increasing the capacity of the local communities. With the assistance of Q’eqchi’ promoters, community groups are educated in self-management on projects benefiting family and community.
The Salesians also work with the Foundation for Advancement of Indigenous Women in Guatemala (Talita Kumi) to raise the status of women and empower them to become household and community decision-makers.
“The Salesian work is flexible and adaptable to the communities and countries we serve,” says Fr. Hyde. “Communities have different needs and we help as we can, all the while working to help people break the cycle of poverty and lead productive, healthy lives.”
World Bank – Guatemala
Salesian Missions – Work in Guatemala