Guatemala: Sponsors visit and see the impact of their support firsthand

By Pauline and Rod McGregor, Guatemala Child Sponsors

In September we were fortunate to be able to travel to Guatemala in Central America and meet a little boy who we feel is almost part of our extended family. Vielman is four years old and we sponsor him through World Vision Australia.

World Vision arranged for Jose, a staff member, to meet us at our accommodation in the ancient city of Antigua, and we then drove almost four hours along the Inter-Americana Highway, traversing steep volcanic mountains and fertile valleys to the San Juan project’s World Vision office.

It was here that Vielman, his parents and two brothers were waiting anxiously to meet us. They had travelled several hours also, from a remote mountain area to the north, not far from the Mexican border. It was the first time any of the family had been in Quetzaltenango, and I suspect that the long journey by car was not a common occurrence for the family.

Being such a young boy, Vielman was initially rather shy, but when we gave him an apple, along with other gifts for his family, he warmed to us. Vielman’s older brother Walter, took an instant liking to the Aussie Rules football which we had brought and quickly displayed kicking and hand passing talent.

The boys’ father, a farmer who grows maize and coffee, speaking through an interpreter asked us about Australia and our home and we shared some photos of our family and grandchildren. As there was a world map on the wall of the World Vision office, it was easy to point out the route we had taken to get to Guatemala, via USA and also Panama. He appeared to have little concept of the distance from our home here in South Gippsland to his in the mountains of Guatemala, and was impressed that we had come so far.

Vielman’s mother was very shy but we could see that she was grateful for the assistance that being part of a World Vision project gives her family. She receives assistance in understanding nutritional needs for herself and her family and also the general development of children.

The San Juan project the family is involved in targets mainly preschool children, offering parents a deeper understanding of factors affecting the growth and development of their children. Immunisations and regular check-ups are provided to families.

 

 

Vielman attends preschool where he is encouraged to develop physical skills and curiosity. Traditionally Mayan women carry their children on their backs, in a sling, well into their toddler years, as the terrain where many live is steep and not suited to small children. Women work in the fields carrying toddlers all day and the development of these little ones is restricted.

Families are also assisted to extend their agricultural knowledge and grow a wider variety of crops offering both better food choices for the family and some marketable crops, allowing an increased income. Mothers are taught skills which can assist the family income, such as sewing, crafts, beekeeping and flower growing.

Initially they were purely subsistence farmers growing mostly maize, which is the staple of the Guatemalan diet. Once children are at school the project assists with improved teaching methods and children are encouraged to complete high school so that they can better contribute to the future of their community.

We took the family to lunch at an enormous chicken restaurant. Fried chicken is very popular in Central America and the children really enjoyed the treat. All too soon it was time to farewell Vielman, but for us the day will be long remembered. It has reinforced our reasons for contributing to a development project as we could see firsthand how a family is impacted. I’m sure too that the whole family will long remember the day they met us, and that the regular reports we receive from World Vision will have a deeper meaning to us and them. Maybe one day we will get to travel and meet Askual in Ethiopia, or Junior in Peru whom we’ve sponsored for 16 years.

Driving back, Jose told us of the successes of their projects and the ever increasing number of adults who have been assisted to receive a full education and are now able to implement skills in their communities. We also learnt of the pressure that World Vision and other organisations are placing on the Government to increase education and welfare to indigenous families and to reduce the corruption, which is rife throughout Guatemala.

We can see that the donation that we give regularly is having a huge impact on the way that Vielman is growing up. After speaking at length with Jose we are more aware that children who have been part of World Vision programs not only are able to lead fuller lives themselves, but that many of them are also actively now working as adults to improve life for others.

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