Cultivating Hope in Guatemala

Covid-19 has increased the risks for children living in rural Guatemala. Many will lose their education and be further exposed to domestic violence.

It’s a reality that much of the developing world has experienced this year, but projects like Educando Para la Vida (Education for Life) are doing everything they can to be a positive influence and bring hope to families.

Latin Link member Rodolfo Rodas is director and founder of Educando Para la Vida. With its team of volunteers, the project is adapting to the challenges. It’s providing creative new initiatives to accompany families through this crisis and help at-risk children and young people remain in education.

Rodolfo shares: “Throughout lockdown, we’ve witnessed the intense strain that coronavirus restrictions have had on the families we support.

“Because schools have been unable to open, the children have gone months without access to proper education. In Guatemala, it’s unlikely that schools will be able to reopen until next year, so we face the difficult challenge of keeping children engaged and motivated not to drop out of education.

“Many parents have lost work or been suspended from their jobs. Not only does this create a huge financial strain, but it means more and more families are having to learn to be together at home.”

A devastating impact of lockdown in Guatemala has been an increase in domestic abuse rates. Financial pressure, fear, grief, and living in confined quarters have all contributed. Rodolfo says, “The uncertainty of life is creating a lot of anxiety; both about health and financial insecurity. And among many families this has led to a sense of disenchantment, discontentment and discouragement.”

Adapting and Responding

The team at Educando devised a plan. Recognising some of their community’s key needs, they created three unique streams of support: The Alternative School at Home, School for Parents, and a new radio broadcast called Educating Families.

Educando Student studying at homeThe School at Home provides educational material for children and young people, through a range of virtual teaching methods. “We thank God that around 80 families have been given support. More than 100 children, directly and indirectly, continue to receive classes from Monday to Friday in their own homes, with guidance from the volunteers.”

For parents here, homeschooling is a completely new experience. “We created the School for Parents to equip them to overcome the challenges at home. Each week, around 25 families connect on Zoom or WhatsApp,” Rodolfo explains. “This has not been easy, not everyone has access to the internet. Families make an extraordinary effort to pay for an internet card each week, but for those that do not have the technology, we invite them safely into Educando’s building, where they can pick up teaching guides and instructions for the week ahead.”

To reach more families, the Educando team created a new weekly radio broadcast. “Educating Families is aimed particularly at parents and provides helpful advice on topics such as mental health, emotional wellbeing, and parenting responsibly. It teaches them how to support their children lovingly, and how to avoid domestic violence,” says Rodolfo. “All our teaching is founded on biblical texts. We try to show families that the Bible is the source of strength, hope and direction for their lives.”

Sowing Seeds of Hope

As well as the school support and radio broadcast, the team implemented another project that’s been incredibly positive and transformational: Seeds of Hope.

Seeds of Hope is a project that teaches families about sustainability. It invites children and parents to convert small areas of earth outside their home into their very own vegetable garden! The team provides the families with the practical knowledge, tools and seeds to get started.

For a community which is experiencing huge economic disturbances due to the lockdown, being given a way of growing their own food is a lifeline. And for many of the children, it’s an important life lesson in eating and living sustainably. But aside from providing food and offering life skills, the project is cultivating hope in other unexpected ways.

“It is extraordinary to see that Seeds of Hope not only produces a sustainable food source that can be shared between families, but it has also been producing harmony,” Rodolfo shares.

“It has brought reconciliation within families. It has provided an opportunity in which children and parents can work together, learn together, and reap the fruit of their sowing together. We’re seeing it strengthen family unity, which is something that has been under great strain since the beginning of this pandemic.”

One of the mothers in the project says: “Seeds of Hope has supported me in learning these life skills, and so I am very grateful to God… I hope that we will continue working with this and that it will be able to help even more families.”

For many children in Guatemala, the challenges associated with lockdown won’t go away any time soon. In a country that already has high numbers of children without access to proper education, and living in turbulent family homes, lockdown has only fuelled existing concerns. But thanks to projects like Educando Para la Vida, families are learning a new way – a sustainable way.

Let’s pray with Rodolfo and team

  • Please pray that the children and young people in our community would stay motivated and enthusiastic about their education.
  • Pray that their parents would commit to helping them study, rather than watching them abandon education like so many do.
  • Pray that these young people would grow up to be professionals with a sense of dignity, of self-value, and with an awareness of
    God’s love for them and plan for their lives.

This article was first featured in the Autumn edition of Latinfile magazine. To read the full issue, click here.