Guatemala

GUATEMALA: Donor funding supports Indigenous families in need after hurricane

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48 Maya Q’eqchi’ Indigenous families receive support thanks to donor funding through Salesian Missions after Hurricane Eta destroys their homes and livelihood

(MissionNewswire) Maya Q'eqchi' Indigenous families in the rural area of San Pedro Carchá, Guatemala, have received support after the devastating effects of Hurricane Eta, thanks to donor support through Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. Hundreds of poor Indigenous families lost their gardens, farms and homes due to rising floodwaters caused by the hurricane.

A few people who had mobile phones called Salesian missionaries for help, but it was impossible to reach the community because the roads were blocked by the flood. Later, Salesians were able to reach people by walking through mountainous paths. Families were provided kits of food, clothes, blankets and personal hygiene items. Some who had lost their homes sought shelter with relatives and friends while others improvised shelter with only a piece of nylon for the roof.

Salesian missionaries organized relief work around the words of Pope Francis: "Techo, Terreno, Trabajo" (Roof, Land, Work). Salesians provided funding for prefabricated houses on land safer from floodwaters. There was also donor funding to help these families start their family farms and vegetable gardens. Through donor funding from Salesian Missions, Salesians have been able to assist 48 families with small farmhouses and vegetable gardens, but hundreds more families are in need.

"The stakes are high for those impacted by these hurricanes, especially now when we are still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic," said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. "Because Salesian missionaries live in the communities where they work, they are perfectly positioned to respond in times of crisis. They know the local landscape and can ensure that relief aid is provided to those most in need."

In addition to direct support, Salesian missionaries are also providing agricultural and livestock technical assistance to families to help production output for food security. Salesians are also bolstering local economic agriculture initiatives while focusing on environmental sustainability.

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 sixth grade. This is largely due to the expenses required to send children to schools that 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.

Salesian missionaries in these local communities are still assessing the damage and working to respond to people in need. In support of this work, Salesian Missions has launched its Central American Hurricane Relief Fund. Those who want to support these efforts are urged to donate online at salesianmissions.org/lp/hurricane-central-america/.