In 2003 I feel in Love with Guatemala. Some people find it very strange to hear me say this and I have oft been accused of romanticizing my experience there. However, I cannot deny that something about this country captured my heart from the first moment we landed in Guatemala City.
We traveled by bus approximately 2 hours to Santa Clara La Laguna, Guatemala. A mountain town nestled high above the country’s largest body of water – Lake Atitlan.
Santa Clara is primitive. Water is drawn at local wells, electricity is spotty, food is cooked on wood stoves, beds are made of straw. My stay there reminded me of stories I read in history books about the pioneers in early American life… people who lived off the land and made use of the bounty provided by the Lord.
Workers in Santa Clara earn their wage in one of two primary ways – basket weaving or corn farming. Santa Clara is known country wide for both. Despite its rustic charm, see passed the novelty and you will find a people bearing the weight of poverty, scrapping to make ends, meet, many locked in abusive cycles as a result of drug and alcohol sales and abuse. Many children suffer from hunger; have no access to hygiene products, medicines, or even education. It’s not uncommon for male children to serve as the “man of the house” as fathers have abandoned their families for work, addictions, or the dream of a better life.
While the picture I have painted seems bleak, let me assure you that there is a beacon of hope shining brightly in Santa Clara La Laguna called Compassion International. My reason for traveling here in 2003 was for a mission trip partnering with Compassion to help build onto the Compassion center located in the heart Santa Clara.
While my team worked construction during the day, we had the opportunity to interact with the children who came to the project for afternoon classes. After noon, children of all ages came in large number to participate in the programming offered by the Compassion center. Classes on language, math, and the arts supplement the education these children receive in public school. Each child receives a meal, for some, the only meal they will receive that day. Of all the services offered by Compassion for these children, the one that impacted me the most was seeing several children lined up at a long sink that looked more like a trough than a sink you and I would imagine, all with wet, soapy hair, having their hair washed, teeth brushed, and being taught about basic hygiene. This is when the impact of child sponsorship truly hit home for me.
The children who come to the Compassion center each day are there because they are sponsored. Someone in another country, typically, the United States, has agreed to be their sponsor and pays $32 a month for the child to take part in the activities provided by the Compassion center. The extent of a sponsor’s commitment is simply a monthly payment and corresponding with their sponsor child via mail. After seeing the benefits of $32 a month in Santa Clara, I am convinced this is a very small price to pay to make a lasting impact in the life of a child in poverty.
Back in Santa Clara, as our team hosted a children’s party one afternoon during our mission trip, I learned that there were 2 children in the project who were still waiting on a sponsor. Only two! I couldn’t believe it. So I immediately volunteered to become a sponsor.
I had the opportunity to meet my sponsor child, Kevin, who was 5 years old at the time, along with his mother Andrea, and later his father and another little brother named Francis.
As much as I would like to put this experience into words, I am unable to fully describe the incredible impact this has had on my life.
To Be Continued….