Our work in Guatemala
Unbound programs impact lives in Guatemala
The most extensive outreach of any Unbound program is in Guatemala through two projects, Hermano Pedro and Atitlan, based in San Lucas Toliman.
San Lucas Toliman was home to Unbound's co-founder and president, Bob Hentzen, and his wife, Cristina, prior to Bob's passing in October 2013.
The Hermano Pedro project, Unbound's largest, serves sponsored members in eight geographic regions of the country. The Atitlan project serves members primarily in and around Lake Atitlan.
Hermano Pedro's coordinating office also serves as a retreat and resource center for families in the sponsorship program as well as sponsors and other visitors.
Among other things, sponsorship provides access to education, health care, housing supplies and improved nutrition.
Hope to isolated communities
When Unbound staff members first visited the Colmenas community in Guatemala, they discovered extreme poverty and malnourishment. The residents had suffered from Guatemala's long civil war, drought and a lack of employment.
Settled by the Chorti, one of the indigenous Maya peoples, Colmenas had received no outside help because its terrain and location across a river make it difficult to access.
In 2004, the local Unbound staff introduced the sponsorship program to Colmenas and set in motion a series of positive changes. Today, 40 families participate in the Unbound sponsorship program.
Residents started a bakery, a dressmaking center and a fish farm. Farmers have access to credit to grow crops through organic farming techniques and other livelihood skills.
The people of Colmenas have a high level of participation in the program. Their hard work and cooperation have enabled them to manage their own development.
Encouragement toward self-sufficiency
Parents of sponsored children can choose to save part of their sponsorship benefits for three months to purchase income-generating items such as livestock for their family or more costly items, such as a bed or dresser.
This helps families shift toward saving for benefits that increase in value or generate additional income. About a third of sponsored friends and their families save for these types of benefits at least once a year.
Through this program, families become self-sustaining as they build a path out of poverty.
Opening doors to education
Children in Guatemala tend to have one of the lowest education levels in Latin America, as very few children from low-income families continue their education past primary school.
Unfortunately, lack of education only continues the cycle of poverty.
The Guatemala projects are working hard to encourage students to stay in school and are celebrating their accomplishments.
Some of these students are mothers of sponsored children. In 2007, Unbound staffers started a literacy program in the town of Nahuala for mothers who wanted to learn how to read and write.
The program has continued to grow, and in 2011 more than 75 mothers graduated from primary school with help from Guatemala’s national committee for literacy.
Juana is one of these mothers. "I am proud to be a role model for my children," she said. "They are very proud of their mother, and they encourage me to not give up."