CFCA stories

Sponsorship transforms distressed community

July 15, 2011

Click to watch video about Colmenas, Guatemala
CFCA sponsorship has helped the community of Colmenas in
Guatemala recover from extreme poverty, drought and civil war.
Click the photo to watch a video of CFCA's work in Colmenas.

The community of Colmenas in Guatemala suffered from the most extreme poverty Alvaro Aguilar had ever seen. Aguilar is the coordinator for the Northeast region of CFCA-Guatemala, which serves the community of Colmenas.

"The animals and children were malnourished. The people prefered to sleep during the day to numb the hunger pains. All this made us feel [helpless] and some of us cried to see such extreme poverty," Aguilar said.

Settled by the Chorti, one of the indigenous Maya peoples, Colmenas was thrown into economic crisis by civil war, drought and a lack of employment. The community received no outside help because its terrain and location across a river make it difficult to access.

In 2004, CFCA staff introduced the sponsorship program to Colmenas and set in motion a series of positive changes. Many inhabitants said it was the first time help had arrived.

At first, sponsorship benefits addressed the people's most basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. Some of the sponsored community members literally survived from the food provided as a sponsorship benefit.

"One woman waited for us every 15 days in her nylon box [her house] and didn't eat anything except what CFCA could give her," Aguilar said.

CFCA and Colmenas, Guatemala
This photo was taken in 2004 when CFCA staff members
arrived in the Colmenas community.

Today CFCA sponsorship serves 40 families. The change in attitude and hope is noticeable.

"At first, bringing them food was most critical," Aguilar said. "Now, we are working from their base of knowledge so they can produce and work. ... Now, they have tortillas and they offer us fish, milk and goat cheese — everything they produce."

The residents started a bakery, a dressmaking center and a fish farm. Farmers have access to credit to grow crops. A CFCA social worker, Don Beto, teaches organic farming techniques and other livelihood skills. CFCA worked with another institution to facilitate the distribution of goats as a source of milk and meat for the families.

"CFCA distributed 10 female goats and one male goat to 10 sponsored members and their families, and they promised to give the offspring to other families so that eventually, everyone has their own goat," Aguilar said. "This is an example of a community of compassion."

The people have embraced the vision and core values of CFCA and have a high level of participation in the program. Their hard work and cooperation has permitted them to be managers of their own development.

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