Monday, December 6, 2010

Charity work in Guatamala

Last week, Eli, the owner of Green Future Construction went to Guatemala to do charity work and learn about the culture of many of our workers. Guatemala is a country in Central America that can be described as having a "developing economy" and huge disparities in income. Although a peace accord was signed in 1996 to end armed conflict, violent crime is still a main concern. Extreme poverty has made many Guatemalans turn to violence and drug trade out of desperation.

Eli traveled around the country with 4 body guards and a bullet proof car, to protect himself, since many Americans fall victim to kidnappings. He stayed with some wealthy locals and had a chance to visit places tourists don't typically get to go, including one of the poorest villages in the country. While he was there, he and a few other companies raised $10,000 for the village and brought truck loads of food, candies, and supplies. The villagers lined up, waiting excitedly as trucks full of rice, corn, beans and candy pulled up one by one. Their anticipation was palpable as children chatted and adults buzzed, looking longingly at the sweets.

It felt great to give the donation to the needy village, but it was also apparent to Eli that this offering wasn't enough. Soon the food supply would be depleted again and the villagers lacked something essential to get themselves back on their feet. The village had other problems: women as young as 11 had children of their own, babies were growing up malnourished so that a 5 year old, Nelson, looked like a two year old and could not walk or talk, and any crops that the village tried to plant to sustain themselves, immediately died. When Eli inquired about the crop failure, he was informed that the villagers had cut all there trees down and sold them to make money, now when they try to farm, the crops get washed away because there are no trees to prevent erosion. Aside from the obvious environmental and economic problems of this community, it was obvious to him that at the root of these problems was lack of education.

If the villagers were better educated, young women would wait to have children and would be more likely to develop skills or a career that could help them support their family. If they had been educated, they may have realized that cutting down the trees would result in crop failure. Education would also provide more opportunities for growth and jobs. The same is true here. Education is at the root of a changing future and it seems that more emphasis should be placed on the environment considering how it impacts almost all aspects of our daily lives.

We encourage all of our clients, friends, and families to do what they can to help people in need, but also to remember that the focus of the aide should ideally be on long term solutions including educational programs. Remember the old adage, give a man a fish, he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for life.