Poverty and social exclusion blight this rural region of Guatemala. Despite the land being fertile and the economy being generally strong, poverty levels are extremely high.
The socio-economic divide leaves too many in poverty and too few in comfort.
High poverty in rural regions
Quetzaltenango has a population of 150,000. 65% of the population are indigenous and speak Quiche or Mam as well as Spanish. The region is fertile and is an important agricultural centre, but is also an important industrial and cultural centre for the country.
Some areas of Quetzaltenango have extremely high poverty rates. Rural poor in these areas are likely to migrate to urban areas, which do not have the infrastructure to cope with such influx of new residents. Young people often give up their education to work in order to help their families. Migration often causes family breakup and instability and in some extreme cases families abandoning their children.
Inequality impacts children the most
Primary school attendance in the region is good but between the ages of 13-15 the figures fall off. This suggess many children do not attain the education they could achieve, but instead go to work to support their families. The Guatemalan government has worked hard to improve secondary school graduation rates but progress has been patchy and slow.
SOS Children's Village Quetzaltenango
We started work in Quetzaltenango in 1979 and have been working hard to intervene in the social problems in the area. Many of the children that come to us have suffered abuse or neglect from their parents. In some cases this is caused by substance misuse problems. We look after children who have lost parental care, ensuring they can attend school and break out of the cycle of poverty.
In our Children's Village there are have 14 SOS families which look after children who are unable to live with their parents. Here they grow up in a family environment, headed by an SOS Mother. They attend school in the local community and make friends with their peers outside of the Village as they would in parental care. A psychologist is based at the Children's Village who offers counselling and support to traumatised children, or children in need of support at home or at school.
As children grow up and need more independence they are offered shared, supported accommodation through our SOS youth programme while they attend vocational training or further education. As they confront the decisions critical to taking the right path in life, so they are given guidance by qualified youth counsellors.
Support for local families
We offer courses for parents in vocational skills in an approach designed to keep families together. They are also offered hygiene and reproductive health to them in an attempt to improve the welfare of the community as a whole. In the town of Chilntla, about 100km from the Children's Village we have a social centre which offers family strengthening programmes designed to alleviate hardship in the community but keep children under the care of the parents - as this is the best option for the child.
Orphaned children in Quetzaltenango are cared for in our SOS Village. They are given all the support they need, thanks to child sponsors. Will you help a vulnerable child to grow, and sponsor a child today?