San Jerónimo is a town in the Baja Verapaz region of northern Guatemala. It has a predominantly agricultural economy in an area prone to severe drought.
Families are dependent on unpredictable weather and are sometimes pushed over the edge when the rains don't come. Single mothers and young parents can find life particularly difficult and their children suffer as a result.
Life on the edge in Guatemala's 'dry corridor'
Four languages are spoken in the area - Spanish, Achi, Poqomchi and Queqchi. The economy is primarily reliant on agriculture, and the main cash crops are sugar cane and cereals.
In an already desperately poor country, the northern region of Guatemala is one of the poorest. An estimated 77% of the population live in poverty, meaning that they don't receive basic facilities such as water, sanitation or basic health-care - but also face issues such as malnutrition. Baja Verapaz has some of the highest rates of malnourishment among pre-school children.
An agricultural economy relies on the weather for its workers to survive. Geographically the department is on the so-called 'dry corridor' of the country - drought frequently comes to the area, leading to food shortages and driving many people to the edge. If the crops aren't there to harvest, people will starve. Though local authorities put measures in place to prevent starvation, those most afflicted by drought often cannot afford to get to centres where state aid is given.
Impact on the welfare of children
Frequent droughts impacting on incomes, and general poverty can make for difficult conditions within families. Parents often develop substance misuse problems and take their stress out on their partners. Domestic violence is a serious issue in Baja Verapaz. Recent public campaigns have given women the strength to speak out and complain about such acts of violence. Women and children are also being made more aware of their rights.
Children who have difficult home lives sometimes join gangs for a sense of belonging and protection at home. Such solidarity and loyalty offered by the gangs is frequently traded for any real prospects in life by the child.
How we intervene in San Jeronimo
SOS Children's Villages opened the Children's Village in San Jerónimo in 2001. We offer children from the area who are no longer able to live with their parents, a new family home, and care from an SOS Mother. In a loving family environment they are able to attend school in the community and form bonds outside the Village.
As children grow up and require more independence they are offered places in shared, supported accommodation through the SOS youth programme. Living with us, they are able to attend further education or vocational training, and as they shoulder the responsibilities of early adulthood, they are given guidance by qualified youth counsellors.
From toddlers to teenagers, we care for children in San Jerónimo who have lost parental care. Each child in the SOS Children's Village is supported by child sponsors. Will you start a child sponsorship today?