You might have heard the expression, “go big or go home.”
Well, we’re going big with our community transformation project in southern Guatemala, and I hope you’ll join us. We’re very excited to be equipping families like María Josefa Gomez’s (more below) with the material and spiritual tools they need to break out of poverty forever, and we’re 100% committed to making that happen in the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Lima.
With God’s blessing – and support from caring friends like you – we are confident this project will forever change thousands of lives in an extremely poor area of Guatemala. In fact, I think it will actually have an even bigger impact, blessing tens of thousands of people. Maybe more.
While overcoming poverty in Santa Rosa is achievable, we must attack problems with a comprehensive strategy for change, and we know the process will take time. It will require hard work and creative problem-solving skills. Most of all, we must rely on prayer and God’s grace as we see this through. That’s why we’re partnering with Father Raúl Monterroso, our longtime ministry partner in Guatemala, to provide spiritual guidance and in-country logistic support for this mission. His Caritas ministry staff will be intimately involved as well. Only by working together can we help the struggling communities in his diocese achieve long-term transformation and give local families the tools they need to achieve greater self-sufficiency.
Our plan in Santa Rosa is deeply rooted in Catholic social teaching, specifically St. Paul VI’s concept of integral human development that he wrote about in his 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio.
Community transformation, as envisioned by St. Paul VI, addresses all factors that suppress a community’s healthy growth, limit opportunities and take away hope. In general, programs that make up the transformation are interconnected and promote the good of every person, empowering families to flourish spiritually and materially. Properly implemented, these programs vastly improve the quality of their earthly life while leading souls to heaven.
But what are the elements, specifically, that will shape our community transformation in Santa Rosa de Lima? We plan to:
Build stormproof concrete homes for families currently living in makeshift shacks.
Bless poor students with life-changing scholarships to a new Catholic school, provide teacher and staff salaries, and supply furnishings and computers.
Drill a borehole to provide fresh, safe water at the new school.
Help families attain economic independence by providing agricultural training and supplies to expand their crop yields.
Help more than 5,000 catechists and lay leaders lead retreats and training activities to strengthen the Church in Guatemala.
And, because it is crucial to ensure families are healthy and stable, there will also be a food program to address extreme hunger.
That last point is important to remember. Although the grander pieces of the community transformation process are often more compelling — building houses, improving educational opportunities, helping families attain economic independence, mobilizing thousands of catechists and more – it would be a mistake to downplay the importance of a basic necessity like food.
In fact, ensuring families receive proper nutrition actually has implications that go far beyond filling empty stomachs. A lack of food can quickly create medical problems, sap the energy of students in school, and lead to instability in families. Food is described as a necessity for a good reason, and most of Santa Rosa’s parents will tell you that addressing hunger in their families is one of their own highest priorities.
In the mountainous villages of Santa Rosa, you see, the destitute survive by subsistence farming, but their efforts rarely produce enough to properly feed their families. They must often rely on simple meals of tortillas or beans because it is all they have, and neither contains adequate nutrition to fuel their children’s growing bodies and brains.
That’s why María Josefa Gomez can be found in the fields well before the sun rises. While she earns only $5 or $6 per day harvesting corn and beans, she eagerly takes on the hard work for the sake of her family. Without the job, she would never have enough money to provide the “daily bread” her young ones desperately need.
The perpetual struggle for families like Maria’s just to eat means by the time children hit their teens, many have no choice but to start working in the fields to help put food on the table.
This is one of the reasons Cross Catholic Outreach works so diligently to provide food to impoverished communities, even though we ultimately have a greater vision to transform their circumstances. In a country where more than four in 10 children are chronically malnourished, it is critical that we also address the problems families face in the here and now.
So as we pursue grand plans of community transformation, I hope you’ll pray with me that we stay humble and never take for granted the blessing a gift of daily bread represents to the poor. As our heavenly Father provided manna for the Israelites in the desert, we must help provide food for our sisters and brothers in Guatemala and in all places we serve. A more lasting transformation in Santa Rosa awaits, but for now we must also satisfy this most basic of human needs.
Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2024, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.