In rural Guatemala, Cristina Yanes struggles against all odds to raise her son and daughter. She also pleads with God to keep her children safe. It’s a humble prayer that occupies her mind almost every waking moment.
Like many of their neighbors, Cristina and her children live in a flimsy structure with stick walls, a thatched roof and a dirt floor. It’s a precarious situation, and Cristina is justified in fearing for her family’s security. The home does not even have a solid front door to deter intruders, and it has been burglarized before. “I am afraid of someone coming and doing something to me and my children,” Cristina lamented.
This hardworking mother of two has other worries as well. Every bout of bad weather brings a new set of challenges. During rainstorms, for instance, water seeps through the roof and walls, turning the floor into a mud puddle. When the wind blows, the children often fall ill. During the dry season, bugs and snakes slither inside. Cristina longs to defend her family against the threats that plague them, but her meager wages are barely able to put food on the table, much less provide a safer home. Most families in rural Guatemala survive by subsistence farming — growing just enough food to feed themselves — or by finding seasonal jobs as day laborers on local plantations. People like Cristina perform backbreaking chores in the coffee and sugarcane fields, earning only a few dollars for a full day’s work. Crushing poverty is preventing them from building safer homes, sending their children to school and even securing their daily bread.
That’s why Cross Catholic Outreach wants to help these families by meeting their urgent need for safe shelter. This fall, we are again partnering with the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Lima and the Diocese of Suchitepéquez-Retalhuleu in southern Guatemala to transform lives and provide poor families with an enduring reminder of God’s protective love.
We began working with Caritas in the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Lima in 2014, and since then, we have helped support integral human development by funding holistic programs, including the construction of nearly 400 concrete, stormproof homes. In 2018, we also established a partnership with Caritas in the Diocese of Suchitepéquez-Retalhuleu, located west of Santa Rosa de Lima. Over the past four years, our donors have sent more than 2 million meals for the hungry, strengthened 400 families with agricultural support, funded the installation of two clean water systems and provided various other blessings for families in that diocese — and now we are launching the diocese’s first housing program.
All the way through the end of the Advent season, we invite U.S. Catholic parishes, groups, families and individuals to participate in a meaningful outreach that will build 100 homes in the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Lima and 59 homes in the Diocese of Suchitepéquez-Retalhuleu. Each home provided by this outreach will feature three modest rooms, a galvanized steel roof, a secure metal door, shuttered windows and a sanitary latrine.
Ultimately, this mission is part of our multifaceted efforts in the region, which also hope to provide spiritual formation, hearty meals, educational opportunities, agricultural training and other blessings for families this year — but none of it will be possible without generous support from U.S. Catholics. By giving to help shelter the poor and meet urgent needs, they will extend Christ’s compassion to Guatemalan families and set them on the path toward a brighter future.
“In my experience, most American Catholics want to support meaningful outreaches to help the poor. But they are looking for something specific, and they want to know their gifts will have a significant impact,” said Jim Cavnar, president of Cross Catholic Outreach. “When they see what they can accomplish through Cross Catholic Outreach … they often ask us, ‘What can I do next?’ They feel such fulfillment from the experience that they want to do more.”
To learn more about how you can transform lives in Guatemala, visit CrossCatholic.org/Advent.