Not long ago, they thought the hardships they were facing would go on for generation after generation. Like their grandparents and parents before them, they expected to live with chronic malnourishment, contaminated water, few educational opportunities and unsafe housing conditions. Then, the Church and friends from Cross Catholic Outreach stepped in, and their situation began to change. As these poor Guatemalan families see it, God inspired this transformation, and he is continuing to meet their most pressing needs.
The donors from Cross Catholic Outreach are rejoicing too. They saw great promise in Bishop Pablo Vizcaino Prado’s bold vision to transform lives in his diocese and were eager to support that work. His plan included providing clean water through solar power, nutritious food, agricultural training programs, educational scholarships for young people, and building homes for families who were once living in dilapidated shelters. Caritas in the Diocese of Suchitepéquez-Retalhuleu is one of Cross Catholic Outreach’s community transformation partners, and its holistic strategy incorporates both material and spiritual outreaches in its long-term development approach.
Supplying food was a critical part of the development plan Cross Catholic Outreach helped empower, and the donations its benefactors provided helped fill stomachs with 816,000 protein-rich Vitafood meals. These shipments have done a lot to reduce the threat of malnutrition in the area, and many of the meals provided were hand-packed by Catholics in the United States.
This food blessed people throughout the diocese, including the Reyes family. Eleazar Reyes and his wife, Benita, said the meals are helping their children gain weight and grow stronger — and the children tell us they are delicious! Beyond filling stomachs, these Vitafood meals have encouraged the entire family to grow deeper in faith.
“We thank God for this food,” gushed Eleazar. “It is our desire that our children grow up healthy. And with the help of God, we can move them forward to realize their dreams. Just as this food nourishes our bodies, God nourishes our lives.”
God answered the prayers of the Reyes family and all the families who will sit down for a nutritious dinner tonight.
Our supporters had a big impact on educational outreaches in Guatemala as well. For example, their gifts helped kick-start a new scholarship program, allowing 46 secondary and vocational school students from eight communities to continue their education. This covered tuition expenses, uniforms, books, school supplies and materials, and transportation for students who needed it. Understanding that parental involvement is one of the most significant predictors of educational success, the program’s social worker regularly hosted parent workshops in order to drive engagement.
Caritas also arranged morning and afternoon computer classes to give students the technical training to secure family-sustaining employment when they graduate. All the students came from families with great financial needs, so this support was an answer to prayer. It allowed them to continue their education and pursue their dreams!
One of these students was Zaida Lopez, a high school student who has dreams of becoming a doctor. Today, Zaida is one step closer to making her dreams a reality thanks to the academic scholarship she received. Without the scholarship, Zaida would not have been able to continue her education. She is enrolled in high school, where, in addition to her interest in science class, she has discovered a passion for art.
“I thank you all for giving me this scholarship, which I wanted so badly,” she said.
Zaida’s goal is to become a pediatrician and build a free medical clinic in her community so families will never have to choose between paying medical bills and putting food on the table.
Thanks to the support U.S. Catholics have provided, Caritas has also been able to launch a construction program that will soon begin building safe, secure homes for families living in unsafe conditions. The diocese completed community surveys and selected the first 59 families who will receive a new home in 2023.
An architect and engineer recently developed a standard housing blueprint. The four-room houses will have solid concrete floors, cinder block walls, a galvanized steel roof, and noncorrosive aluminum windows and doors. Each home will feature basic amenities that are often lacking in Guatemalan households, such as latrines, sinks and electrical outlets.
One of the people looking forward to raising her children in a safe and sanitary environment is Cristina Alvarez, a mother of two. One of her biggest concerns is that cats and other animals can climb into her wood-and-thatch home and steal food — her most precious possession. Cristina’s family will be one of the first to receive a new house when the program launches.
Cross Catholic Outreach supporters and Caritas Suchitepéquez-Retalhuleu are playing a critical role in helping the poorest families within the diocese. Boys and girls are receiving an education, parents can feed their families from their bountiful harvests, and the people’s faith in God has been confirmed.
Praise God for such a successful Catholic ministry in Guatemala. When God’s people come together for a common purpose, there’s no limit to what can be accomplished!
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.