Capital: Guatemala City
Population: 12,728,111 (2007 Census)
Life expectancy: 66 years
Official Language: Spanish
Location: Caribbean Sea
AOJ Ministry: Since 1991
Guatemala is a tropical country located in Central America, bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between El Salvador and Mexico, and bordering the Gulf of Honduras (Caribbean Sea) between Honduras and Belize. Having first been inhabited by the Mayan civilization since the first millennium AD, Guatemala was then colonized by Spain in the 1520s, and ultimately gained its independence in 1821. In the latter half of the 20th century it experienced a tragic 36-year guerrilla war (ending in 1996), which left more than 100,000 people dead and created, by some estimates, some 1 million refugees.
The country suffers a great divide between rich and poor. According to 2008 estimates, more than 60% of Guatemala’s people live below the poverty line, the country’s GDP per capita is $4,873.607 US (placing it 77th in the world) and only 2.6% of the country’s GDP is spent on education (placing it 154th in the world). The vast majority of Guatemala’s poor are among the Maya and indigenous population whom we seek to serve and help. In order to help the children living in these dire circumstances and give them hope for a better future, AOJ began its ministry in Guatemala with a food distribution program designed to rescue children whose families were making a living by scouring the central garbage dump in Guatemala City. Then we introduced a sponsorship program to better the lives of children. On top of this, various medical outreaches and clothing distribution programs were introduced. In 2001, the program began providing education to young children, who otherwise would not have gone to school. Now we have grown to a fully accredited elementary school, along with programs in house-building, food distribution and community outreach. More information: CIA Factbook
Directors: Luis and Diana Rodenas.
SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM – In 2011, we have more than 800 sponsored children who receive free education either through our private school or a local public school. These children also get access to medical care, clothing, food and other necessities that are made available through AOJ.
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – In 2011, we have 500 children registered in grades Junior Kindergarten to Grade 6 at our private school located in Parramos, Chimaltenango. Our students get access to a unique educational environment that is not available in most government public schools, such as: computer laboratory; research library; science laboratory; and, music and drama programs designed to stimulate creativity and self-esteem. Furthermore, we offer English classes to all grades with the dreams of becoming a full English bilingual school in the near future.
TRADE SCHOOL – Here we provide hands-on-training for older students to learn a particular skill or trade that can immediately be applied in the marketplace. Our trade school offers courses in beauty school, textile making, artisan crafts and photography. With these skills, students can work immediately with a prospective employer or start their own business.
HOUSE-BUILDING – We seek out families in poor communities who are in need of a home. These families often live in shelters built with cornstalk or aluminum siding, which are built on a dirt floor with little protection from the elements. Through donations, we are able to provide a modest home made of drywall that is built on a concrete floor. In 2011, we built 63 homes for needy families.
FOOD DISTRIBUTION – Once a month, we provide almost 250 families a food hamper that is filled with the following essentials: 1 bag of rice, 1 bag of beans, 2 bags of evaporated milk, 1 bottle of cooking oil, 1 bottle of bleach, and 2 bags of a vitamin drink.
COMMUNITY OUTREACH – We provide our services in remote areas where there is little assistance from the local government or other charitable organizations. One such community is Pampay, which is a village of approximately 70 indigenous families. Our staff regularly works in this community to provide spiritual education classes, medical care, and donations to the local public school. In 2008, we started a sponsorship program in Pampay so now we are able to make sure this group of children have the help they need to plan for a better future.
In Parramos we opened a Community Library which is meeting a tremendous need, and where programs are being offered for adults in the area of literacy.
VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES – We welcome volunteers who are looking to work with children, build homes and spread the Christian message in the communities we serve. If you are interested to volunteer as part of a church, organization or an individual, please contact the AOJ Canada office.