Guatemala is a poverty stricken country.
A number of international organizations have expressed concern with Guatemala’s economic status. The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and the World Bank reported the following:
• Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world and the highest in the Western Hemisphere.
• Approximately 75% of Guatemalans live below the poverty level, which is defined as an income that is not sufficient to purchase a basic basket of goods and basic services.
• Approximately 50% of Guatemalan children under the age of 5 now suffer from chronic under nutrition.
Homes are often only two rooms, with a cement sink outside for the mother to wash dishes and clothing in. There is often no electricity or plumbing. Imagine, 6 – 12 people living in a shack with no toilet. Children become sexually active and teen pregnancy is the norm, condemning them further into their life of poverty. Of course not everyone lives this way, there is a separation of classes. Homes in Antigua start around the million dollar mark, luxury vehicles are common and Guatemala City is thriving. Unfortunately the crime is so rampant there that my Guatemalan friends avoid going to the city at all costs. People who live there are afraid to involve the police when they need help, guns are common and last year the risk to citizens of being murdered were 1 in 1000. Beneath the touristy front, there is almost wild-west survival of the fittest energy.
And yet, Guatemala also has a thriving ex-patriot community (foreigners who live there). People like me that see past the risks and have fallen in love with the friendlier side of the culture. Some of these people are putting their own lives and careers on hold, many living in Guatemala in order to try to help change things. Most of the charity work is focused on the younger generation, from malnourished new born babies to young adults.
The charities truly are making an impact on the lives of these people.