New Feeding Program Opens In Xepec

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Children excited about the feeding center opening

On January 30, it was with great excitement and expectation that Mission Guatemala inaugurated its newest feeding program in the small rural community of Xepec.  This is the third feeding program that Mission Guatemala has launched, following the first in Nueva Esperanza and the second in Pacaman.  However, at this point it is only one of two functioning.

As Mission Guatemala has grown and expanded over the last two and a half years, we have attempted to always be good stewards of the generous support with which we have been entrusted, and to remain ever mindful of the great responsibility that that we have to ensure that these generous donations are utilized in the most effective way possible.  We have worked to consistently examine our projects and programs, with the desire to not just celebrate our successes, but to also acknowledge and repair areas in which the results are not satisfactory.   We have striven to not just hand out gifts, but to instead develop collaborations with communities in which we can work together along with them, with both sides providing the materials and resources that we each have to offer.

Children line up to receive their mealSpecifically, Mission Guatemala has built its feeding programs around this model.  In the communities of Nueva Esperanza and Pacaman, we pledged to the communities to provide the food and materials for a daily lunch for the school children if the mothers of the community would commit to provide the labor for the actual food preparation.  In this way, in addition to making the programs more economical, we believed that these feeding programs would not just become a handout or charity, but would be a partnership between us and the community, one in which both sides had an investment.

We have found this model to be highly effective.  In the community of Nueva Esperanza, where our feeding program is rapidly approaching its second anniversary, it has created a wonderfully enriching partnership, both for Mission Guatemala, as well as for the children of the community.  Thanks to the support of the director of the school, as well as the community leadership, any issues that have arisen have been quickly resolved, and the community has remained committed and dedicated to upholding their part of our original agreement.

Rosa, the head cook at XepecHowever, in contrast to the success of the program in Nueva Esperanza, toward the end of last year, as we arrived at the first anniversary of our second feeding center in the community of Pacaman, we became concerned that our goal of developing a partnership in which we each carried our part of the work for the daily meals was not being adequately realized.  While the community was filled with wonderful children, and even though many of the mothers of the community were dedicated to doing their part to provide for the daily meal, there were others who were not so inclined.  And despite repeated effo
rts on our part to work with the community to seek solutions for the issues, by the end of last year, we were finally forced to concede that the program did not have collaboration and cooperation from the community sufficient to succeed.

However, the sadness of having to terminate the feeding program in Pacaman was quickly tempered by our excitement over the new partnership that was developing with the community of Xepec.  As is all too common in the rural regions of Guatemala, many of the children in the community of Xepec were suffering from malnutrition and lack of adequate or healthy food, and many struggled to concentrate throughout an entire morning of classes due to hunger.  Last year, in mid-November, a group of representatives from the community, comprised of teachers, parents, and representatives from the community government, arrived at our clinic space to request Mission Guatemala’s help with a feeding program for their school.  All those present that day pledged their support and collaboration in doing whatever was needed to make the program a reality.

Making the tortillasDuring the first week of January, we had a meeting with the community at large, where the 34 mothers who had children in the school affirmed their willingness to assist and collaborate in the cooking and the serving of the daily food.  And it was with great joy that on January 30 we officially launched the program, as the first meal was served to the 69 school children of the community of Xepec.

Since the community does not, at the moment, have the kitchen or dining space to accommodate a lunch meal for the children, our program will initially only serve a simple, hearty snack midway through the morning classes.  However, we have promised the community that, if this program goes well and we continue to have the community’s collaboration and support, we will, in the future, look toward the possibility of expanding the program to provide the larger midday lunch meal for the children.

Children of XepecIn addition to our gratefulness to all those who have so consistently supported us, we want to specifically thank Johns Creek UMC, from Johns Creek, Georgia, for their generous funding of Mission Guatemala’s nutrition and feeding programs.  Over the last year, Johns Creek UMC provided the entirety of the resources needed for the feeding center in Pacaman, and they have pledged to continue funding the new program in Xepec.

In 2013, we look forward to working in continued partnership with the community of Xepec and with Johns Creek UMC, as well as with all of Mission Guatemala’s other incredible partners and supporters, as we continue to strive to do all the good we can.

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