Celebrating Two Years Of Feeding And Nutrition

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At the end of May, Mission Guatemala and the community of Nueva Esperanza joined together for a morning of food, fun, and excitement, to celebrate the second anniversary of our feeding and nutrition program in the community.  That same week, we also had a professor and nine nutrition students from Baylor University working with us, and we were excited to have them join in the festivities, as well.  This group of volunteers began the day by helping with the food preparation for the lunch meal that the community was cooking for everyone that day, and afterward, the students and teachers from the school invited us all to accompany them on a hike to a nearby hillside, which offered a breathtaking view of the entirety of Lake Atitlan.

At the end of the morning, we all gathered in front of the school for a small ceremony and presentation that the community had prepared.  Sitting there in the midst of the students, teachers, and volunteers, I thought back over the last two years.  As I looked around that morning at the vastly changed surroundings, I recalled the first day that we visited the community, and thought about all that had changed in those two years.

2dkIt was in March of 2011 that Tom and I had first set foot in the community of Nueva Esperanza.   Mission Guatemala was in its sixth month of operation in San Andres Semetabaj, and Tom, who had long felt the need to organize a project that could begin to address the problem of malnutrition in Guatemala, felt that we were at a point that we should begin exploring possibilities to do so.  The community of Nueva Esperanza, which was perched on the hillside above our clinic space in San Andres, seemed like a good place to start.

So one morning, along with a friend who knew the Nueva Esperanza community, we went up to the village and met Cesar, the director of the school.  Standing with him in front of the school building, we surveyed the small village, the community’s meeting room constructed of rough-hewn boards, the dusty and hard-packed dirt of the soccer field, the tin lean-to constructed next to the school where the atol or corn-based drink that school children were occasionally provided by the government was cooked.  The principal told us of how the 95 students enrolled in the school’s six grades often arrived each morning having only eaten a meager breakfast—if they had a breakfast at all, and how by mid-morning many of the children were falling asleep or were unable to concentrate or focus on their lessons, often clearly due to their hunger and general malnutrition.

That morning, in our brief conversation, Cesar, on behalf of the community, expressed a desire to provide some sort of nutrition program for the students in the school, and pledged both his and the community’s support and collaboration to make this idea become a reality.

In subsequent meetings with the community of Nueva Esperanza, we quickly worked out the details for a feeding program, agreeing that Mission Guatemala would provide a head cook, along with the supplies and ingredients for the daily lunches, and that the mothers from the community would take turns each day doing the actual cooking of the food.  Mission Guatemala also committed to construct a building for the program, which would include a kitchen space, as well as an area where all the children could gather to eat.

2ahThe following month, in April of 2010, as Tom and I, along with representatives of the community, signed an acta, or document, delineating the various points of our agreement, it was anyone’s guess exactly how the whole program would go.  It was clear that the community was somewhat skeptical that the these strangers who had so recently arrived and begun making promises were actually going to follow through and deliver.  And despite our high hopes, we at Mission Guatemala knew there was no guarantee that the community would do their part in the way that they had promised.

But this past month as Mission Guatemala joined the community of Nueva Esperanza in celebrating the second anniversary of the feeding program, it was with great joy and happiness that we looked back on the great success that this project has been.  Over the past 2 years, over 50,000 meals have been served to the children in the school, in what has been a true collaboration with each of the families of the community.  Each week, the families have given the resources that they have—the time and effort of the mothers to prepare and cook the food, and Mission Guatemala, through the incredible gifts and donations of our supporters, provides the resources that the community lacks—that of the food itself.

The community of Nueva Esperanza and all of us at Mission Guatemala are overwhelmingly grateful for all those who have given to and supported this nutrition and feeding program.  We look forward to seeing this partnership with the community continue to flourish and grow in the years to come, as we continue to join with them to bring the children of Nueva Esperanza a brighter future.

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