The following is a story from our Community Partnership Manager for Guatemala, Atkelt Simon.
I was very excited for the opportunity to go and visit Guatemala. I have been working as the Community Partnership Manager for Guatemalan partnerships for over a year and a half, and was not able to travel there since Covid hit.
I work with the Guatemalan staff on a regular basis and have had countless video calls with them. I know what a great team we have there, but actually spending time with them in person, I was blown away by their love for the Lord, for the people of Guatemala, and for the ministry of HopeChest. They are super friendly, very warm, fun people but also hard working and committed. I spent hours with staff while driving to visit all 19 CarePoints. That gave me the opportunity to get to know them better and build stronger relationships.
Guatemala is such a beautiful country; it was so green and lush in most of the places I visited. Since I went in June, there was lots of rain. I got to go to different parts of the country- from the highlands and mountainous areas to the lowlands and arid places. As an Ethiopian visiting Guatemala, the staff wanted to know what I thought about Guatemalan coffee. “I am not a great coffee drinker” was my answer! While that’s true, I think it helped me ditch comparing the two countries that have the best coffees in the world.
I was so excited to finally meet the heroes of our ministry, the CarePoint leaders, and visit communities and maybe meet some children. Due to Covid, children are not regularly attending activities at CarePoints. I was met by a very warm welcome every CarePoint I went to. I was blown away by their intentional welcoming and how far they went to make me feel special. I was received with gifts and lots of good food. Some did fascinating things to celebrate my Ethiopian heritage. I had the opportunity to speak to a small group of children who were present the day I visited Santo Domingo CarePoint. It was raining and we were under a small tent. Looking at their beautiful faces and joyful spirits, what came to my mind to tell them was to not listen to voices that tell them they are not worthy, not loved, or that they can’t do anything. That God has a special plan and a unique purpose for their lives. I told them that when I was their age, growing up in an impoverished community in Addis Ababa, I would not have believed it if somebody told me I would be traveling the world, speaking to Guatemalan children and sharing my story with them.
I was encouraged to see how our CarePoints have adapted to the change Covid brought and how they pivoted to reprogram their activities to continue serving children and reaching out to families in their communities. I was lifted by the stories they shared of how daring they were to come alongside and serve their communities in one the most challenging season of our lifetime.
I visited chicken coop projects in a couple CarePoints in the Mazatenango area. At Ceiba Blanca, I met with a group of passionate mothers who were the first group to complete the project who were welcoming the second group of mothers. I got to hear the first group encourage the mothers in the new group by setting an example for them in the journey from dependency to dignity. These ladies are also known for celebrating with potluck of food they bring from their homes. There were many different kinds of local foods and drinks, and I got to try all of them. I regretted eating breakfast that day!
Overall, I was encouraged to see the potential that exists in the communities we serve in Guatemala to break the cycle of poverty, and to restore hope and dignity. The passion and commitment of our capable staff that walks alongside community leaders is amazing. I returned realizing how fortunate and blessed I am to be a part of a such a team that works to build God’s Kingdom around the world.