When our work began in El Tesoro, Guatemala, in 2006, the refugee camp lacked a high school or any hope of providing one. Why? Guatemala is one of the poorest nations in the world. The average Guatemalan makes about $5,300 annually. Drug gangs are a daily danger.
And so, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a nationwide lockdown, strict curfews, widespread unemployment, food shortages and turmoil -- particularly with torrential rains and flooding brought by Tropical Storms Amanda and Cristobal, followed by yet another eruption by Fuego volcano.
In the remote village of El Tesoro, the refugees ordinarily scratch out a subsistence on tiny plots of land – earning about $800 annually. But now their crops are in jeopardy.
Many are survivors of a brutal 36-year civil war in which 200,000 died. Entire villages were wiped out, often illiterate Mayan farm families who had little understanding of politics or ideology. They paid a terrible price – many losing family members as their villages were caught in the crossfire, often accused of conspiracy with one side or the other.
As part of an internationally brokered peace agreement, the Guatemalan government relocated thousands to the southern lowlands. In 2002, about 800 survivors of several ravaged inland Maya-Ixil and Maya-K’iche communities were brought to a newly created town named El Tesoro de Nueva Esperanza – or “The Treasure of New Hope” – eight miles off of the coastal highway near Patulul.
Within weeks, the new community was almost wiped off the map by a devastating hurricane. The people had nothing. Then a volcanic eruption devastated the area. When we first began working with them, their poverty was heart-breaking. They had no medical or dental services. The local school only went to the sixth grade.
But all that changed, thanks to you -- and people as generous as you. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers -- as we deal with new challenges amid the pandemic.