We're seeking to make tangible changes in the lives of the people we serve. All of our projects aim to help the Q'eqchi' people better themselves and their families. Our projects have been carefully thought out and implemented. In short, we are saving lives one person at a time.
The biosand water filter technology that has been developed in Canada provides a low maintenance, low cost, and non-chemical solution to contaminated and impure water, removing 95-99% of bacterial and other contaminants that are responsible for illnesses like diarrhea, amoebic dysentery, typhoid fever and worms, all of which contribute to malnutrition.
The filters are being produced in Guatemala with Q'eqchi' Partners' support at a cost of about $50 each. This includes community and family training about the use and maintenance of the filters. As most of the families that receive the filters live on incomes of about $200 per month, even the low cost of the filter is beyond their means. Through donations, the filters can be offered to families at $15.
Since 2012 we have installed over 5,000 water filters in homes. The filters have an undefined life, and many filters in use today are 5 years old or more.
Since beginning our work with bio-sand water filters in 2012, installing several thousands of them in homes, the need for a more complete approach to family health became apparent. Many homes have dirt floors and hole-in-the-ground latrines. In the hot and humid climate, numerous parasites live in the ground and can enter the human body usually through the feet causing serious illness. The major risk of traditional latrines is the propagation of flies and mosquitos, carriers of illness, and sometimes even death.
The responses we have to address these concerns are a simple concrete slab floor and a flush latrine. Families who desire these services are required to pay 25% of the cost, and the rest is subsidized by Q'eqchi' Partners. Typically, the total cost of a floor is about $300, and the flush latrine costs about $400 including a metal “outhouse”. The beneficiaries of these services also have to provide non-professional labor (ditch digging, moving sand or gravel, etc).
Several hundred floors have been installed and about 200 latrines have been installed in homes.
In November 2020 northeastern Guatemala was hit directly by two Tropical Storms, Eta and Iota, that caused massive flooding and destruction. Hundreds of families spent months in temporary shelters until they could return to their homes or rebuild. Many children were traumatized by the experience. All of this was further compounded by the strict lockdowns imposed by the Guatemalan government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Guatemala the use of psychological services is rare. Schools and municipal services do not have psychologists. In our area, there are a handful of private for-profit services that most Guatemalans cannot afford.
Q'eqchi' Partners decided to support the initiative of three young psychologists to offer support to children, women, and families who struggled with their experiences, as well as the endemic violence in the area. A small center was opened to offer free or low-cost psychological services to communities and families in need. There are presently several dozen patients receiving assistance, as well as several families or groups in rural communities that are treated by a counselor who visits homes and schools.
Among the problems addressed are suicide prevention, intra-family physical, sexual and psychological abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, bullying, and loss of loved ones. When cases arise that require other kinds of medical or economic attention, further help is sought.
The Covid-19 pandemic unveiled the gross shortage of prepared health workers who could mobilize to support needed services. In rural Guatemala where there are few local doctors, midwives and traditional healers sometimes help people who are sick or injured, but most often families must travel sometimes hours and at considerable personal expense to get needed services.
The project for training rural women as community health workers was begun in 2022 enrolling a total of 22 women who received two days of training every week. The training is free, Q'eqchi' Partners pays the two trainers (one an educator and the other a nurse and midwife) and materials, and the participants provide their own transportation to the training center. The course is based upon “Where Women Have No Doctor” by A. August Burns & comp., widely recognized as the best handbook resource available. The complete training is for two years. Another group will be enrolled in 2023, with your help.
The women who participate learn basic family hygiene, first aid, traditional and modern medical techniques, preventative health practices, and healthy childcare practices.
Historically the Q'eqchi' Mayans have suffered some of the worst human rights abuses, and even today suffer from discrimination and marginalization. Since our area is home to several agro-industry and mining projects, in 2011 Father Daniel Vogt developed a course and handbook to provide practical advice to business people, environmentalists, government officials, and the community about the legal and ethical best practices in the context of investing in projects near or in Q’eqchi Mayan communities.
The course and handbook called “Working Effectively with the Mayans of Guatemala”, offers brief historical and social data, information about the international human rights accords binding in Guatemala, and best business practices based on extensive experience working with different businesses and projects in several countries.
The course has been offered to numerous companies, embassies, trade groups, universities, and community leaders. Vogt updated his book and training course in 2017 to reflect changes in technology and international and Guatemalan law.
I know a 90-year-old retired bishop in Guatemala who says that the birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate beyond a certain age are those that end in “0” and “5”. This year, 2022, marks 35 years since I arrived as a missionary in Guatemala; August 13 to be exact.
When I arrived, I had no idea that it would be a lifetime commitment here. I did not imagine the blessings and the hardships I would experience over those years. I am reminded that once again another year of life or ministry has gone by.
Marking 35 years has made me face up to my human reality with all the difficulties and advantages I have. I pondered how I might celebrate the 35 years. I decided to think outside the box. Rather than a big celebration, I am establishing a type of endowment to help young rural indigenous Guatemalans get either university or technical education that they otherwise would be unable to access.
Over the years with parish funds and other donations I have been able to help over 20 young Guatemalan men and women study and become professionals. I am always limited as to how many young people I can support. In some cases, I have helped pay tuition and books, in other cases housing for rural students who can go to public low-cost institutions, but have nowhere close to live. The help per student that is needed is often about $1,000 or $1,500 each year.
I would like to leave an endowment to provide scholarships and student aid, even after I can no longer do so. That is the Idea behind the 35 YEAR FUND. My goal is to raise $150,000 that could be invested and made available for helping students for several years. I am most grateful to God and to so many family, friends and other donors who have supported my work over these past 35 years. I trust that you and others will continue to do so to support this worthwhile, long-term investment in Guatemala’s future.
-Fr. Daniel Vogt
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