By Luis Cocón, CFCA communications liaison for Guatemala
Wendy and her three siblings live on $4.50 a day, which is what their father Elio makes as a day laborer.
They don’t take education for granted.
“In Guatemala, education is a precious gift,” Wendy said. “I want to go to college to be a nurse, have a good job, help my family and help others through my work.”
These dreams of higher education, however, stand in stark contrast with the family’s daily realities.
Wendy is only 16 but has assumed the role of being “mother” for her siblings, as her mother no longer lives with the family. Wendy also helps her father occasionally with field work to earn extra income.
“I take care of my siblings, cook, make tortillas, clean our home and do the laundry,” Wendy said.
Poverty is often the main reason that children in Guatemala either don’t go to school or leave before they have finished their education. They leave to help their family with basic needs such as food, clothing and housing.
“These children want to have an education, but they lack the opportunity,” said Migdalia Pata, Wendy’s social worker at CFCA.
Child labor is seen as a necessity because the child will bring some income to the struggling family. It is not uncommon to see children carrying a heavy load on their fragile backs, eating a meal with shoe polish residues on their hands and face, or selling candy under adverse weather conditions.
Poverty has forced these children to work. It has denied them access to education. And it has limited their opportunities to become productive adults.
Indigenous girls like Wendy face even more challenges. They often live in rural areas, making it difficult to have access to a school. Additionally, some Guatemalan families place a higher priority on girls preparing for marriage rather than continuing their education.
“Some parents are reluctant to send their girls to school because they believe it is not necessary,” Wendy said. “They have the idea that girls should prepare for marriage and a husband and develop skills to be a good mother and housewife.”
Sponsorship and education can help make a difference in these children’s lives. The CFCA Hope for a Family sponsorship program has played a key role in Wendy’s education.
“CFCA has provided the means for me to go to school,” Wendy said. “It is that simple.”
Sponsorship has helped Wendy with school uniforms, school supplies, books and encouragement to continue her education.
“Sponsors are providing the means for these children to stay in school and have dreams,” Migdalia said. “I am convinced that education is the key to break the chains of poverty.”