Surviving the Rain

Heavy rain hit the city and everything has slowed down. People want to stay home and wait out the rain, children do not go to school and adults relax with the feeling of low energy, but the rain has not stopped us.

Monday morning, Claudia Hernandez, a Guatemalan who works at a program that supports victims of sexual violence, came to explain the status of women’s rights in Guatemala. She taught us how the discussion of violence against women and human trafficking is a fairly recent discussion in Guatemala.  Her work involves getting women out of violence and placing them in a program that will help them better their lives. Though there is still enormous corruption in the government and oppression against women, Guatemala is starting to develop laws that can end the injustices that many women face everyday and working towards a better future.

Later in the day we went on a tour of a Women’s Co-op called UPAVIM. We were told how the Co-Op is a way to provide work for women and provide services to the community.  One of the services is a daycare. The children in the daycare were adorable, they barely ate their beans and rice because they were distracted by all the gringas around them.

Gretchen at Mezquital

Group at UPAVIM UPAVIM Children UPAVIM Women Lida at Mezquital

One of the surprising things about UPAVIM is that it is located in a squatter settlement. The existence and process of squatter settlements is something I have recently learned about while in Guatemala. They are neighborhoods that are built with scraps that the people can find or sometimes the materials are stolen. They are illegal to build but with enough people and organization the government  is unable to stop the construction. The squatter settlement where the Women’s Co-Op is located is an example of a successful squatter villager. They now have roads. electricity, and the houses are made of concrete. These villages are often dangerous because they are overpopulated and the presence of police is rare. Having a place like the Women’s Co-Op in the community greatly helps to end the cycle of violence. It provides affordable health services, childcare, scholarships for education, it generates income, and it receives donations that better the lives of the people.

– Gretchen Kellogg


One comment

  1. Hi Gretchen, and all you wonderful SMC students in Guatemala. I really like all of your postings and I am so glad you are keeping us apprised of your activities and learning experiences. What you describe about Guatemala, especially the squatter communities, reminds me very much of what exists in Haiti…shelters built illegally upon government land with scrap materials, out of desperation and need. Sometimes the government interferes with these, but mostly not because the government itself is in such distress. Most squatter communities in Haiti have no water, septic, or electricity. As you describe in Guatemala, the desperate nature of the situation breeds violence and dangerous activities.
    Thank you, Gretchen, and all of you students for taking the time to experience and learn about international issues and problems, and for wanting to make our world a better place. I really believe that the collective social conscience of your generation will improve our earthly future.

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