Guatemala

The Kirk’s first mission trip to Guatemala took place in July 2006 when a group of 14 members led by Rev. Jody Welker visited. On that visit the group spent three days in Pala’, a remote rural village in the mountains of Guatemala. Upon returning from the mission trip, the group decided to explore a partnership with the Peace of God Presbyterian Church in Pala’. In 2007 we initiated our partnership. We began with 8 scholarship (beca) students and have continued to expand our work.

MISSION STATEMENT

The goal of the Guatemala Mission Team of the Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian is to help improve the lives of the indigenous peoples in Guatemala. Projects that will be funded by the group should fall into one of the following categories: education, economic development, health care and disaster relief. All projects will have financial support from the Kirk of Kildaire and other contributors at the inception of the program but should ultimately be self-sustainable.

For more information please visit the Guatemala Village Partners website,  www.guatemalavillagepartners.org.

CURRENT PROJECTS

Download the Guatemala January 2018 Trip Application here.

Read the Guatemala Update January 2017.

Guatemala Student

Education

Brenda Armstrong Library and Computer Center: Construction of the library was finsihed by the end of 2009 and inaugurated, outfitted and staffed with a Director, Assistant and Computer Teacher in 2010. There are over 2,400 books available for lending plus multiple educational resources. The computer room is outfitted with a PC lab, printer and copy machine. Yearly maintenance is performed by mission groups.

Educational Scholarships (Becas): Each new middle school student is assigned a sponsor from the United States who commits to help pay for their education for three years. Students are from Pala’ and neighboring communities. Current numbers:
• 37 Middle School students ($200 per year) – study in the local middle school
• 15 High School students ($700 per year) – study out of town since there is no high school in Pala’
• 17 weekend university students ($900 per year)
We require that half the students be female and half male. There is no requirement that they attend any particular church.
At the end of each year, we receive a list of 10 additional scholarship requests for middle school students and at this time we look for new sponsors. We also periodically have new high school or university students who receive scholarships. As students advance to high school, the cost more than doubles since they must attend schools that are in other towns; therefore, we also look for co-sponsors to divide the cost of the yearly scholarship. As a student begins high school, we ask the sponsor to provide their student a new backpack. Backpacks are extremely expensive in Guatemala.
Our sponsors and students foster a relationship by writing letters which are delivered at each trip. In January we also have SKYPE sessions so that the sponsors and students can have a face to face conversation.
All new scholarship students receive a back pack with school supplies in the January trip; additional school supplies are distributed among teachers. This project is now organized by Cary Presbyterian.
For more detailed information about this program, please go to www.guatemalavillagepartners.org.

Educational Workshops: Each January workshops are presented to the teachers in Pala’ to assist them and present them with new teaching tools. Most of the topics covered are at the request of the teachers.
We work closely with the Directors of the local middle and elementary schools . We have visited one of the high schools (Colegio Elim) our students attend and have led teacher workshops for their faculty.

Theological Training: Each January our senior pastor Jody Welker conducts Bible Studies and theological training sessions for the pastor and lay leaders of the church in Pala’. He has also conducted day long seminars for pastors from throughout the presbytery in Guatemala.

Economic Development

Coffee plants: The first Kirk mission trip involved planting coffee plants on the side of the mountain.
Microloan Program:  Fifty-four (54) men and women have received micro-loans since the inception of this project in 2008. To date, the micro-loans have been repaid with interest on a regular basis. The funds are then loaned out again to all who qualify. The initial amount of a loan was $70 but has now increased to almost $100 as a result of some funds being donated to this project and the interest that has been paid. Most of the loans have been used by the men to improve their coffee crops and women have used the loans to buy pigs, for textile projects, etc.
In 2014 we are beginning to transition the management of this program to the leadership in Pala’.
Agricultural Diversification Program: This program was launched with an initial group of 10 farmers (half men, half women) in January 2013. Working with an agricultural engineer who travels to Pala’ once a month, the group has learned best practices such as fertilization, mulch, compost, crop diversification, etc. Until this point, most of the people in the village only grew coffee. This group has learned how to grow many vegetables and flowers to sell in the market. They have also raised poultry in a coop rather than having the birds roam around the area. This allows them to be able to take the poultry to market in 4 months rather than 2 years.
This program was so successful in only the first year, that a second group of 10 farmers was chosen to begin the program while the first group continued their education. We believe this project will ultimately allow most of the families in Pala’ to increase their income.
Textile program: For the past three years, Barney Hale has worked with a weaving guild that he established in Pala’. This group of 22 women sells Barney 12 scarves at each trip. Barney brings the scarves back to the US and sells the scarves in a number of locations. All proceeds go back to the women who weave the scarves. To date over 600 scarves have been sold.
The women who are in the program tell us that their husbands allow them to keep this income. The money has been used to pay off loans, purchase crops, etc. The women all feel that this is giving them power they have never had.

Public Health

Men’s and Women’s Health Workshops: Since 2009, Mike Anthony, MD, has traveled to Pala’ on an annual basis and conducted health workshops for the men and women. We have partnered with a non-profit in Guatemala, APROFAM, to assist in general health seminars. We are now working with the Community Health Worker who services the village.

School Lunch Program

Guatemala Village Partners (our official 501(c)3) has partnered with Stop Hunger Now to provide meals for a school lunch program. This encourages parents to send children to school and to improve general nutrition. Guatemala has the fourth highest malnutrition rate in the world. Each school day 200 school children in Pala’ participate in the lunch program.
This program has now expanded to the Colegio Elim (high school) in Santo Tomas to provide lunches for their students. We have also provided emergency meals in Pala’ and the coastal village of El Chico after torrential rains kept them isolated from the rest of the country. Meals have also been provided to an orphanage in Huehuetenango.

Other Projects

Musical Instrument Drive:   At the request of the youth group of the church in Pala’, we have a continuing musical instrument drive to collect and repair used instruments that we deliver each January.
Kitchen Drive:  In 2013 funds were raised thanks to the annual “Peach on the Porch” mission drive at the Kirk. These funds were used to help improve the rustic kitchen used by the church in Pala’. With the funds, the women of the church in Pala’ were able to purchase a new storage cabinet, 3 huge cooking pots, 150 plates/dishes and cups, 2 blenders, 1 teapot and 1 refrigerator.

Mission Trips

We take two mission trips each year in early January and late July/early August. Each trip lasts 7-8 days. The maximum number of participants is 15. We strive to always take a mix of returning and new travelers and average 3-5 new travelers each trip. We also welcome travelers from other congregations.

Download the Guatemala January 2018 Trip Application here.