Guatemala in Crisis
Lauren Vaske - Executive Director - Sharing the Dream
There’s so much going on here in Guatemala right now, and I’m told very little is being reported in the U.S. news. Since October 2, Guatemala has been paralyzed by 24/7 protests and roadblocks. The protesters are demanding the resignation of the Attorney General and two other government officials, who have been key figures in attempting to invalidate recent election results and keep the president- elect and anti-corruption candidate, Bernardo Arevalo, from taking office in January.
I arrived in Guatemala at the end of September and have been living through the difficult situation along with the Guatemalan people. I want to share what it feels like to be here right now. In addition to roadblocks and protests affecting the rest of the country, Panajachel, the town I’m based in, has additional restrictions. Businesses are only allowed to be open from 6am-10am, and all routes in or out of Panajachel are closed. We are effectively cut off from the rest of the world. Last weekend saw us with food scarcity and panic in the market. Luckily, food supplies have somewhat normalized, but choices are limited, meat is almost non-existent, and prices are sky-high. The large grocery stores have stopped opening, because they have nothing left to sell. I find it exhausting to spend so much time thinking about survival. But as hard as I find this situation, I know that it’s 10 times worse for the local people.
With multiple strategic points blocked for two full weeks, it's a struggle to get necessary supplies around the country. The price of food has more than tripled, and food supplies are scarce in many places. If you struggle to survive day to day and have just spent your entire week’s grocery budget on a day of food, what do you do? You likely don’t have any savings, and your only option is to go hungry.
This is a situation facing several of Sharing the Dream’s communities. In Chichicastenango, the town is entirely closed for 23 hours of the day. School has been canceled, and even with virtual tutoring sessions, our scholarship students are once again falling behind academically. I’m worried about the impact this will have on their future success.
With the high food prices in Santiago Atitlan, our elders are unable to afford food apart from the Elder Center meals. Last Friday, we ran out of propane gas halfway through cooking lunch for the elders. There was no propane in the area, and we had to improvise a wood fire to finish lunch and give the elders masa to make tortillas at home. Without a way to cook, our only option was to send the elders home with staple foods. Not doing anything is not an option. I’m worried the elders could literally starve to death.
Our artisans in Solola and Chichicastenango are required by their town councils to take their turn at the protests and must pay the equivalent of almost a full week's wages if they are unable. There is no meat, chicken, or eggs available in these areas, and what little food is available is almost 5-6 times higher priced than normal. These are areas with little economic resources, and the pinch has made the situation there extremely difficult.
October is a busy month for our Artisan Development team, with weekly shipments of products to the US for fall and Holiday sales. Almost all of our artisan groups have pending product orders, but the roadblocks make it impossible to turn the product in so that they can get paid. Even if we could get the product, we can't get it out of the country. Unfortunately, we likely won’t get this product in time for several important events, but canceling orders is not an option. The artisans need our support through these product orders, because without the orders, they have no way to survive.
I was already planning to send out a fundraising appeal this month to ask for your support in keeping our programs running. This crisis makes your gifts more important than ever as we continue to feed the Elders, purchase items from our artisan partners, and sponsor students.
Please make a gift today to provide that much needed support and help our friends make it through this crisis.
With gratitude for your generosity,
Friends of Sharing the Dream in Guatemala
Sharing the Dream in Guatemala
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