The school year begins for Guatemalan students in January, so each year a group goes to provide backpacks, school supplies and a new pair of shoes for children in need.
As a Board member, I knew that one of Buckner’s programs centered on providing education, financial empowerment, child development and family counseling to struggling communities. But I had no idea of the scope of services or the impact on the communities. The goal of these Family Hope Centers is to provide support and strengthen families before significant problems arise or worsen.
Throughout the trip, we experienced very diverse aspects of Guatemalan life. The first day we had a luncheon to celebrate Foster Care Families (another program that is thriving there). It was attended by the outgoing First Lady of Guatemala, Patricia Marroquin. Foster care was an important emphasis during her time as First Lady, and she graciously spoke to the families and met with our volunteers.
The remaining days of the trip were dedicated to distributing backpacks and shoes in several areas. We drove up in the mountains to a remote school (Las Nubes) and hundreds of children and their parents showed up. Many walked long distances to attend. Each child was fed a hot snack and then took a bagged meal home for their family. The Buckner Guatemala staff had prepared months prior to the event, having asked families to trace their child’s foot so we could provide a shoe that fit. Our job was to wash the child’s feet and then place new socks and shoes on them. Each pair of shoes contained a note of encouragement from the volunteer back in Buckner’s Dallas warehouse. I wish I could adequately convey the pride and excitement of the students as they received their items. Often, they were timid about taking off worn out and torn shoes and then showing feet that hadn’t been washed in a while. But, with a little playful teasing and with the help of a translator, they warmed up quickly. Later that same day we went down the mountain to again distribute supplies and shoes at the Family Hope Center (San Jose Pinula) located near Guatemala City. The next day we repeated the distributions in Antiqua at a local church. In all, we were able to serve over 700 children. The volunteers later toured the Family Hope Center (Jocotenango) in Antigua, and then had home visits with two families that were receiving services from Buckner. The evidence of positive change in their lives was powerful.
I completely understand, now, why the same group of volunteers go year after year to serve the families of Guatemala. The work done by Buckner in these communities is impactful, and the ability to be part of it for a few days is irresistible.