By Paul Jacobs
When Guatemalans ring in the New Year or celebrate the national soccer team, fireworks always accompany the revelry and merriment. The loud pops and mini-explosions are expressions of joy and a way to commemorate the occasion.
However, the loud sounds drown out another noise – that of starving children crying for hunger. These are cries that Maria, a wife and mother of three, cannot stop because her children are slowly starving.
The family lives just miles from the popular bustling metropolis of Guatemala City — with its comfortable 4- and 5-star hotels, convenience stores and malls — in a small home in the quiet community of San Jeronimo Chuaxan.
This corner of the world is rarely seen. Visitors need to take an hour-long ride in a bus that climbs steep mountain-side highways and passes vast, lush farmland. I traveled with members of our radio team to the town where we met Maria.
To help feed her family, Maria rolls newspaper into tubes, creating shells for firecrackers. Local vendors who sell fireworks pay her Q17.50 for a week’s work, the equivalent of $2. In contrast, it costs 35 cents for one can of soup in Guatemala.
When we asked what she feeds her children, Maria motioned behind us and said: “I give them ‘quilete’ (pronounced: kee-le-te) when we have no money.” The translator said it’s “field greens” and explained that quilete is a leaf that grows wild in the rural areas of Guatemala. Maria boils it with salt and feeds it to her three small children in order to help them feel full at night.
At the end of our visit, it was evident that in a matter of moments Maria would be back to rolling newspaper tube. As nightfall began and the sky grew darker, I couldn’t help but think how her three small children would be left with the sour taste of salty water, wild leaves and an empty belly.
To help feed malnourished children in Guatemala and their families, donate today. For less than $50 you can feed one child for a year.