New Castle Presbytery and Guatemalan partners collaborate to supply enough kits to feed more than 400 families for a month
March 4, 2021
As in the U.S., COVID-19 has caused a huge disruption in the lives of families in Guatemala, resulting in lives lost, jobs vanished and plans put on hold. The Western Highlands, where the Association of Mam Christian Women for Development is headquartered, has been hit especially hard because of widespread poverty and nearly nonexistent health systems. As a result, high levels of chronic malnutrition and food insecurity in rural Guatemala persist.
When the first impacts of COVID-19 were felt, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) sent an immediate grant to the Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America (CEDEPCA), a longtime partner of Presbyterian World Mission. This allowed CEDEPCA’s Disaster Ministry Team to begin distributing emergency food kits to families in need. The association was one of the first groups to receive these kits, with 25 women benefiting.
“When we heard this news, we were delighted!” said Carrie Saathoff, co-chair of the Guatemala Partnership of New Castle Presbytery and board member of CEDEPCA USA. “But then it quickly dawned on us that with more than 300 women in the association, New Castle Presbytery needed to take action and come alongside PDA to support our partner.”
In response, the Guatemala Partnership of New Castle Presbytery, CEDEPCA and the association developed an end-to-end system to safely deliver food kits to association families.
“New Castle Presbytery has been working in partnership with CEDEPCA and the association for many years,” said Luis Sarpec, facilitator for risk management on CEDEPCA’s Disaster Ministry Team. “Community leadership was coordinated and activated; the logistical parts were already in place, so implementing a new initiative quickly, efficiently and safely was natural.”
New Castle Presbytery immediately began promotion and fundraising efforts. CEDEPCA engaged its well-established contacts with local distributors, and the association organized and prioritized the deliveries to the most vulnerable communities.
To date, funds raised have provided more than 400 food kits with 200 kits delivered.
“When we first launched this initiative, our goal was 100 food kits, which at the time we thought was ambitious. But the response has been overwhelming and the funds are still arriving,” said Dale Smith, steering committee member for New Castle Presbytery’s Guatemala Partnership and co-chair of the Mission Committee at Ocean View Presbyterian Church in Ocean View, Delaware.
Each kit contains basic provisions — rice, beans, oil, sugar, flour, salt, oatmeal, powdered milk, eggs, disinfectant, toilet paper and detergent — to feed a family of five for one month. The kits provide assistance for individuals left jobless and without schools for their children to attend due to the pandemic. An association member expressed her gratitude: “I am a widow with two little girls who cannot attend school now, where they used to receive a meal. I have to go to work to get money and feed them every day. … For me, this is a blessing!” Watch a video of food kits being delivered.
Without a doubt, the fallout from COVID-19 will continue to exacerbate the current situation. Last month, the United Nations published a policy brief stating COVID-19 is causing Latin America’s “worst health, economic, social and humanitarian crisis in a century.”
“This experience reaffirms that — even in darkness— God’s light shines,” said Kim Loman, a member of the partnership steering committee and West Nottingham Presbyterian Church in Colora, Maryland. “We remain committed to addressing our partners’ critical needs, as it’s the bedrock of our mission.”
Partners agree that deliveries of food kits will be ongoing because we are all God’s children and must take care of each other in this time of great need.
The Guatemala Partnership of New Castle Presbytery is led by a designated steering committee to encourage, guide, support and coordinate efforts of the presbytery, its congregations and individual members to actively engage with our partners in Guatemala, namely the Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America (CEDEPCA) and the Association of Mam Christian Women for Development. For more information about the Guatemala Partnership of New Castle Presbytery or how to get involved, visit ncpguatemala.com.
Chris Hickey, Guatemala Partnership of New Castle Presbytery
Today’s Focus: Guatemalan Families
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray:
God of grace and peace, there is so much happening around us. We long for your guidance. Please break through the chaos with your reassurance and understanding. Help our lives be a channel of your blessings and power for many others. Amen.