Guatemala is roughly the size of the Canadian province Newfoundland or the state of Tennessee. Its diverse beautiful landscape includes tropical rain-forests, mountains, valleys, lowland forests, beaches, and more than thirty volcanoes.
There are a multitude of natural resources and key exports yet Guatemala has one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world, and continues to struggle with drug trafficking and rampant crime/corruption.
Guatemala has a population of 16.6 million and ranks 125 out of 188 countries in the 2015 United Nations Human Development Index.
Poverty, income inequality and social exclusion are some of the main challenges that are prevalent in Guatemala. The denial of the rural poor from opportunities of personal growth and development is a reflection of their disadvantaged economic circumstances.
- The Guatemala National Institute of Statistics reports that nearly half of the population is under 18 years old and 20% of the population is between 15 and 29 years old.
- The chronic under nutrition rate for children under 5 is 49.8%, the highest in the region and the fourth highest in the world. Chronic under nutrition in indigenous areas is 69.5%.
- 53% of the population lives in poverty, and 13% in extreme poverty.
- Illiteracy is 31.1% in women 15 years of age and older and reaches 59% among indigenous women.
It’s no surprise that Guatemala, and in particular, indigenous peoples living in the rural highlands (such as Sumpango) have broken hearts, broken spirits and broken relationships.First and foremost, PILAS exists to remind those that are hurting or lacking hope that “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). We use the platform of education and youth group to teach of the everlasting hope that is available to everyone and found in Jesus Christ.
We identify and offer educational scholarships and leadership training to indigenous youth who show great potential in leading their peers, in expectation that one day they will lead their families and communities to bring about much needed change.
We want to level the playing field, seek fairness, and defend the oppressed by giving these youth the same opportunities that the wealthy and those in close proximity to city hubs have. We consider it such an honour and privilege that God has seen fit to charge us with leading PILAS and mentoring so many young lives. It is a long-term commitment that He has clearly prepared us to lead based on our numerous experiences over the years.
We get energized when we think of the ‘what could be’ when it relates to the young lives we reach on a weekly basis.
Sources: World Food Programme, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Global Education Fund, USAID, infoplease.com.