My first visit to Guatemala – 2
Yesterday we visited Fundacion Debora, and organization that receives part of its funding from FOKUS. The organization works in one of the slum areas of Guatemala City in an area controlled by two gangs that are rivals, and where crime and violence has a strong grip on the whole area and its inhabitants. Approximately 10 000 – 20 000 people live in shacks and houses on occupied land and parts of the area were too dangerous for us to be taken through in a car to see. We drove through some parts and some of the shacks are built on cliffs and down steep hills, where the dangers of mudslides and possible earthquakes makes it very dangerous. During the last hurricane in 2010, 6 homes on a steep hillside, belonging to families with children in one of the organization´s schools, were swept away.
Fundacion Debora works with girls and women to give them educational and vocational training. Many of them are vicitims of violence and sexual abuse, and a number of them become mothers at a very young age. I talked with girls and young women who wanted an education and professional training. They were attending classes to become cooks, hairdressers, beauticians or seamstresses. I walked around the classroom with the director of Findacion Debora to talk to the girls and learn more about what they studied. During the conversations the director told met hat one of the girls had a 4 year old son with serious kidney problems that needed treatment. Two days before our visit they had found out that another one of the girls needed glasses to continue her studies. The organization could get help when it came to an eye exam because they also work with a group of Cuban doctors, who come and do exams and assist with operations. But when it came to the actual glasses she will need the director did not know how they would be able to find money to cover the cost, as they have no budget for this. A decent pair of glasses would cost approximately USD 140.00. The girls who needs them is currently living with a family that has taken her in and lets her sleep at their house because the situation at home with her parents involves so much violence that she cannot live there anymore.
The top floor of Fundacion Debora´s house houses the organization´s kindergarden and school for the youngest students. Going up there was a fantastic experience. I as immediately surrounded by a large number of young children who wanted hugs, hold my hand and have my full attention. When my colleague started taking photos they went wild and the teacher had them start singing for us. I pulled out a bag of Norwegian sweets and have never been as popular before as then – and it ended up with me magicly having to make another bag appear.
In a context where the daily situation in their surroundings is so dominated by poverty, violence and fear for extortion and possible murders the top floor kindergarden is like a safe haven with nice teachers, singing and possibilities for a hot meal during the day. For the women getting training and an education on the floor below it is a strict neccessity to be able to attend classes, get their education and a posibility of an income of their own and a possible way out of the slum.