Shaping priceless futures in Guatemala

Debt means making ends meet is a challenge, but healthy futures for Vicenta’s youngest give her the courage to persevere.

By Elysia Cook

When Vicenta Morales wakes up in the morning, her eyes take in the same familiar sights: a tin roof above her, a dirt floor beneath her, and her six children beside her. The single room she shares with her children is overcrowded, but the only option. The other rooms in the adobe complex are already occupied by Vicenta’s mother, sisters, nieces, and nephews; her significant debt prevents her from moving her family into a separate home.  

Abandoned by her husband three years ago, Vicenta and her children were forced to move into this small, single room in her mother’s house. At one point she tried to start a business, but was tricked by a lender into accepting crippling interest rates that left her in debt when the business failed. Now, Vicenta relies on beading work for income. The stunning jewelry she crafts takes her all week, but only yields about 10 quetzales (little more than $1). With this income, she has barely enough to feed even one child for a day, let alone provide nutritious meals for all six of her children.

“My youngest child was severely malnourished. For a long time he wouldn’t eat any food, just water and a little atol,” Vicenta said.

To help offset this financial burden, her oldest son, Angel Luis, dropped out of the 8th grade to work in the fields full-time for additional income. Vicenta wants the best for her children and their education, but worries that her other children will have to work if resources do not last.

“ For a long time he wouldn’t eat any food...Then he started taking the vitamins at the preschool, and he started eating tortillas and then other foods bit by bit.” ” Vicenta Morales

Luckily, her youngest children are taking advantage of the opportunity for an education – and the nutritional support that comes along with it.  At the Preschool Education Center in El Barranco, the children receive a daily meal and multivitamin. Although she struggles to provide, Vicenta is relieved that her two little ones are receiving the nutrients they need to grow up properly.

“[My youngest] started taking the vitamins at the preschool, and he started eating tortillas and then other foods bit by bit...Now, we can barely get him to eat meals because he has so much energy and wants to play all the time!,” she said.

Despite Vicenta’s financial challenges, she is comforted knowing that her youngest children have access to the nutrition they need to shape a healthy future.

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