Bob Rees' Trip to Guatemala Part 6

Monday, July 1

After breakfast this morning we went to a two hour meeting with our coordinators and the staff of the Area Welfare Office. Interesting meeting, to be sure. There is a conflict in Church welfare system between helping people and creating dependency, although it seems to us that there is more of an emphasis on helping people avoid dependency than seems warranted when it comes to children in need. Anyway, after a few fits and starts and considerable caution on behalf of the Area staff (they weren’t sure what our Foundation is doing in Guatemala), things settled down to talk about the realities in the field. It is difficult to know if any of the staff has really been to the places we have been the past week, especially the remote areas, but that may be an unfair judgment.

The biggest problem in the past is that the policy has been to limit nutrition to a couple of weeks, which then could be extended for a couple of additional weeks, but of course that isn’t nearly sufficient for a child who is malnourished. Our foundation provides nutritional supplements until a child reaches five and can go to school where he/she can get nutrition. Fortunately, we learned just last week that President Monson said there should be no limits on nutritional supplements. It was uncertain as to whether that information had reached Guatemala, but my impression is that it hadn’t. The doctor who is the area Welfare director was very supportive of our work and very generous. He offered to supply the supplements for our program here in Guatemala. Also, I had mentioned that the congregation up in the mountains where so many men are unemployed could use some help with learning how to plant and harvest mandarins, cardamom, and other crops. The area office said they would provide that assistance, which would be an enormous blessing to those people.

Following that meeting, we went to lunch and then to the local artisan market. The people here make beautiful things and each region has its own particular style and designs.