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Latin America Monica Dispatch

Justice, Truth and Life: Women with a Mission
13 February 1999

Problem: What if planting season arrives soon and you don't have enough money for seeds?
Solution: Grupo de Apoyo Mutual provides a pool of vegetable seeds, or semillas, for the community to divide for planting.

Problem: Guatemalans speak more than 20 distinct languages. How do you communicate with people from the Capital if you don't speak their language?
Solution: Grupo de Apoyo Mutual makes every effort to communicate important information in your native tongue.

Problem: What if town plans for the new road go right through the middle of your property, past your front door?
Solution: Representatives from Grupo de Apoyo Mutual intercede on your behalf with the town mayor.

Problem: How do you keep the diverse women of the neighborhood united and strong, and support them in their traditions?
Solution: Grupo de Apoyo Mutual organizes and encourages women to work together.

Translating Spanish into Kakchiquel
Caption
Today the women of Concepción met for their special "Women's Meeting." The men also meet periodically, and both men and women have mixed reunions, but today was a women's meeting. There were supposed to be thirty-two women beneficiades, or beneficiaries, outside of the GAM office at ten o'clock in the morning. We waited for Alicia and four other GAM workers to drive in from the capital, so the meeting started closer to 11 am.

Watching for other relatives to arrive
Caption
Alicia explained that GAM hopes to support women, not only here in this region, but throughout Guatemala. Inocente, the primary and secondary teacher, translated her Spanish into the Kakchiquel language that is spoken here. His mother, Maria, looked on, and helped point out the relatives: many of the women here are sisters or cousins, or mothers and daughters. Unfortunately, the meetings must be complete to take place, and six women were not able to make it. Hoping for a full house later in the week, everyone agreed to reschedule for this Saturday at 3pm.

Volunteers help GAM provide community services
Caption
During the short time we had together, Alicia reminded us of the mission of the organization: to promote justice, truth, and life. Many of the Guatemalan ninos, or children, live without mothers or fathers. Many people were tortured, assassinated or disappeared during the war. Alicia encouraged us to educate the Guatemalan youth about their country's history, and to teach them about their derechos humanos, or human rights. She also explained that the Grupo de Apoyo Mutual would provide semillas for the planting season. The Concepción women could use these for planting, harvesting, and selling vegetable crops.

Petrona's home - which will be displaced by a new road
Caption
Education and agriculture, the two largest GAM projects in Concepción, require much time and effort. Without helpers like Xiomara, the secretary, Garbinia, a volunteer from Spain, and Alicia and Mario, who lead the organization, GAM would not be able to provide the service and support that it does. After the meeting, Petrona and her daughter showed Inocente, Alicia, and me her house, which is being threatened by the new road. We decided to visit the Municipalidad, where the alcalde, or mayor's office is located, to address the issue. He wasn't there, but we weren't going to give up. We went to the town hall and found him. Although the mayor, Agustin, explained that there was nothing he could do, he promised he would look in to it.

Monica

 

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