ChildFund’s president and CEO, Anne Lynam Goddard, visited our programs in Guatemala last week. While there, she met with the national office’s staff and our local partner organizations. ChildFund is tackling severe malnutrition, violence against children, early marriage, teen pregnancy and other serious challenges in a country that has endured a history of political instability, including an internal conflict that lasted 36 years.
Anne Lynam Goddard with Gabriela and Gerson.
Above, Goddard with Marcela, 17;
below left, Goddard with Maria, 19.
“I’m looking forward to reviewing our progress and gaining greater understanding of how we can build even stronger communities that protect children,” Goddard said soon after arrival.
Here are a few highlights from her trip.
In Quetzaltenango, Goddard met Gerson and Gabriela, who are both 10. They are part of a ChildFund-supported program, We Learn, which helps children gain critical thinking skills in several subjects, including math, communication and logic. Gerson and Gabriela spoke to an audience of about 100 people, so they clearly have strong communication skills, and they’ve won medals in math and spelling contests. This program, which has spread across Guatemala with ChildFund’s support, is an important effort to keep children from dropping out of school, a common problem in this country.
Goddard also met two young women who have big dreams for the future, a cause that’s close to our hearts at ChildFund, where we want to see girls happy and empowered. Maria, 19, is part of the new “Strong Families” program, which we are leading with financial support from UNICEF, the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization. The project helps the 80 young women participating learn how decisions affect their lives, building self-confidence and independence, strengthening family relationships and opening up dialogue between parents and children.
As Maria told Goddard, “I have dreams for my life. I want to keep studying, go to university and become an anthropologist.” She now has her parents’ encouragement.
Marcela, 17, lives in a village where some girls marry as early as age 14; however, her life has taken a different path, which she attributes in part to her involvement in ChildFund-supported programs. She was approached as a potential wife for a boy in her village, but Marcela said she wasn’t ready. Her parents supported her decision, and she is in her third year of secondary school.
Marcela’s mother married at the age of 14, not knowing there was an alternative, but she is now learning how to read, thanks to her daughter’s lessons. Marcela hopes to become a medical doctor one day, and she is considered a role model by other girls in her village.
“I am proud of myself,” Marcela says, “and I can see how things are changing.”
Goddard saw the power of children in that change: “Voices that were not being heard now have a say in decisions that will affect them for the rest of their lives.”