Guatemala Trip (ECG 300)

April 30

Hi my name is Erica Abbott and I’m a constituent of Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania. I’m a junior communication major and Spanish minor at Cabrini, as well as an intern with Catholic Relief Services. I am here with my group to ask that funding for migration and refugee assistance be increased or maintained at the current levels.

While in Guatemala, we visited the city of Chichicastenango where we got to interact with the children at the school. We got to hear about their dreams of of becoming teachers, they were curious to hear about our own future aspirations, and some of us even played a little pick-up game of basketball.

But that’s not always the experience everyone has. Some have to give up that opportunity in order for a sibling to receive the education. For the girls that we met, having access to education meant that they could take what they learned and bring those resources back home. This access is both a benefit to the family and the community as a whole. Having this education impacts the community and makes it less likely that gangs will form as well.

So you can see how it’s all interconnected. Having this access means that they are less likely to migrate from their home countries, where violence forces them to flee as refugees.

For Migration and Refugee Assistance, Interaction’s funding recommendation for fiscal year 2016 is $3.3 billion, compared to the president’s $2.4 billion request. This funding and programs through NGOs would provide greater economic and educational opportunities and provide resources for the 1.2 million people (UNHCR) seeking refuge.

By increasing prosperity in countries in Central America, that increases our trading partners, therefore benefiting us by opening jobs here.

My experiences in Guatemala were very eye opening. Not only was it the first time that I got to experience another culture, but it also connected me to the people there. About a month after I returned, my family and I made the decision that we were going to sponsor a child through the organization Unbound, specifically a child from Guatemala. Sponsoring her not only keeps me connected to Guatemala but also allows the opportunity to give back and support long-term change.

No one wants to leave their home. Investing in the children and youth and addressing the push factors before they are forced to migrate is one key component of making change in the long term.

And now Matt is going to talk with you a little about the Alliance for Prosperity.

Thank you.

April 16

Hi my name is Erica Abbott and I’m a constituent of Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania. I’m a junior communication major and Spanish minor at Cabrini, as well as an intern with Catholic Relief Services. Today, I’d like to specifically discuss gender equality. This semester, I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala and see first hand how people live in developing countries.

I’d like to share a story with you of a woman that I met in Guatemala and, in many ways, this is how a number of women live. We came across this woman while we were visiting a women’s center in San Lucas Toliman. (Photo) She was washing clothes at a pila, which is an outside wash tank where women can come to wash clothes. While she was doing so, she had a daughter at her side and a baby on her back.

Women make up half the world’s population and they deserve the access to equal opportunities. Interaction’s funding recommendation for fiscal year 2016 is $1.9 billion dollars, not far off from the president’s $1.7 billion request. This funding and programs through NGOs would provide greater economic and educational opportunities, reduce the number of hungry people worldwide, and increase the GDP by closing gender disparities. Truly investing in young girls and women is one of the best ways to reduce global poverty, according to Interaction.

My experiences in Guatemala were very eye opening. Not only was it the first time that I got to experience another’s culture, but it also connected me to the people there. About a month after I returned, my family and I made the decision that we were going to sponsor a child through the organization Unbound, specifically a child from Guatemala. We received her photo a few weeks later, dressed in the traditional clothing of Guatemala. Sponsoring her not only keeps me connected to Guatemala but also allows the opportunity to give back and support long-term change.

Thank you.


Gender equality:

Investing in women and young girls is the best way to reduce global poverty, according to Interaction, given that women make up half the world’s population. Ending gender-based violence, working with women and teaching them trades, and working to find opportunities is at the core of the solution. Women need to have economic and educational opportunity, which prevents issues down the line such as child mortality. By solving the problem at its source, the problem would be less likely to continue down generations. The recommendation for FY budget is $1.9 billion, while time also needs to be invested to put an end to the injustices.

Refugees Seeking Safety:

I was initially surprised to see that the proposed budget was $3.3 million but after seeing that the amount of forcibly-displaced people is at its highest since post WWII, it made sense. This includes over 16 million refugees. Addressing people’s humanitarian needs as well as long-term policies and solutions is crucial. Unstable areas force people out of their countries, and in some cases, to the neighboring countries that don’t have the means to support them. Part of the budget proposal also includes protecting the rights of women and girls and gender-based violence, so that fits nicely with my other topic. Basic needs and rights must be addressed at the source so that there is less of a need to migrate. Although that is most definitely not a solve-all solution, basic elements of survival need to be addressed and provided while working towards long-term solutions.

Explain which of the 10 reasons Interaction presents you relate to the most.

The reason that most resonates with me is that it’s the right thing to do. So often, people say how we shouldn’t be putting our money towards other countries while we have so much debt. But they forget that there are real people behind every number who are suffering. After visiting Guatemala, you can absolutely see that it is the right thing to do—helping our brothers and sisters around the world is essential to development but also a force for good.

March 26 CRS

Catholic Relief Services is a non-governmental organization that works towards solutions for both immediate and long-term development. While they are the official development and relief agency of the Catholic community and they follow the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, they put need before creed. They work in 93 countries and work to improve the conditions of the poor and vulnerable for both emergencies and long-term need.

Cabrini has a partnership with CRS and in April, they will be celebrating their 10-year anniversary, having initiated their partnership in 2005. This partnership reflects Mother Cabrini’s commitment to an education of the heart. Cabrini was also the first institution of higher education to form a formal partnership with CRS. This partnership allows for students to become engaged citizens of the world through clubs and organizations. Students and the rest of the Cabrini community can become involved in CRS Student Ambassadors, the Global Solidarity Network, Fair Trade Wallyball, and more.

Integral Human Development recognizes the human dignity of every person. A key part of CRS’ mission, it recognizes the strengths of a community and the assets of individuals to develop holistic strategies. By using this framework, CRS works side by side the people rather than telling them what needs or should be done. It’s not just about sending money to a country—it’s working to solve root causes of poverty and developing long-term solutions. Through the IHD design, CRS works to build the resilience of communities and create sustainable futures.

Poverty focused development assistance supports long-term development in areas such as healthcare, education, education, and more. Rather than giving money to foreign governments, poverty focused development assistance is generally provided by giving that money to an NGO like CRS. Their direct work with the local communities makes the international assistance more effective if done in a scalable and respectful manner. We as Americans should care, first and foremost, because those suffering around the world are our brothers and sisters, if viewed from CST. We have a responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to basic human rights and has the opportunity to climb the ladder of development.

Poverty focused development assistance is needed in Central America because extreme poverty still exists, which perpetuates dangerous situations such as gang violence. Richard Jones says in the beginning of the video, “a refugee crisis due to violence.” If youth were given more opportunities then there would be no reason for them to fall into gangs, resulting in further violence.

Juan Sheenan talks about the opportunities that are offered to the youth to build their skills, thus not getting involved in gangs. He even talks about people who come to them and say that they want to learn in order to get out. There would be no refugee crisis if there were no violence to flee from and that begins by working out the root problems. Poverty focused development assistance can continue those programs for youth and provide them the opportunity for a better future.

In the example of Nelly’s Story, Nelly was able to make a living selling bread. Though she admits that she was nervous in the beginning, she is now successful. CRS’ El Salvador Youth Build allowed her to provide for her family, gain confidence, learn transferable skills, and make a living for herself. This also meets the MDG of gender equality because it is empowering her. Programs are also available that help provide technical training or continue their education, therefore, helping to eliminate the gender disparity in education.

Why support PFDA

I remember reading all these pages on poverty focused development assistance throughout last semester and thinking how much help needed to be given. As we learned, while help may be one part of the solution, there are many facets that contribute to the development of the poor and vulnerable around the world.

Mostly, the first sentence of the article sums up the basic tone: PFDA is essential in providing both short term needs and long term development worldwide, but less than one percent of the federal budget is devoted to it. Yes, it has helped millions of people but with threats of cuts of the already small budget, it is even more of an essential time to become aware of the need for PFDA. Cuts cost lives and there are so many lives that need to be reached.

If the PFDA is dramatically cut then lives can be needlessly lost, as Bread for the World writes. PFDA helps address the root causes of poverty and ultimately leads to people being able to climb the rungs on the ladder of development. But unless it directly affects us, sometimes we just don’t think about others issues. That’s the problem: it’s not a “they” issue. As I wrote in my blog last semester, the focus needs to be shifted from a “they” issue and progress to more of a “we” solution.

In order to be successful, PFDA must be respectful. You don’t go into a country and tell them what needs to be changed or try to pull them away from their customs—you walk side by side with those in extreme poverty.

And that can often be lost—there are real people behind every statistic. These aren’t just numbers, as the Oxfam pamphlet says. When you go on an immersion trip like we did, you can see those people firsthand and learn about their culture and lives. But not everyone goes on trips like these. So how do others become engaged?

PFDA should be supported to poor communities like Guatemala overseas because, for one, it’s the right thing to do. In NGOs like Catholic Relief Services, which provides both short term and long-term assistance, they partner and work with locals to do accomplish various goals. In Guatemala for example, they work in agriculture, disaster response, agriculture, education, and more. NGOs are outlets to facilitate work, improve conditions for the long term, and reduce poverty.

But without PFDA, those that benefit from it would ultimately suffer. It must also be delivered in such a way that it is effective and accountable, as USGLC writes. This includes showing transparency and being a driving force for actual results.

PFDA has helped millions and can continue to help millions if the proper resources, time, and care are put into making that happen. A reiterated point: change doesn’t happen overnight and you could obviously never expect something like reducing extreme poverty to happen quickly. PFDA supports long-term development so that people can become self-sustainable. Beginning with small steps can eventually to creating big change.

Reflection thoughts, March 12


Day 3: Passing by, both the natives and the students exchanged an “Hola” and a smile. It’s really an amazing feeling, even just saying hi—you feel a connection that you would not typically feel in the United States. We pointed out how if we walked down the streets in Philadelphia, or really anywhere in America, and said hi to everyone we passed; they would probably think we were crazy. But how different would it be if we could break those feelings of disconnect and just say a simple “hello.”

By far the best moment of the day came when Chona spoke to everyone…She is so strong and it was such a blessing to be able to listen to what she has experienced.

Day 4: At reflection, we discussed the difference between ownership and stewardship. An example I thought of was with Fr. Greg—when he came to Guatemala, he didn’t come with the intent of taking ownership or control of anything. Rather, he acted as a steward to the people and assisted with their needs. He never tried to change them, but simply serve them.

Day 6: It’s so sad seeing the dogs that way but then, there are also the people themselves struggling. They struggle with everyday life and people outside of the country have no idea, or prefer to remain ignorant. Of course, actually visiting the country helps to open your eyes but you can still educate yourselves without planting a foot in the country.

Feb. 19-IHD and San Lucas

Change does not come overnight. But it does not come at all if someone does not step up and try to create a change. The Friends of San Lucas’ Mission Statement perfectly illustrates Integral Human Development. One key takeaway I got from their statement was “Our purpose is to deal with both the immediate effects of poverty and their root causes.”

As we learned last semester, if you simply focus on helping people in their immediate needs and not take into account eliminating poverty at its source, then problems are bound to arise again. IHD is exemplified through their Philosophy because they lead through Preferential Option for the Poor and Christian Social Teaching.

Many points that are made in their Philosophy are also points that the woman made in the CRS IHD video. IHD promotes the good of every person, while creating programs in such a way that it promotes long-term development.

Under Christian Social Teaching, they describe the inherent dignity of the human person and that is exactly what the IHD framework does. In the video, the woman describes CRS’ framework as working to foster human dignity and social justice.

Another immediate connection I made from their Philosophy to the IHD CRS video was the theme of solidarity. The first few words are “walk with the people.” That is exactly what IHD exemplifies by making sure that the people’s voices are heard and that they are not being pushed or pulled any certain way. It is ensuring that their needs are addressed by walking alongside of them and building resilience.

The Friends of San Lucas state in their Philosophy that they begin with an appreciation for “the rich Maya culture and the heartfelt understanding that God’s love is for all.” Their response builds on the IHD framework of looking at issues through a justice lens and putting it into practice. The culture of Guatemala in general puts solidarity at the forefront of their mission.

The San Lucas Mission program areas and projects put into practice what IHD aims to achieve. The Mission works using holistic strategies that value the strengths of the people.

Through programs like land distribution, healthcare and education, you can make connections to issues that Fr. Greg addressed in the videos we watched about him. He worked to address the needs of the community and have people use their gifts and talents provided by the Creator to work with the Creator. At the end of one of the videos, Fr. Greg says, “Working together, change is possible.”

I think the topic that I would most like to focus on is women’s evolving role, continuing on what I focused on last semester. I think focusing on women offers a broad spectrum that can be connected to other topics, such as education and trades and apprenticeships (women in the workplace). I liked talking about gender equality last semester and having a focus on education. The Women’s Center also sounds interesting because is acts as a central hub where women can gather and learn and work together.


“Even though globalization has brought about some measure of human progress, many people today are still drowning at sea in the undercurrent of war, oppression, poverty, greed, abuse, drugs, fear, racism, meaninglessness, materialism, and many other perennial problems.” (Groody)

As I was watching the video about the story of the Mission of San Lucas Toliman, I found myself not wanting to look away. Though suffering exists globally, it was great being able to have an insight into the work that Fr. Greg Schaffer did to promote human development. Fr. Greg found ways to improve the conditions in Guatemala and, by hearing the voices of the poor and vulnerable, created change.

Thinking in terms of Catholic Social Teaching and Integral Human Development, it works. People may believe that it doesn’t because so many people continue to live in poverty, but, as we learned last semester, things are getting better. CST and IHD are huge components in the progression of human development and improving the condition of living for people everywhere.

As the Fr. Groody document quotes Martin Luther King, Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

CST promotes the teaching that we need to address social problems by working in solidarity with our brother and sisters. If we work towards a globalization of solidarity, as Pope John Paul II stated, we can build a civilization of love. It is by no means an easy task but something that is fundamental to the cause of the common good and to justice everywhere.

Many people mistake charity for justice or vice versa, as is also pointed out in the Groody article. When we watched the video about Bono’s speech last semester, he said, “ It’s not about charity, it’s about justice.” Catholic Social Teaching not only addresses the short-term needs of people but also what needs to be done to uphold development in then long term.

Personally, I almost feel as though the Groody document focused too much on religion being the reason behind social justice. While religion is a resounding factor, we also learned last semester that you don’t have to be a Catholic to follow the lessons of CST.

IHD is also an essential, and universal, part of making change. In the Catholic Relief Services video, Trish Ahern described the framework as looking through a justice lens and putting things into practice looking through that lens. Much like CST, IHD promotes the good of every person and fosters human dignity through holistic strategies. They build up the resilience of the people, while making sure their voices are heard. If you are not listening to the needs of the people affected, then what good is that? You have to walk alongside those who are poor and vulnerable in order to put the justice into practice.

Basic human rights need to be recognized in order to promote justice and create better opportunities and ways to live for their future.

Fr. Greg did so much work for the Mission of San Lucas Toliman and the community of Guatemala not because he necessarily had to but because he saw that there were injustices that needed to be changed. One basic right he focused on was work and ensuring that people could use their gifts and talents to work for the Creator, as well as providing training for marketable trades.

He made it his mission to liberate the oppressed and think in terms of building resilience. He didn’t donate thousands of dollars; he donated thousands of hours of his time. He didn’t blow off their problems because they were not his own, but he made it his “problem” and goal to work together in order to create change.

Guatemala: recent history and the present

1. Based on “The Guatemalan Context,” “history of San Lucas,” “Mission overview,” and “Peace Process,” what do you think it was like for the people of San Lucas to experience this conflict in the recent past?

Like any conflict, I think the people of San Lucas probably felt very displaced and felt a loss of identity in the recent past. While “The Guatemalan Context” mentions that Guatemala saw more impressive economic growth than their neighboring countries, they still experienced an oppressive atmosphere that challenged their human rights. They probably also felt betrayed by people involved in the conflict, as well as the ambiguous news reports from the media. Their human rights were severely compromised during the time of conflict and when your basic rights are taken away, there is no doubt that you suffer cultural losses across the country itself, as well as personal loss of individual identity. The economic disparities also made forced labor prevalent in certain areas, forcing the indigenous people to work harvesting coffee.

In areas of extreme poverty, the conflict only exacerbated the issues, such as lack of education, healthcare and land ownership. At the end of the day, however, I don’t thin anyone can fully understand how people felt in a conflict unless they were a part of the conflict itself. No one can fully understand the suffering people went through and the atrocities that they witnessed. Rigoberta Menchu helped to humanize the tragedies in her book, “I, Rigoberta Menchu,” but when the integrity of her accounts were compromised, people perhaps began feeling less sympathetic. When testimonials of human rights abuse surfaced, people who brought them to light were killed.

I believe the San Lucas Mission has helped improve the conditions of the country and continue to help bridge the inequality gaps of the recent past.

  1. Although there is no war going on at present, there is much suffering and violence. What are some of the root causes of the current crisis that are forcing children to flee as refugees seeking safety? (Washington Post article and NCR article.)

Some of the root causes that are forcing children to flee as refugees seeking safety are, as the Washington Post article says, “systemic state corruption, economic inequality and rising crime.” This is only to name a few. In desperate cases to make it across the border, some children resort to riding atop “the Beast,” a story that was humanized through the eyes of Enrique in “Enrique’s Journey.” As is the case in the NCR article, the root causes are generally persecution and violence as the reason for fleeing. As the article also points out, extreme poverty is not always the root cause behind the decision to immigrate. It is violence. Violence that has been perpetuated by U.S. policies. Though there are many root causes causing children to flee, they are usually no more welcomed once, or if, they make it to the United States. Millions have been deported and sent back to the desperate situation that made them originally flee and seek safety as a refugee.

  1. How does learning about this history and present make you feel?

As I have mentioned before, learning about the history of Guatemala makes me feel very sad given the oppression that our brothers and sisters suffer around the world. To think that the U.S. has a hand in perpetuating some of these atrocities is sickening as well. But it is also amazing the work that the San Lucas Mission does to improve inequalities. From building cement block and stone homes to improving literacy rates and access to trades, people are being given better opportunities to improve their future. Whereas impunity for past crimes was the norm, atrocities are now being brought to light and the search for justice pursues.

Romero, Jan. 29

Based off the video, I think the main message that Father Rutilio Grande was trying to teach Romero was the importance of being one with the people, especially those experiencing social injustices.

In the beginning of the video, Romero seems very hesitant about his role and what to do about the chaos surrounding him. In the scene where Romero and Grande walk the busloads of people to the voting booths, Grande says, “Not cowards but not heroes either—just ordinary people trying to do a job.”

Grande seemed like a priest of the people and I think that’s what he was trying to guide Romero to be. The Church appointed Romero because they thought we wouldn’t make waves but Grande really challenges him on that. Grande can see what is happening but it is only until later that Romero can see it as well.

I think Grande’s message was initially hard for Romero to swallow. It was a tough message, I would think based off the movie, for Romero because he did seem so hesitant to start off, as I mentioned.

Though Grande’s message was hard, I think it was something that Romero needed to hear. I think it opened up his eyes to the suffering around him and guided him to how to better walk with the people.

Towards the end of the movie, I think you could see Romero’s transformation from hesitation to being more of a shepherd. He stood up to both political leaders and military and fought to identify with the poor and join in their struggle for justice, as Romero words it. He continued his friend’s mission of speaking out for human rights.

He began seeing the importance of being there for the people, the suffering and to really be immersed in the world. He found the courage to stand up and impart his own messages. “Somebody has to have the courage to say ‘enough’.”

“When the Mountains Tremble” Movie, Jan. 22
  1. From your reading of “Bitter Fruit,” what role did United Fruit play in Guatemala PRIOR to the coup d’etat (overthrow of legitimate government)?

Prior to the coup d’etat, the United Fruit Company played a major role in the economy of Guatemala. They were the largest employer in Guatemala, despite paying little. Many employees lived on the banana plantations and United Fruit established a school for the employee’s children. The International Railways of Central America also played a huge role of United Fruit’s involvement in Guatemala. United Fruit also had regular access to Puerto Barrios, a seaport for trade in Guatemala. United Fruit owned a lot of land for the trade of their own bananas. Eventually, land reform fell upon the company for the hundreds of thousands of acres of uncultivated land. Around the same time, plans to overthrow Arbenz began.

  1. What were the most eye-opening insights you gained by watching the movie?

Everything in the movie were pretty eye-opening. To think that it was real footage showing the suffering and repression of the Guatemalan people was just unreal. The one part of the movie where the soldier is talking about the subversives and throwing propaganda out of the plane to convince people that the subversives were the detriment of the country. Earlier in the movie, someone asks a soldier why they are fighting the subversives, he responds that he’s just doing his duty. He didn’t even know why he was doing what he was doing; why he held the weapon in his hand and the act of what he was doing.

  1. After viewing “When the Mountains Tremble,” what relationship existed between the Guatemalan military government and U.S. big businesses? Between Guatemalan military government and the U.S. government?

The Guatemalan military government invested a lot of interest into U.S. big businesses. Police worked hand in hand with the big businesses and if a worker complained, then they would disappear. In “Bitter Fruit,” it says how General Ubico wanted laborers of United Fruit Company to be paid no more than 50 cents. If they complained, they were just marked as “political disputes” by the United States.

Between the Guatemalan military government and the U.S. government, the U.S. sent arms to Guatemala to “protect” themselves when really they were just contributing to the bloodbath, as Menchu points out.

  1. Why do you think so few people in the U.S. are/were aware of the Guatemalan genocide?

I think people sometimes prefer to remain in ignorance on the many injustices that occur around the world. Because American interests were so involved in the country, I think the events that unfolded were a lot more swept under the rug. As Rigoberta Menchu said, the mass media really paid no attention to what was happening in Guatemala and was not present in newspapers or network television. As Susan Sarandon concludes at the end of the video, there was “nothing more than a superficial look.” Many people in the U.S. are/were not aware of the Guatemalan genocide because so many people were forced not to speak up about it, for fear that they would be killed. Now in news outlets, they discuss the trial of former dictator Gen. Rios Montt. But why would anyone know or think to enter that into search engines? So few people possess the context and knowledge to know what happened in Guatemala and a history that they think has been left so far behind in the world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s