The challenges of our mission in Guatemala [Newsletter 3 Guatemala]


Hi everyone,

How are you doing ? Marine and Quentin returned to Paris end of the week while Sarah and I extended a few more days until the delivery of our various deliverables to the NGO Los Amigos de Santa Cruz. This week again, great news to share. 🙂

Santa Cruz Atitlan Lake Guatemala
Village of Santa Cruz – 2000 inhabitants

#The challenges of our mission

In order to better understand the challenges of the NGO los Amigos, Estella, the director of the Women Empowerment program, suggested that we take a pick-up to meet different groups of women entrepreneurs living in remote communities where no tourists venture.

Visit of a company of the program growing organic mushrooms

Our meeting with Ruth particularly marked me. She received us in her Kombucha workshop, a natural energy drink. While having her baby wrapped in a tight sheet around his neck, you could tell he was a hard worker. To succeed, it only needed a helping hand with a little equipment and training. By emphasizing entrepreneurship among women, Los Amigos knows very well that this is a major lever for promoting the economic development of the household as well as improving gender equity.

Ruth Los Amigos de Santa Cruz Guatemala
Ruth with a jar of fermenting Kombucha

As for our mission to improve their impact measurement process, we had 3 main objectives: 1) Definition of a roadmap of impact KPIs to be measured 2) Implementation of a data collection process and creation of automated impact reports 3) Training of teams in the use of the software. Even though we have reached the first stage of the project with the setting up of the pilot projects, it will still take months to implement within all the programs. The common denominator between my different assignments over the years is the teams’ initial reluctance to change. For this to work, I understood that it was necessary very quickly to integrate the field teams into the discussions, so that they could share their opinions and above all, that they could perceive the benefits of the software. Nowadays, the question related whether it makes sense to implement a program monitoring software within NGOs is no longer one.

Training Session Romain Sion Los Amigos de Santa Cruz Guatemala
Session de formation sur l’utilisation de la base de données Medida

#Experiences within the community of Santa Cruz:

Every morning at sunrise, we saw the few fishermen from Santa Cruz leaving in their Cayuco (canoes).

Fisherman Atitlan Lake Guatemala
Small pose tranquilos! 🙂

With Quentin and Sarah, we were overwhelmed with the desire to meet them in order to discover their daily lives. Very kindly, Claudia from the NGO los Amigos helped us organize a fishing trip with 3 of the last 25 fishermen in the village. This is how I got on the canoe of Juan, a fisherman from father to son who introduced me to his fishing techniques.

Romain Sion fisherman Santa Cruz Guatemala
Fishing trip with the last fishermen of Santa Cruz

From several hundreds a few years ago, only few fishermen remain in the sector as they were among the first to witness the pollution of the lake. As many locals got into the habit of dumping their trash into the lake, bacteria grew and it significantly affected the size and number of the fish. Juan explained to me that by selling his fish 4 Quetzales per kilo (€ 0.4), many fishermen found themselves forced to change jobs. The next day, a little tipsy Juan recognized me and hugged me at the village fair. It was very funny because on my side, it took a while before I recognized him! 🙂

In the evening, Claudia invited us to her family to cook the fish and the crabs caught early in the morning. We spent the whole evening with her mother and sister who taught us how to cook good crab soup prepared over a wood fire.

Mother Claudia Santa Cruz Guatemala
Preparation of crabs by Claudia’s mother

Although Claudia’s mother and sister spoke Kaqchikel (local dialect), we had a lot of laughs when it came to making the traditional tortillas. With a masterful hand, they were able to make 3-4 when we only manage to make a ridiculous ball of dough. This family dinner was authentic. We had an excellent evening !

Cooking session and Invitation Dinner Claudia Romain Sion Guatemala
Invitation to dinner with Claudia’s family

#A difficult subject: emigration

In France, we talk a lot about immigration with people who come to our territory. In Guatemala, the opposite is true, where many young people leave the country to try their luck in the United States. During our posada in San Juan, Guillermo explained to us that this phenomenon even accelerated during the Covid period when it was almost impossible to find a job. For $ 10,000, many illicit networks and cartels offer to cross the border without any guarantee of success.

Dinner Guillermo and Lola Romain Sion Guatemala
Posada at Guillermo and Lola

Some go so far as to load the migrants with bags to pass the drugs through the tunnels. Others have their passports confiscated before being forcibly hired by a cartel. During our dinner with Claudia, we felt a deep sadness when she spoke of the situation of her brother having emigrated to the United States to work in construction. As an illegal resident, no date of return to Guatemala was foreseen to date …

#The importance of confronting other cultures: the inspiratinoal story of Rosalia

If one day you cross paths with Rosalia – one of the two program directors at los Amigos you will not forget her. She is bursting with energy from morning to night. Passionate about discovering new cultures, Rosalia explained to us how her travels had changed her life. When she was little, she befriended a family of Norwegian descent who knew her dream: to live abroad. One day, the latter offered to spend two months with them in Norway. This trip was a revelation. There she discovered a totally different standard of living from hers and an environment in which women had a say.

Estela and Rosalia Los Amigos de Santa Cruz Guatemala
Rosalia and Estela – the two program directors of los Amigos

When she returned to Santa Cruz, she was convinced: “if the Norwegians can do it, I can do it too”. However, when she sought to get involved in the community of Santa Cruz, it was quickly made clear that her place was at home. One day, when no one knew how to handle the village church renovation project, its residents let Rosalia manage the project successfully. That day she won her place at the decision table. Since then, his opinion has been duly listened to. Regularly solicited by foundations and foreign universities to discuss her fight for women’s rights, she takes the opportunity to travel around the world all expenses paid. Smart, isn’t it? 🙂

We will be on our way home soon! To end this great adventure, we organized a cookie tasting tour of France with the Los Amigos team! Success guaranteed! 🙂 This year again an exceptional adventure which comes to close 6 years of discoveries in Asia, Europe, Africa and America.

Farewell Los Amigos de Santa Cruz Romain Sion Guatemala
Group photo with Los Amigos after the tasting

Have a great day,

Marine, Quentin, Sarah and Romain