Analysis of North American NGOs Impacting communities in Guatemala

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In my paper I will be arguing that the continuous help and concern of aid organizations such as UNICEF, Red Cross, and CCARE in Guatemala have promoted greater education, provided food to the malnourished, and implemented help services in order to rebuild communities after environmental disasters. The establishment of Non-Government Organizations is to supply resources and aid to underdeveloped and repressed countries. Guatemala has cecum to many problems over the last decade, through civil war and natural disasters, thus creating much poverty in communities that have been primarily affected. It is important for NGO's such as CCARE, the Red Cross and UNICEF to be an active part of rebuilding the country of Guatemala and helping its people. The first section of my paper will be discussing the theoretical aspects of NGO's such as the relationship between the NGO's of the North and their connection with Third World Countries as well as NGO health and educational plans to help Guatemala. The next section will be showing the implementation of NGO's and their main goals for the country of Guatemala in efforts to improve in the fields of education, food supply, and disaster relief. Finally I will conclude my essay with discussing how NGO's have positively impacted the previous sections of poverty, and the consequences that it has had upon the lives of the Guatemalan people. This paper serves great purpose for my family and I because we have sponsored a child from Guatemala for the past eight years through a Catholic based foundation called Chalice. Thus it is very important for me to understand the work that they (Chalice) and other NGO's have done to help not only the children of Guatemala, but the community as well. Through reading articles and journals, it has proven that the continuous work of NGO's and Aid organizations has made a difference in the lives of those living in poor circumstances.

Research and Analysis

Section 1: Theories of Development, NGO's and Poverty in Guatemala

The following section will be used as background information that will help understand the position of NGO's and their relationships with Third World Countries. It will also present some theories that organizations have created in order to provide a better educational system, and affordable health plans for families in Guatemala. With this information it will prove beneficial in understanding the work the NGO's are doing and their plans to help the struggling communities of Guatemala.

The relationship between Central America and Northern NGO's has been developed through decades, therefore it is advantageous to be aware of the history between these two different groups and how they interacted with one another. During the 1970's through to the 1980's Guatemala was experiencing civil war, making the primary goal of all Northern NGO's to come in an establish a political position against radical change in the government. Many NGO's entered the country following several natural disasters, and helped bring aid relief to those affected. Though, they also acted upon their views to bring development and national democratization to the country of Guatemala. The following excerpt was taken from the article.

increasing intervention of the US in Central American societies also led to the rise of a different type of NGO, linked to the foreign policy goals of the US. NGOs were one of the tools available for delivering aid linked to counterinsurgency policies. Thus USAID supported both Central American and US-based NGOs which cooperated with right-wing governments and military institutions, providing humanitarian and development assistance and legitimizing existing political structures.

(Lister, Sarah. "The consultation practice of Northern NGOs: a study of British organizations in Guatemala." Journal of International Development. October 2001)

This quote indicates that while the United States and other Central American NGO's came into Guatemala for the help of its people, it soon changed into a more diplomatic mission. The United States in particular was using its power to bring in right-wing ideology as well as military posts to provide increased development and insuring protection to existing political structures in Guatemala. It is evident that the work of Northern NGO's was primarily to bring aid relief to the country of Guatemala during a time of war and natural disaster. But it is clear that NGO's had much larger ideas to bring in their own political views and they kept it under the banner of development towards helping the Guatemalan people. When looking at NGO's today, many have tried to steer away from the political problems of Guatemala and focus more on the education, malnutrition, and aid relief for the Guatemalan people.

The aspect of malnutrition has been a growing concern for the Guatemalan people for the past several years. With natural disaster and civil war, there have been a lack of proper food diets for many children. This problem finally hit its peak during 2008 when the USAID office in Guatemala declared that in chronic malnutrition is a concern for children in communities. There are some communities with as high as 90% of its children suffering from this problem, a statistic that is very surprising considering Guatemala's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) tells us that it is a very prosperous country. Many children had deficiencies such as stunted growth and changing hair colour due to lack of vitamins.

The symptoms of severe mal- nutrition occur at the most fundamental level. For some children, their normally jet black hair turns blond due to vitamin deficiency. In more severe cases, the hair falls out in patches. The skin may peel and darken. Most confusingly, many of the children look puffy, almost obese.

(Samuel Loewenberg, Guatemala's malnutrition crisis; World Report, July 2009)

This problem has slowly decreased over the past couple of years due to the great health work done by the USAID organization, but there are still many children in rural areas that still need proper food nutrition. This is why the work of NGO's in Guatemala is so vital for the citizens, as they do not have enough money to relieve themselves of these problems that most of us in North America don't have to suffer from.

Along with the concern of malnutrition, the focus of education has also been a primary focus of NGO's in bringing a proper educational system to the youth of Guatemala. This can possibly be achieved by a recent theory to bring a second Mayan language into schools who presently teach in Spanish, giving children an opportunity to become bilingual and benefiting them for future job opportunities. This plan has also been financially considered and has been drawn up with cost efficient ideas for schools in Guatemala. The International Journal of Educational Development has looked into the educational field and the possibility of furthering children's understanding by introducing more bilingual schools. It is shown that students who are bilingual have higher attendance and promotion rates for jobs and lower dropout rates in schools. But the greatest benefit of bilingual schooling is the cost benefits that it will have towards Guatemala.

The costs saving due to bilingual education is estimated at over 31 million quetzales (US$5 million). The cost savings are equivalent to the cost of providing primary education to about 100,000 students per year. A reduction in dropout and its effect on personal earnings is estimated as an increase in individual earnings of an average amount of 186 quetzales.

(Velez, Eduardo. Harry A. Patrinos. "Cost and benefits of bilingual education in Guatemala: A partial analysis." International Journal of Education Development. November 2009)

The addition of bilingual will be somewhat of a crude- cost benefit to the Guatemalan people. This is because with a shift towards bilingual schooling, the Guatemalan educational system will gain cost benefits due to a reduction of grade repetition. This plans implementation will prove to be very beneficial for the children of guatemala as will be discussed in the following section.

Section 2: Implementing NGOs and Aid foundations

This section provides insight into how NGO's have helped the population of Guatemala that have been affected by malnutrition and hunger, as well as provide aid relief after natural disasters. NGO's are also focused on progressing the educational system for the children of Guatemala. These goals are shown through the actions of organizations such as CCARE, UNICEF, and the Red Cross with their continuous help to improve the lives of those living in poverty.

As discussed in the previous section, the importance of education was of vital importance to NGO's and organizations. The idea of implementing a bilingual school system was to benefit the children in terms of a full education a experience and decreasing the drop out rates in schools. It also proved to be advantageous in terms of cost saving of up to 5 million dollars US, which in turn provides enough education for 100,000 students per year. Therefore to implement this plan, the United Sates along with the government of Guatemala began to reintroduce the old Mayan languages to schools, and the primary education the bilingual education program better known as PRONEBI was created. This program significantly made a difference in schools across Guatemala, with schools who were pro PRONEBI to have less of a student drop out rate as well as less students repeating grades. PRONEBI was so successful in fact that they brought the program to indigenous children from communities in the Highlands of Guatemala. The only problem that has been seen with this program is the lack of teachers and their willingness to move to more rural areas of Guatemala. Therefore it is vital for future expansion of the program to train more teachers in order to get proper education to communities who need it most.

Next it would be useful to understand the kind of aid relief efforts that NGO's supply to the people of Guatemala. This can be represented by the work of UNICEF and The Red Cross and their help following a devastating mud slide in 2005. It was the result of Hurricane Stan that destroyed many villages in Guatemala's Western Highlands, leaving at least 1000 children orphaned and many families without a home. Children were forced to take shelter at school, many of which were suffering from stomach ailments and diarrhea from drinking water that was impure. According to Karen Hickson, a leading officer for child protection says UNICEF's main goal is to provide food, shelter, and education to the orphaned children following the natural disaster.

tens of thousands of children are currently living in shelters. She and other UNICEF officials say that the highest priority is reuniting as many children as possible with family members. Otherwise, lax adoption rules in Guatemala could make these children vulnerable to illegal adoptions and even kidnapping.

(Terrazzano, Lauren. "Guatemala: after the rains: mudslides destroyed entire villages in this Central American country, leaving 1,000 children orphaned." Junior Scholastic. December 2005)

The threat of kidnappings are much higher after such environmental disaster, when children are left with no home and no place to go. Therefore it is crucial that UNICEF help these children and their families to find a safe and secure shelter until a new community is built. The officials of Red Cross are not only concerned about the physical health and protection of orphaned children following the disaster, but their mental health and their personal problems. Dr. Arturo Monsato, who is a surgeon for the Red Cross has expressed his own concern saying that the children have no way to express their feelings and thoughts. This problem if left unkept can become a greater problem for children when they grow up. That is why the Red Cross made this a top priority to bring special doctors to come and talk to the children afflicted, giving them someone to reach out to and reflect upon their experiences. It goes without say that Guatemala could not have recovered so rapidly after such a disaster if not for the great aid relief brought to them by the workers of the Red Cross and UNICEF.

Section 3: The Social and Developmental Impact of NGO's

After discussing the first two aspects of theory and implementation, the final step is to analyze the impact the NGO's have made towards the progress of alleviating malnutrition, restructuring education, and responding to natural disasters in Guatemala. The following articles discussed will depict the difference that NGO's have made to children of communities afflicted by disaster, as well as looking at the overall social development of Guatemala since the arrival of Non Government Organizations.

The Canadian Central American Relief Effort or CCARE was formed in 1998 ,following Hurricane Mitch, and has been working in Guatemala for several years now, providing medical health and food to the hungry and rebuilding damaged communities. The founder of the organization Hilda Rossi has been working her whole life towards improving the country in which she grew up. The founder had this to say following Hurricane Mitch that destroyed many homes and left people without food or medical help.

After a natural disaster, many organizations help but they forget how the people will re-construct their lives again. The re-construction is the hard and long one,

("CCARE's relief efforts continue in Guatemala." Oakville Beaver [Oakville, Ontario] February 2008)

The Guatemalan relief effort is geared towards rebuilding self-sustaining communities by constructing houses, community centres, hospitals, and supplying food. But maybe the most important work that was done was the skills that CCARE provided to the Guatemalan people, that they could begin to make crops and have a steady source of food for years to come. This organization has proven that they can reconstruct communities in Guatemala not only for short term relief, but for long term sustainability. CCARE is still a strong organization today as they receive countless donations towards their foundation, and it is evident that the work that they do has changed the lives of many Guatemalan citizens, and will continue to do so in the future.


The work of NGO's has helped greatly in improving education, supplying food to malnourished and hungry, and have provided aid relief to Guatemala. This is shown through the great organizations such as UNICEF, Red Cross, and CCARE who have provided help in all these aspects of societal development. Looking at the background theoretical planning, the relationship between Northern NGO's and Third World countries has been somewhat difficult, with some organizations using aid relief as a platform to introduce their specific western views to developing countries like Guatemala. This problem has left Guatemala with somewhat of an unstable position politically and this must be solved in order to have a government that the Guatemalan people have respond to.

But in terms of rebuilding poor communities, NGO's have made substantial differences in bringing a greater education to children by introducing a bilingual schooling system. Organizations have also been of great service too people directly affected by natural disasters, supplying food to the hungry and malnourished and providing shelter for orphaned children and their families who's homes were destroyed. Finally organizations not only respond to immediate problems in impoverished societies, but they divulge the proper skills that give the citizens an opportunity to have a sustainable community. Ultimately the contribution that NGO and Aid organizations have made to the Guatemalan people have given them a new beginning towards a functional and sustainable society and someday progressing towards development in the future.