Charity Spotlight: This blog post was provided by Heather Knox, Co-Founder & Executive Director of Compassion Fruit Society’s Project Somos, a children’s village in Guatemala, as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.
It is the time of the year when you want to give back and share with others the blessings you have. When my partner, Greg Kemp, and I first encountered children in developing nations living in shocking states of poverty, the desire to give back became a life changing need for us both.
We were inspired by a model of an ecologically and financially sustainable children’s village that keeps families together, and the vision took hold. Through the Vancouver-based charity, Compassion Fruit Society, which oversees our work, and with the support of a dedicated group of individuals and families, Greg and I founded Project Somos, an eco-sustainable Children’s Village located within a small community in the Central Highlands of Guatemala.
There are an astounding 370,000 orphaned or abandoned children in Guatemala. By definition, an orphaned child can still have one living parent: this accounts for up to 90% of the world’s orphans. Rather than abuse or neglect, often circumstances of extreme poverty trigger the removal of a child from his or her parent. It is rare to find a Guatemalan mother who does not do everything in her power to provide for her children.
We believe that a child’s best chance for success comes from being raised by their own family in a stable, supportive environment. As an orphan prevention program, the Village supports widowed and single mothers at risk of losing their children and offers the conditions required for families to heal and begin anew.
The Children’s Village is comprised of two family homes (with five more to be built), a shared organic garden, orchards, playground, soccer field, and a beautiful community hall. Mothers take vocational training in order to provide for their families on a long-term basis, while the children are required to attend school in the nearby community of Chivarabal. Families are educated in nutrition, hygiene, gardening, and other skills. After two years, the families will be provided with a new home back into their community.
2014 has been a milestone year in Project Somos’ journey because we received our first two families at the end of March. The Village welcomed Ana with her four children, aged 8, 6, 5 and 2, and Marta with her three children, aged 4 years and 15 months (twins). We recently accepted our third family in September: Antonieta joined us with her two children, aged 5 years and 15 months.
The mothers are quickly becoming skilled at needle-felting, a craft they can use to provide for their children in the future. The first Christmas ornaments they created, were completely sold out during our last visit to Canada.
This holiday season will be a time of new and old traditions. We want to emphasize the gift of positive experiences and create beautiful and peaceful memories for the children. There will be lots of baking and sharing goodies with friends and supporters to teach the little ones about giving back. As in other years, we will have a Santa Claus workshop where our workers take a couple days off to make wooden toys for the kids, and there will be a Christmas party with everyone invited. The children are already getting excited to stay up until midnight to celebrate Christmas with fireworks in true Guatemalan fashion.
The Project Somos family is celebrating the holiday with joy and gratitude to be giving a brighter life to these mothers and children in need.