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Aldea Maya: teaching children a new living

Guatemalan program needs your help
Children in Chuk Muk may be desperately poor

Louise Sosa knows a large part of the reason she is able to live a good life in Qualicum Beach is nothing more than an accident of birth, which is one big part of the reason she is organizing a dinner and dance to help people in Guatemala.

“If we are lucky enough to live our lifestyle here, then we really should be helping others, because we are the lucky ones in this world,” she said. “It’s only a luck of birth that makes you different. We aren’t any smarter or prettier or nicer. We’re just lucky to be born here in Canada.”

The people she and her group, Aldea Maya, are trying to help live in Chuk Muk, a new village built by the Guatemalan government to house people made homeless by a disastrous mudslide six years ago.

“It was the biggest natural disaster in Central American history,” she said. “Over 800 people were killed all at once.”

The survivors of that tragedy were left with little more than the clothes on their backs and very little in the way of a future. That’s something she and her group are trying to change — starting with nutrition.

“This area is the fifth worst in the world for chronic malnutrition,” she said. “They have very little land and there is no way for them to earn money, so most people just eat tortillas and salt. I met one family where the mother had collected snails and boiled them up and that’s all they had to eat.”

Sosa said her group presented every child in the school of 500 students with something they could grow and their families could later harvest.

“Every child in Grade 3 received a papaya plant and organic dirt and learned about how to grow it and about nutrition,” she said. “Papayas grow really quickly and are an excellent source for vitamin A and C and the people are really deficient in that. As well, every student in Grade 6 got a citrus plant and learned about folic acid, because there is a lot of spina bifida in the area. We did a cooking class as well and prepared foods with it.”

Every student in Grade 5 meanwhile received a chicken and was taught about how to raise chickens and how to build a chicken coop. The chickens, she noted, were purchased with funds raised by elementary students at French Creek, Errington and Qualicum Beach Elementary schools.

“Every child in Grade 1  received a new pair of shoes, backpack, undies, socks and toothbrush,” she said.  “The students were very happy to receive the shoes as their ones were falling apart.”

The poverty is appalling, but Sosa didn’t find it disheartening, as she felt she and her group were able to make a very real difference.

“It’s not disheartening because you’re doing something,” she said. “It’s disheartening if you are not doing anything.”

Oceanside residents will get another chance to put their shoulders to the development wheel beside Sosa and her crew at the dinner and dance event, slated for May 28 at the Arrowsmith Golf and Country Club. 

Tickets for $18 each can be purchased at Complements in Qualicum Beach, the Elements Gallery in Coombs and Our Glass in Parksville.

For more information call Sosa at 250-752-1309.


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