It’s 11:00 am and you wouldn’t believe how hard the scorching sun hits when you’re nearly 7,000 feet up in the mountains of San José Poaquil in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. The scene is almost surreal. A community leader, officially appointed by the local government, rides on the back of a pickup truck and through a handheld speaker, he calls out the names of the families in the community one by one.

People come out of their homes and head to the dirt road where they’re surprised to find out that a group is delivering bags containing basic food supplies. The bags should help alleviate the food scarcity that they have faced for several days now, after the community became isolated due to a villager testing positive for COVID-19.

The journey started a few weeks ago. One of CoEd’s Rise Program Local Facilitators, Maribel, found out that her community was being shut out to any form of contact with surrounding communities because a fellow villager had tested positive for COVID-19. There is only one small store in the community and sure enough, it was out of stock within a few hours of the announcement.

CoEd staff started searching for support through various initiatives. Through a personal connection, Augusto, CoEd’s Subdirector of Programs, entered a request to the Monte Basán Church in Guatemala City, which was putting together food donations for families in need.

At the end of May, a group of church members delivered the bags of food in their cars to Chimaltenango, where they were put into one of CoEd’s traditional white trucks. Evelyn, Coordinator of CoEd’s Rise Program, and César, a Field Representative from the CoEd Textbook Program, along with Willi, Claudia, and Yovana from Monte Basán Church made the trip up the mountains to deliver the food.
The trip was not easy. All of the communities and villages in the municipalities of Chimaltenango had organized in the past few weeks and strongly limited travel to avoid the risk of COVID-19 spread. The group had to stop at least seven times to explain to community representatives the purpose of the trip so that they would be allowed to drive through the community. In some communities, they sprayed the cars with disinfectant. In others, they went as far as taking the temperature of each member of the group with an infrared thermometer.
Evelyn was very glad to find out that former Rise student, Denis, was guarding the entrance to his community at one of the stops they had to make. Clearly, Denis’s leadership and responsibility was being recognized by his community and he took his job very seriously. He greeted Evelyn from a safe distance and reported that things were going well so far in his community.

The group made a quick stop at Saquitacaj to deliver food bags to the extended family of a Rise student, who had been placed under quarantine since they had come in contact with a person who happened to be sick with COVID-19. Then, they moved to the community of Nueva Esperanza, where Maribel had already coordinated the logistics for the delivery with the mayor’s office.

At CoEd, we keep finding out that in many communities we serve, having loud speakers is still a very effective way of keeping the families in the community informed! The local leader called out one family after another through the loud speaker and the heads of each home orderly picked up their bags.

In total, 85 bags of food were handed out to families in those communities, including the families of four Rise students!

Most of all, several families told Evelyn and César that they were so thankful that someone had cared about them at a time when many of their neighbors had avoided them and stigmatized them. The presence of people who cared about that community and the gift of food brought new light and new hope to these families who were suffering.

We’ve established an immediate relief fund to support our students who are dealing with extraordinary circumstances during the COVID-19 crisis. Your gift will help bridge the gap during this crisis – providing emergency assistance on a case-by-case basis for students and their families and covering scholarships for students whose sponsors are unable to continue their support.

Help Students in Need through the COVID-19 Student Relief Fund