PROJECT SOMOS VIDEO LIBRARY
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- What makes this project different?
- How long do the mothers and children stay with Project Somos?
- What is your biggest challenge on the ground in Guatemala?
- How many families do you intend to accommodate?
- Where is the Village located?
- Why Guatemala? Isn’t there a big need locally in Canada and the USA too?
- Why not partner with an existing organization?
- Isn’t Guatemala dangerous?
- How do you deal with religion in the Village?
- Can I get a tax receipt for my donation?
- How will you be accountable and transparent?
Project Somos focuses on orphan prevention and family preservation. UNICEF states that 80% of the world’s orphans have a living parent. Children are often surrendered to institutions because of poverty, not the absence of family. By offering opportunities for capacity building to the mothers, families stay together with a chance for a happy and healthy life.
Project Somos utilizes a synergistic approach, using social, psychological, educational, artistic and vocational tools to encourage the healthy development of the mothers and children. It encourages the development of both intelligence and compassion – head and heart, to help children become more balanced, productive members of their society. The mothers learn and practice employable skills while living at Project Somos that they will later use to support their families.
A Project Somos organizational objective is also to move toward our financial sustainability through social enterprises, including voluntourism (hence the need for separate guest accommodations), sales of handcrafted items, Community Hall rental (also used by the local village) and agricultural products.
This Project aims to be ecologically sustainable as well. Some 30,000 eco-bricks (pop bottles stuffed with plastic garbage) have been used so far in our construction - which translates into 30,000 pounds of garbage that is NOT in the rivers, canyons and streets. These building techniques are also seismic resistant, which is valuable in earthquake-prone Guatemala.
There are a number of “graduation” benchmarks we aim for, including good health for both mothers and children: recovery from trauma in many cases; adequate parenting, vocational and life skills to allow independent living, and opportunities for employment and safe housing in the community. Each family will be different, staying from 2 to 5 years. Our first graduate stayed just over 2 years.
After almost six years, we’ve found the toughest challenge is helping the mothers to overcome the trauma and resulting habits of sustained poverty. And commonly, experience of domestic violence has added to their trauma. It is a difficult and slow process for them to arrive at finding their worth and meaning in the world - but it is doable. Small steps can be significant, and a mama’s success means success for an entire family.
At this point, we are planning to construct 7 family homes, potentially accommodating 15 mothers with up to 50 children. We currently have 5 families with 15 children and this could double in 2017.
In December 2010, property was purchased in the village of Chivarabal, near Tecpán, Guatemala, about 1.5 hours from Guatemala City, Antigua and Lake Atitlan. Construction of the Village began in in 2011, and so far includes two family homes with a third under construction, a playground, 2 guest houses for volunteer accommodation, a solar/internet building, a preschool, a music/art/study/culture dome, staff housing and a community hall.
We are fortunate to be located in an incredible area of biodiversity surrounded by pine forests. The Village land consists of a large level area for building and agriculture, situated on a peninsula above deep forested canyons, where our well is located. At 7,000 feet (2300 m), we are in an excellent climate for growing, and are developing plans to support the Somos families and provide revenue with sales of our own organic products, such as quinoa. Over the long term, we will utilize all of the land.
Yes, and if you spin a globe, close your eyes, and put your finger anywhere, it is very likely wherever your finger lands there will be a pressing need for the welfare of children and families living in poverty. The social situation in Guatemala is much more desperate than in Canada and the USA, as there are no social nets to assist those living in desperate circumstances.
The reality of the world today is that Guatemala is in our hemispheric neighbourhood and the need there is immense.
Even though there are many projects working with children on the ground in Guatemala, Project Somos was initiated to address all the challenges of health, education, and employment for impoverished single parent families in one comprehensive project. We are open to working closely with other like-minded organizations and have already made a variety of alliances with Guatemalan-based projects.
Guatemala ranks as one of the most dangerous countries in the hemisphere. Unfortunately, the judicial system has been slow to recover after the 35-year civil war, which ended in 1996. However, most violence is gang-related, centered in specific neighborhoods in Guatemala City. Efforts to revive the judicial system and root out corruption are showing signs of progress and hope. The United Nations is assisting with the recovery.
The Project Somos Village is secured with a perimeter wall, which is traditional throughout the Spanish colonial world. Security “hosts” welcome anyone that arrives at the main entrance. We also have a strong positive relationship with the nearby village, and they have organized a rural “block watch” that is very effective. There has never been a dangerous incident at or near the Village since we arrived in 2010.
Part of the focus of the education with the children is cultivating virtues such as compassion, understanding, kindness, forgiveness, patience, etc. Guatemala is a Christian country with Mayan cultural roots. The mothers can practice their particular religious tradition with their children. The families are always encouraged to maintain their own cultural traditions. Compassion Fruit Society itself is a secular organization.
Yes, you can! Project Somos is a program of Compassion Fruit Society, Registered Canadian Charity No. 86332 6468 RR0001, that enables us to issue Canadian tax receipts. We also have a partnership with an American non-profit organization that can issue USA charitable receipts on our behalf. Please visit our Donate Page to make a donation. Thank you!
We encourage questions and conversation concerning our vision, goals, activities, and procedures from the general public and supporters. Compassion Fruit Society is a Canadian registered charity and financial and governance information is publicly available. A Board of Directors governs the organization and works with a variety of committees. If you wish to volunteer in any capacity, please contact us.
FACTS AND FIGURES: What is life like in Guatemala?
of the population aged 15 and over is literate, the lowest literacy rate in Central America (Wikipedia)
48% of males and 44% of females go on to secondary school (UNICEF, 2015)
Only 82% of children enrolled in primary school in 2014 (down from 98% in 2009) (UNICEF)
of children are married by age 15
by 18 (UNICEF, 2015)
22% of births by age 18 (UNICEF, 2015)
Guatemala has the third highest femicide rate in the world, after El Salvador and Jamaica, with around
9.1 murders every 100,000 women
from 2007 to 2012 (Wikipedia)
An estimated 5,800 children are in institutional care in Guatemala (UNICEF, 2013)
Guatemala has the sixth highest malnutrition rates in the world with
of children under five chronically malnourished or stunted (UNICEF, 2013)
Nearly one-half of Guatemala’s children under age five are chronically malnourished, one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world (CIA)
Child labour rates are at
(35% for males, 16% for females) (UNICEF, 2015)
The birth rate is three children per woman and is markedly higher among Guatemala’s rural and indigenous populations (CIA)
The distribution of income remains highly unequal with the richest 20% of the population accounting for more than 51% of Guatemala’s overall consumption. More than half of the population, 59.3%, is below the national poverty line, and 23% of the population lives in extreme poverty. Poverty among indigenous groups, which make up more than 40% of the population, averages 79%, with 39.8% of the indigenous population living in extreme poverty (CIA)
of children in Guatemala live in poor households (UNICEF, 2015)
of indigenous people live in poverty; 40% in extreme poverty (UNICEF, 2015)
CHILDREN NEED FAMILIES NOT ORPHANAGES.
Watch this powerful message from author J.K. Rowling, founder of Lumos.