Vocational Center to Rescue Poor Guatemalan Families from a Lifetime of Scrounging Garbage Dumps

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. (November 20, 2009) – For the poorest of the poor, life is not only difficult but it can also be demoralizing. The desire to survive forces many people to scrounge for scrap metal or bottles to recycle at Quetzaltenango’s garbage dump in Guatemala.

To improve the lives of families who work long, grueling hours at the dump, parishioners of St. Peter of Alcantara Catholic Church in Port Washington, raised money to build a vocational center in Quetzaltenango through Food For The Poor, the largest international Christian relief organization in the nation. The multi-purpose center will be used to teach residents a trade and to become self-sufficient.

Julie and Michael Giunta, parishioners, along with Sister Connie Kelly, Director of Parish Outreach and Spanish Apostolate Ministry at St. Peter of Alcantara, traveled to Guatemala to attend the inauguration of the Vocational Center Corazón de Jesús, in Quetzaltenango. Upon meeting the excited recipients, Food For The Poor staff members and community leaders described their vision for the center.

“Their faith was so beautiful and pure,” said Julie Giunta, as she reminisced about the people she met at the inauguration. “They were happy, gracious and gave so much glory to God. For them the construction of the vocational center was God answering their prayers – God remembering them.”

The center will offer training in sewing, embroidery, baking, tailoring, literacy, and nutrition. Additionally, the project supplied the center with the equipment needed for hands-on training consisting of 10 industrial electric sewing machines (with attachments), four heavy-duty clothes irons, two industrial stoves, two heavy-duty bakery mixers, and a computer for training and record keeping. 

“It was a profound trip,” said Julie Giunta, who said she felt the greatness of God when she thought of how He had brought them from Port Washington to a remote village in Guatemala. “If you did not believe in God before the trip you certainly found Him during the journey.”

“The people who once rummaged through the trash in Quetzaltenango have been provided a second chance to dream — thanks to the tremendous faith of St. Peter of Alcantara parishioners,” said Angel Aloma, Food For The Poor’s Executive Director. “One of the best ways to help the poor is to empower them to help themselves. Construction of the Vocational Center Corazón de Jesús has given the people new life and new hope.”

The architect, project coordinator and construction workers were also present for the vocational center’s inauguration

“You could see the pride they took in what they had done and accomplished – the building was more beautiful than I could have imagined,” said Michael Giunta. “The architectural details they used made the vocational center the nicest building on the street – showcasing the pride they took in their work.” 

More than half of Guatemala’s population lives below the poverty line. The vocational center will provide poor families the opportunity to learn a trade to earn an income.

“It was amazing what they are able to do with the resources they have available,” said Julie Giunta, who was impressed to see the women of the community come together to cook tamales for approximately 250 people. “The gospel calls us to live in community, and what we saw them do is stretch and share all they had with each other.”

While in Guatemala, the travelers also attended inaugurations for water and housing projects. In San Jose La Viña, the group inaugurated a water system for 25 families who live in Food For The Poor housing. As part of a Lenten project, parishioners from St. Matthias Catholic Church in Parma, Ohio, raised money to fund the water system.

In the mountainous region of Chuilaju, villagers danced and gave thanks for the completion of 25 Food For The Poor houses in the Weiss Village of Hope, funded by Maria Weiss in Somerset, Mass., and Lee Partners Inc. in San Antonio, Texas. A previous donation gave villagers in Chuilaju access to a recently installed water system. The health of the villagers already has started to improve thanks to the precious gift of clean, drinkable water.

The church continues to fundraise to provide the necessary supplies and to maintain the vocational center’s training classes. To support their effort, please make checks out to Food For The Poor and include a special code “SC# 72461” so the money can be tracked for the initiative. All gifts are tax-deductible. Donations can also be made through the charity’s secure Web site.

Food For The Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. Since 1982, we have provided clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and emergency relief, with more than 96% of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor.

Jennifer Leigh Oates

Public Relations
(954) 427-2222 x 6054