Konojel — A Volunteer Project to Get Behind
A big part of long-term travel for many people is volunteering. Volunteering, no matter what you do, is all good, right? How can devoting your time and/or money to help people in need not be a good thing? You might be surprised to find out that many volunteering projects end up causing more harm than good.
A few weeks ago in this column, Jennifer Miller shared her disdain for short term mission trips. Some who read this article thought she was calling for an end to all types of volunteer trips, fundraisers, activities, and experiences, which is the furthest thing from the truth.
Today, Jenn is sharing a personal story about a project that she believes will leave a lasting impact on the community that she currently lives in, which is what we believe most people who get involved in this type of work hope to accomplish.
“My boy is hungry this week, but he’s got nothing on our neighbors.
Elisha is fasting this week to raise money for his friends at Konojel. He and about 100 of the expat members of our community in San Marcos are going without solid food in hopes of raising awareness about the dire problem of chronic malnutrition in our village, and in Guatemala as a whole. They are also working to raise the money necessary to provide the 60 most at-risk children in our town with one nutritious meal a day for the coming year.
Since we’ve been back in Guatemala, he’s been working up there every day, going on six months now. It’s going to be hard for him to leave “his kids” when we fly north next month. He’s worrying about that already.
“Mom, do you think I could do the Konojel fast so I can raise some money to keep feeding my friends after I am gone?” He asked a couple of weeks back.
I’ve already mentioned that I’m proud of this kid.
Malnutrition is a serious problem in Guatemala. Here are a few not-so-fun facts to inform your thinking:
- Guatemala is the 4th most malnourished country in the world (worse than the African countries we hear about)
- Guatemala is the 2nd most malnourished country in the western hemisphere; only Haiti has it worse.
- UNICEF reports that 43.6% of all Guatemalan children under age 5 are malnourished, but those numbers don’t tell the whole story.
- 80% of the population is indigenous, approximately 70% of those 80% are malnourished. The class divide is huge.
- 3 million Guatemalans lack access to safe water to drink
- Over 6 million don’t have access proper sanitation
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”