The Inspiration of Romelia's Story - A note from Tina
Guatemala is a land of great beauty. But, as I would discover, it is also a land where many women suffer from poverty, abuse and illiteracy. It was through my work in a Christian shelter for battered women in 2008 that I first met the person who inspired our current mission: Romelia.
Romelia was one of the first women to come to our shelter. Her story echoed the accounts of thousands of other indigenous women in Guatemala, a society where many husbands/fathers abandon or mistreat their families. Beatings and other forms of physical abuse were common for the new mother and her two young children.
While they could find rest and sustenance in the safe environment at the shelter, the vulnerable family would eventually have to return home. This was the most frustrating part of the story, at least for me.
As a missionary, I was part of the team responsible for the care of this dear woman and showing her the hope of Christ. However, I knew that in a few months she would likely return to her hometown, with little chance of providing basic necessities for herself or her children. It was also possible that she would end up back in the abusive environment that she originally fled.
As I got to know Romelia, I was amazed by the courage and determination she showed despite the horrible situation. During one of our conversations at the shelter, I asked her if she had any dreams for the future. “I want to learn how to sew,” she said.
God used Romelia's humble dream and my new understanding of this cycle of poverty and despair to inspire the vision for Women of Hope in Guatemala. I believe Romelia and the thousands of local women suffering in similar circumstances deserve a chance to shape their own future and lead peaceful lives without the fear of abuse.
In February of 2012 the vision for a Business for Transformation ministry became a reality when Giovanni and I moved to San Lucas Toliman. Now talented artisans have a place where to learn of the hope of Christ while building a better future for themselves and their children.
Fast forward to February 2016 when we celebrated 4 years of ministry, growing from 2 artisans to 9 working in the center and feeding 40-50 children weekly, along with numerous other ministry activities throughout the year. We see God's hand over the ministry and pray for His blessing so that we can be a channel of blessing for so many other!
Guatemala a beautiful country...
Geographically, the country is divided into three regions by two mountain ranges that run east to west. Women of Hope is located in the highlands of the Lake Atitlan area, where the majority of the population is indigenous, speaking Tz'utujil and Kaqchikel. Four of our artisans first language is Tz'utujil, with one only speaking minimal Spanish.
While Catholicism was the official religion during the colonial era, this community has declined in number in recent decades. Protestantism has grown substantially and now includes over a third of the Guatemalan population, with most of these identifying as Evangelicals and Pentecostals.
Guatemala faces many social problems and is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. This destitution is a leading causes of chronic malnutrition. While over half of the country lives in poverty, the rates are more dramatic for the indigenous population and children. Approximately 75% of indigenous people are considered poor, compared to 36% of non-indigenous peoples. Among children, 59% of those under 18 live in poverty and 19% in extreme poverty.
Chronic malnutrition is a serious ongoing concern for children, affecting 49% under the age of 5. The gaps between urban and rural areas are considerable, with urban areas at 29% compared to 52% in rural regions.
As a home to over 15 million people, the demographics of Guatemala are quite diverse. The population is divided almost evenly between rural and urban areas. About 60% of the population speak Spanish, with most of the rest speaking dialect languages. There are currently 23 officially recognized dialects.
According to official 2012 national statistics, 39.8% of the population are indigenous with hereditary ties to Mayan ancestors. The remaining 60% of Guatemalans are non-indigenous, which refers to the Mestizo population and people of European origin.
Spanish is the official language of Guatemala and it is spoken by more than 60% of the population. It is primarily used in the southern and eastern regions, including Guatemala City and Peten. For many indigenous people, Spanish is learned as a second language if at all.