Guatemala Soy Nutrition Project

by Chuck Haren

In mid-August I returned to Guatemala to work with local partners Grupo de Soya Santa Maria (GSSM) in Karen’s Soy Nutrition Project. With individual donations, contributions from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries and grants from the Trull, International and SG Foundations, Plenty has supported GSSM in their efforts to produce and deliver nutrient rich foods weekly for 490 undernourished and vulnerable children, and help mothers understand and address the food needs of their families.

It has been two years since GSSM members went from shanty to shanty to speak with mothers and identify children in need of additional nutrition. At that time there was no running water, toilets, electricity or drainage in the dumpsite settlements, home to more than 4,000 people. During the past two years families have randomly strung electrical wires, dug drainage lines and collectively begun running pipes to bring water closer to their makeshift shelters. But the average family income has not changed and the dangers of living in an area with so much desperation, crime and toxicity persist. Yet despite deplorable living conditions and low returns for labor exerted, hope persists for a better life among many of the families, which are often headed by single mothers. Their tenacity and persistence in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles never ceases to amaze me.

Despite limited formal education, and a lifetime of living in poverty, our partners are working to establish their own food and nutrition center to make and sell small amounts of fresh soy and other low-cost nutrient rich foods to local residents. GSSM has initiated nutrition and food preparation workshops for people living in the dumpsite area. With a little funding help over the next year from friends and supporters of Plenty, GSSM members expect to begin making and selling soymilk products, sustain their own employment, and continue providing nutritional support for vulnerable children.