In 1976, Plenty International established its first international base of operations in the country of Guatemala. From disaster relief and reconstruction to water systems and soy technology, Plenty’s work in Guatemala spans the full scope of its efforts to empower those in need.

Food, Environment & Health

Throughout all Plenty’s activities, we support the efforts of economically marginalized communities to provide for their own basic needs, promote local culture, and protect their natural resources.

In Guatemala and El Salvador, Plenty has worked with indigenous communities, womens’ associations, local universities, agricultural schools and other non-profit organizations to:

  1. address immediate nutrition and clean water needs of undernourished and vulnerable children and families
  2. help families increase and sustain production of essential, nutrient rich foods
  3. establish plantings of trees and bushes with erosion control and insecticidal properties and increase their use
  4. support local efforts to process and market fresh, quality, low cost non-gmo soy products and related high nutrient foods

Guatemala Programs and Partners

Current Projects

Through Karen’s Nutrition Program (KSNP) at the Guatemala City waste dumpsite, Plenty works with local residents to increase the quality nutrient intake of undernourished children, improve parents’ understanding and ability to address family nutrition needs, and expand local employment opportunities. Funding partners: Misioneros de Caridad, Plenty donors.

Past Projects

Through the Essential Seeds and Trees Program (ESTP) in Chimaltenango, Plenty works with the Mayan women of Tecnologia Para Salud (Technology for Health) and agricultural technician Amado Del Valle Montufar to help 80 farming families grow and use trees and bushes with erosion control and insecticidal properties, and increase production of essential native beans, corn and non-gmo soybeans. 2013 funding partners: Atkinson Foundation, Plenty donors.

The ESTP also works with professors and students of the agriculture school Escuela Formacion Agricola (EFA) in Solola to grow and distribute three varieties of non-gmo soybeans.

essential seeds and trees seedlings
Amado del Valle (rt), Plenty technician Chuck Haren, and a member of Tecnologia Para Salud check tree seedlings at the project nursery.

Amado with TPS reps.
Amado del Valle with members of Tecnologia Para Salud in Chimaltenango, Guatemala.


Plenty also offers technical and material inputs to help Mayan community organizations ADIBE and FEDEPMA in Solola, and the women’s associations Grupo de Soya Santa Maria (GSSM) and Unidas Para Vivir Mejor (UPAVIM) in Guatemala City, to improve their processing and sales of fresh soy products and other high nutrient, low cost foods in their communities. Funding partners: Plenty donors.

ADIBE Soyaria crew
ADIBE soyfoods production staff in their “Fabrica de Soya,” which was originally established with Plenty’s assistance in 1980.

new GSSM milk making
A member of GSSM makes soymilk for the KSNP food supplementation project, which serves undernourished children of dumpsite workers in Guatemala City.










El Salvador Programs & Partners

Past Projects

Plenty began working with the non-profit organization El Cuenco, the Programa de Soya San Ramon (PSSR), and the University of El Salvador (UES) Schools of Medicine and Agronomy in May 2011, in response to requests for assistance to establish non-gmo soybean production.

With the UES School of Medicine and El Cuenco, Plenty helps families living in severe poverty (an income level of $50-$100/month for a family of 5-6 people) to address undernourishment and employment needs by establishing production and use of foods rich in vitamin A, beta carotene, iron and folic acid, such as moringa, chaya, chipilin and papaya, and the growing, processing and sales of red beans and protein rich non-gmo soybeans. Funding partners: Plenty donors, Trull Foundation, El Cuenco, UES.

saves 2 days planting 1:4 a
A farmer in San Ramon tries out a new wheel seeder provided by Plenty. The seeder can cut his planting time in half.

non-gmo soy between plantain
Non-gmo soybeans planted in January 2013 between rows of new plantain in the Bajo Lempa region of southern El Salvador..



Plenty and El Cuenco purchased filtering tools and provided training on their use to help 65 families eliminate bacteria, coliform, and reduce lead in their water. Professors and students from the UES School of Medicine conduct primary health care, nutrition, and related environmental education activities twice a month to help adults and children understand and address undernourishment and water contamination problems. Funding partners: UES, Plenty donors, El Cuenco, Trull Foundation.

Plenty assists the women of Programa de Soya San Ramon (PSSR) and the Comite de Mujeres San Carlos (San Carlos Women’s Committee) with technical and material support to improve the processing and distribution of fresh soy milk and fortified bakery and corn-based foods within their communities. Funding partners: Plenty donors, El Cuenco, Trull Foundation. 

Chuck does wokshop
Workshop in soy foods preparation with the Program de Soya San Ramon and  University of El Salvador nutrition students.

women make milk
Marta and family prepare a lunch of soymilk, omelets of egg, okara (pulp left over from milk production), and chaya/green leafy vegetables at Rancho Grande, El Salvador.

Plenty partners with UES professors and students to help families living in severe poverty  improve their health, food security, and employment opportunities. With UES School of Agronomy, non-gmo soybean variety trials are taking place to make seeds available to farming families.

Disaster Relief & Recovery

Current Activities and Past Efforts

Plenty was founded in 1974 to channel aid and support to families and communities affected by natural disasters, and we have provided disaster relief in many countries, both in the U.S. and abroad since then.

Current Activities 2020-21

* Food and relief aid in response to Hurricanes ETA and IOTA in Central America, November 2020:

  • In Nicaragua we  provided $500 for emergency food to 30 Miskito families in the city of Bilwi, Puerto Cabezas, distributed by the Parroquia de San Pedro Apostal.
  • In Guatemala we provided $1000 to American Friends Service Committee to support their efforts to distribute food, warm clothing, and hygiene supplies to shelters in the Department of Alta Verapaz in northeast Guatemala, one of the most affected areas.

* COVID-19 related support has been provided in Guatemala, Belize, Haiti, Puerto Rico, So. Dakota, and Tennessee. Update to come!

 Plenty’s Relief and Recovery efforts – a chronological summary

Puerto Rico Earthquake (2017-18)

Initial efforts in 2017 included distributing water purification kits and small solar lights in some of the hardest hit areas of the central mountains by two volunteers of AidElevated, a group fiscally sponsored by Plenty. Six portable solar powered high-volume community water filtering units were also sent to Puerto Rico in 2018.

Nepal Earthquake Relief and Recovery (2015 – present)

Plenty fiscally sponsors two relief and rebuilding projects in Nepal, directed and carried out by skilled and dedicated volunteer staff. 

Chupar Village

Immediately after the earthquake in April 2015, this relief and rebuilding effort headed by former Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal, John Vavruska, went into gear – providing food and temporary shelters for the people of Chupar. Further efforts from 2016 to 2019 included rebuilding homes and a new school, built with local labor using traditional methods and Gabon banding for earthquake stability, providing Envirofit cookstoves and more. Continued work in this village will likely be undertaken after the pandemic subsides.

Halchok Village

Here are excerpts from the first letter appeal for this village in 2015:

“As you know, Nepal has suffered a terrible earthquake – in fact two earthquakes, one on April 25 and the second on May 12th. Our son Vajra was in Kathmandu, where he was born, for both quakes and witnessed some of the terrible destruction and loss of life in the Durbar square of Kathmandu where he has an apartment, thankfully in a modern, earthquake-resistant house. Like many people, we immediately responded to the earthquake by giving donations to various institutions dedicated to disaster relief. It soon became apparent that much of the most immediate and elective relief work was being done by small groups of Nepalis and expat foreigners who were supplying relief to communities they knew and had a connection with.
One friend in Santa Fe, John Vavruska, set up a mini relief project for the village of Chupar, ancestral home of other mutual Nepali friends in Santa Fe, Uttam and Budu Rai, funneling donations through a small non-profit: Plenty International His effort has inspired us. Just after the first quake, Vajra visited Halcok, the village where we lived for over ten years in the 1980s and 1990s. While he was happy to report that his best friend in Nepal, Sukri Putwar, and his family were safe, there had been widespread destruction of the poorer houses of the village. Vajra wrote us on April 28, “I went up to see Sukri at the village. 56 houses collapsed (out of maybe 100?). All the old houses, gone. It’s as if an entire memory has been erased. Sukri incredibly lucky to be alive. Made me realize that the real destruction in Nepal must be up in the little mountain villages, in the stone houses.”

We decided that we wanted to help, and with the eager participation of the Nepali staff in the office we work with in Nepal, we were able to send up a shipment of food and essential supplies to the homeless villagers encamped below the ruins. We are now planning to provide supplies for more substantial temporary housing, food, sanitation and other priorities.

Please consider adopting Halcok and helping “one village at a time” survive now and rebuild in the future. Thank you. Ian, Lois, Vajra, and Vasundhara Alsop”

Update from Lois & Ian Alsop, July 1, 2018

We are in the final stages of our building phase and nearing the end of our project.

We have completed a total of four new houses after the initial post-earthquake stage of providing food, medicine and temporary shelter to the people of Halchok village.

Here is a link which was sent to all of our donors of a video which was made after the first attempt at building earthquake resistant structures using available local materials and labor.

Following that construction project, we became involved with a local company, Metalwood, which is at the forefront of a new, earthquake-resistant type of metal frame construction which we decided would suit the needs of the village and could be done with village labor and their designs. Three houses have already been built by Metalwood and the villagers in addition to the first model house in the video.

We are now building houses #5 and #6.  As always in Nepal there have been delays in proceeding with plans but we are very satisfied with the first three Metalwood houses which were built between 2017 and 2018.  The villagers are all engaged in the demolishing, clearing of the site, and basic leveling and porter work. Here is a link to a page on the Metalwood site showing their work in the design and construction of  the first house they built for Halchok

After the completion of these last two houses we will not be actively fund raising. Thank you to Plenty for your generous help in making this a reality. 

Lois and Ian”

Super Typhoon Haiyan – the Philippines (2013)

Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013 with brutal force. International relief efforts were massive. Plenty was asked to help the village of Alta Vista on the island of Leyte,  home to about 1,500 people. Every house in the area lost their roof and/or sustained other damage. Alta Vista Elementary School, with 280 k-6th grade students, lost its roof, desks, books and supplies. Plenty provided funds to repair the school and replace books and student supplies. 

 Gulf Coast  (2008 and ongoing)

Louisiana’s Gulf Coast communities are vulnerable to frequent storms and hurricanes and have no protective levee system.

The BP oil disaster in the spring of 2010 added a devastating blow to the Gulf’s environment and the traditional fishing and shrimping livelihoods of its coastal people.

In Terrebonne Parish, working with Tribal leaders, Plenty provided emergency distributions of food and clothing to some of the most impacted Biloxi-Chitimacha families.

Since 2008, thanks to the efforts of Plenty volunteer Elaine Langley and friends, the annual “Bayou Christmas” has provided toys, books, groceries and other aid to over 100 families.  

Replacement beds and mattresses were provided for 16 families after Hurricane Isaac in August 2012, funded by the Philip R. Jonsson Foundation.

Plenty has assisted the Pointe-au-Chene Biloxi-Chitimacha tribe to complete a raised community center that also serves as a tribal office and hurricane shelter, and house a library and computer lab. The center was completed in 2014.

Supporting the people of the Gulf since Katrina enables us to witness longer-term impacts to the health and wellbeing of these highly vulnerable coastal communities.

Haiti earthquake (January 12, 2010)

The National Palace in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake.

When Haiti’s overcrowded capital collapsed into a deadly avalanche of rubble in the massive quake, Haiti was already the most impoverished country in the western hemisphere with 70% unemployment and an infant mortality rate of 60 per thousand births, ten times greater than the US rate.

Elaine gives medicine to a little girl.
Plenty medical volunteer works in a temporary emergency clinic in the village of Cayes Jacmel after the earthquake.

Plenty assistance to Haiti from 2010-13 has largely focused on health and medical needs:

  • Medicines and supplies for the immediate relief effort, and ongoing to the ADHD clinic in La Vallee; water purification tablets to Le Mabouya, a Haitian environmental NGO in Cayes-Jacmel, (southeast Haiti); and to a clinic in Cape Haitian (central plateau), run by the Haitian NGO Sante Total – $7,000
  • Ten heavy-duty wheelchairs designed for rural use by Whirlwind Wheelchairs – $2200
  • Support for clinical volunteers, and teaching workshops for Haitian midwives on Home Based Life Saving Skills – simple interventions that save mother and infant lives – $1,800

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: (August/September 2005)

Together, these Gulf Coast hurricanes constituted the most devastating natural disaster to hit the U.S. in its history.

NOLA under water
New Orleans was 80% under water three days after Katrina.

Times of great tragedy often generate great compassion, and this disaster was no exception. The world witnessed an unprecedented outpouring of caring and mobilization in response. We are very grateful for the many generous people who channeled their time, talents and funds through Plenty to help.

plastic on roof
Plenty volunteers cover a roof with plastic.

Multiple runs of volunteers and supplies were organized from our home base in Tennessee to assist hurricane victims in Louisiana and Mississippi in building repair, supply distribution, medical care, mold abatement, needs assessment, and more.

Joel gets into it
Volunteers gutted houses in preparation for rebuilding

Other supply and volunteer runs were mobilized from Tennessee, Texas, and Florida. Volunteers came from as far as New York, California, and Oregon.

Plenty team in New Orleans.

Food, water, medical supplies, blankets, heaters, clothing, batteries, cleaning and other supplies were purchased and distributed thanks to donations raised from individuals and community fundraisers. 

Katrina relief work also led to the creation of Plenty’s ongoing program, Books To Kids. 

Hurricane Stan: (October 2005) Guatemala

Torrential rains caused deadly mudslides around Lake Atitlan in the department of Solola, which killed at least 600 people and displaced thousands in the traditional Mayan communities of this area. Plenty provided $8,700 for emergency and longer term food relief, which was coordinated through Plenty’s Central American Food Security program partner Asociacion De Desarollo Integral Belen (ADIBE) and their soy foods processing facility, which is located near the affected area.

Tsunami: (December 2004) India and Sri Lanka

On December 26, 2004, a devastating tsunami struck 1,356 miles of Indian coastline, destroying or seriously damaging 883 villages and affecting 1.2 million people. Over 10,000 people died in mainland India. We were asked by a trusted colleague working in India to support  a project to assist pregnant women and children. $2,870 was utilized for playgrounds for children in two villages (Chinoor and Velangiriyan Pettai), as a way to help them in their trauma recovery. The remaining $5,577 supported a project to provide pre- and post-natal care, nutritional food and vitamin supplements, vaccinations, psychological counseling, and special needs assistance to 276 pregnant women and 391 nursing mothers living in 25 villages that were devastated by the tsunami.

Hurricane Iris: (October 2001) Belize

This category 5 hurricane swept through southern Belize in October 2001, destroying homes, crops, and rainforest. Plenty Belize staff and volunteers set up outdoor emergency kitchens in 5 villages, where residents and the Plenty crew produced and distributed over 1000 lbs. of high protein dry cereal and drink mixes and coordinated other aid delivery in the area. Funds raised also purchased tools and seeds to enable 275 farming families to begin replanting. We assisted our longterm friends the Toledo Cacao Growers Association to  set up 4 village tree nurseries with drip irrigation by solar water pumps. About $17,000 was raised for these efforts from individuals and small grants.

Hurricane Mitch: (November 1999) Nicaragua

Plenty raised $5,726 through individuals and two small grants for Hurricane Mitch relief. Plenty built 2 houses and repaired three others, installed two neighborhood water wells, and supported a local woman’s group MUPROVI (Women Producing for Life) in the town of San Juan de Limay, by donating food and supplies for their temporary Olla Comunal (community kitchen). The community kitchen served approximately 80 kids one meal a day, 5 or 6 days a week for several months. Two Plenty representatives drove a load of medical supplies and house wares from Texas to Nicaragua, and donated their four wheel drive Toyota truck to help move supplies to families who lost homes and more in the hurricane. They also worked with MUPROVI to replant trees and re-establish vegetable gardens in the year following Mitch.

Guatemalan earthquake: (February 1976)

Two years after Plenty’s founding, we began our international work by responding to a massive earthquake that struck the Guatemalan highlands, killing over 23,000 people. Early relief efforts involved volunteer carpenter crews from the Farm Community who began rebuilding the town of San Andreas Itzapa and outlying rural communities. Deep underlying conditions of poverty and social inequality were revealed through this work, and seeing an opportunity to provide longer term assistance, the Farm Community, through Plenty sent more volunteers with health care, farming, communication and related skills. Initial relief efforts evolved into a multi-year program involving hundreds of volunteers, partly funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). 1200 homes, 12 schools and several clinics were rebuilt, a radio station established, agriculture and nutrition projects, health care training, and a free clinic provided services, and orphaned and malnourished children were cared for by Plenty volunteers.

adobe rubble 2
The earthquake in Guatemala killed 23,000 people and left a million homeless.


Itzapa camp crew portrait2
Plenty Guatemala volunteer camp, 1977.

Tornadoes in southern US: (1975-76)

In Plenty’s earliest years, we helped our neighbors in times of need, responding to local disasters by collecting and transporting truckloads of food, blankets, and clothing from Plenty headquarters at the Farm Community in middle Tennessee to tornado and flood victims in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee.


In 1980 Plenty helped to construct a soyfoods production facility near the town of Solola, Guatemala. Today, the facility produces a variety of soyfoods and soy products including shampoos and hand creams. It’s called ADIBE and Plenty has continued to offer funding and technical support through the years. Most recently, in July this year Plenty shipped to ADIBE a stainless steel soybean grinder and hydraulic press, that were donated by David Druding of Fayetteville, AR.

Karen’s Soy Nutrition Program, Guatemala

Three and a half years ago, inspired by Plenty’s beloved Board Chair, Karen Heikkala, who had recently passed away, we began working with a group of Guatemalan women (Grupo de Soya Santa Maria or GSSM) to improve the nutrition intake of undernourished and vulnerable children living in squalor at the entrance to the Guatemala City land fill and waste dump.

During 2013 GSSM staff have  expanded the number of children receiving soymilk and fortified baked goods
containing 11 grams of protein, plus iron and calcium. They have been providing nutrition and soy processing workshops twice a month for women living around the dump. Additionally, they have started producing a third of the soymilk they distribute to the children. They also completed legal registration of their partnership, receiving a commercial license allowing them to sell their soy foods in the neighborhood.

Many thanks to Jewish Helping Hands and Chris Gruener for their funding support. Representatives of Jewish Helping Hands even traveled to Guatemala to observe the project first hand. If Plenty is successful in attracting sufficient funding and donations, GSSM will  continue distributing these soy foods to more than 300 undernourished children and 25 elderly people on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. This costs $5.00 a month, or $60.00 a year per child. Misioneros de Caridad fund a distribution of fortified cookies to about 125 kids on Fridays.


Plenty was able to help twelve-year-old Emanuel  to secure an all terrain “Rough Rider” styled wheelchair. Plenty staff ran into Emmanuel in the street at the entrance to the Guatemala City waste dump. A picture of Emanuel sitting in a homemade plastic wheelchair energized the campaign to get him the kind of wheelchair he really needs with donations provided by board member Robert Reifel and friends in New Mexico, and collaboration with Mark Richards of Hope Haven International. The wheelchair was designed by Whirlwind International and made by the nonprofit Bertha O. de Osete Foundation in Mexico.

Walking through the asentamientos (settlements) next to the Guatemala City dump where Plenty has been supporting a child nutrition project one sees a lot of bare ground with no plant life. Sewage collects in ditches along the pathways between the rows of shanties built from scraps of metal, wood and cardboard. There are no playgrounds or green spaces. Everyone is living on the edge of survival.

Plenty’s Food and Nutrition Projects

In Guatemala City, 300 undernourished children on Wednesdays and 490 on Saturdays have been receiving nutritious soy foods produced by two local women’s organizations. Four hundred adults living near the country’s largest waste dumpsite attended food preparation and nutrition workshops carried out by Grupo de Soya Santa Maria. The International and Trull Foundations and Jewish Helping Hands have contributed funds for these efforts. We have also been helping Amado Del Valle, the Agriculture School in Solola and local subsistence farmers begin to propagate non-gmo soybeans.

In El Salvador, 31 farming families in Rancho Grande received tools, seeds and technical support to help re-establish foods rich in vitamin A/beta carotene, and initiate plantings of non-gmo soybeans. Water filters were provided for 61 families living in Lower Rio Lempa to eliminate coliform, bacteria, and reduce lead in their drinking water. Plenty provided technical support and equipment to help the women at Programa de Soya San Ramon improve processing and distribution of fresh soy foods among economically disenfranchised families living in San Salvador. The Trull Foundation and El Cuenco provided financial support, and these efforts are being carried out in cooperation with the University of El Salvador School of Medicine, Department of Nutrition.

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.

Karen’s Soy Nutrition Project

Plenty continues to support the efforts of Grupo de Soya Santa Maria (GSSM) as they provide bakery foods fortified with toasted soy flour and soymilk to more than 300 undernourished children, as well as a few disabled and elderly adults, two days a week. GSSM has not missed a week of distributing foods to the children since starting in early October of 2010. In addition to the nutrition supplementation activity, printed information is given to parents to help them understand the nutritional needs of their families, and how those can be addressed with local food sources. And, in November this year GSSM started to conduct monthly food processing demonstrations for families, attended mostly by mothers and daughters, about how soyfoods can be made at home, and included in traditional foods and meals.

Plenty is now also working with GSSM to set up a location where they can sell soy and other low cost, high nutrient foods to the public. Part of the sales income is intended to sustain the food distribution services for undernourished children and provide employment opportunities for women who live at the dumpsite. GSSM representatives are improving their management and processing skills. They met with lawyers and government agencies in the last quarter of 2011 to begin the process of legalizing their organization and obtaining the permit needed to sell bakery foods.

Plenty was awarded funding from The Trull and International Foundations and Jewish Helping Hands that will be used in the first half of 2012 to help GSSM meet the costs of equipment, materials, rent and product registration, as they work to initiate their income generating activities. We estimate that $20,000 will be needed to sustain the GSSM nutrition supplementation and education activities during 2012 until the retail outlet begins to show a profit.


In 2011, with funding provided by the Atkinson Foundation, Plenty collaborated with the Solola-based Instituto Mesoamericano de Permacultura (IMAP), Escuela Formacion Agricultura (EFA) and Amado Del Valle to help more than 40 farming families from 5 villages to grow black beans, soybeans, corn, and vegetables, while learning methods of mitigating soil erosion.

Farming families each received 500 lbs of organic compost along with seeds, tree seedlings and technical support to help them develop models for arresting soil erosion and improving their productive capacity. Students and teachers at Escuela Formacion Agricultura (EFA), the Solola Agriculture College, tested 8 non-gmo soybean seed varieties during 2011. IMAP staff and Amado provided technical support for the farming families.