July 31, 2007

God's Child Project/ La Asociación Nuestros Ahijados

Patrick with students at the school

Ian and I joined five friends to form a service team for God's Child Project in Guatemala. Patrick Atkinson, the founder of GCP, was in Antigua and led our orientation the first day. "You are here for three reasons, to learn about yourself, to learn about your god, and to learn about the poor" Building the house, serving a meal at the homeless shelter, and visiting the malnutrition center in San Juan were all just means to an end.

He also told us we would be receiving a gift from the people of Guatemala. From the people we met, we would discover the power to choose what we focus on while we deal with everything in our lives.

The families we would be helping were very poor, but they choose to focus on things other than poverty. They focus on the positive things in their life, so we shouldn't be surprised to see the friendly smiles, and the willingness to share what they do have. What a contrast to wealthy people all over the world who have incredible resources, but are unhappy because they focus on negative aspects of their life.

The orientation also covered the history of the organization, tips for health and safety, and a tour of the Dreamer Center. The Dreamer Center includes a school, medical clinic, dental clinic, and rooms available free of charge for community events.

The main goal of God's Child Project is to help families break the cycle of poverty. They do this by encouraging children to stay in school. The project helps pay for school supplies, uniforms, admission fees, food, bus fare, medical care and other expenses. The family receives extra money if the child gets good grades in school. This works as an incentive for the parents to encourage the children to study. If the families did not have this help, many of the children would be working to help support the family.

God's Child Project has several websites, and navigating them can be confusing, but there is a lot of information about the program and the services they provide for the families of Guatemala.

Some of the sites:
www.gcpnc.org(the office in Bismarck, ND)
www.ana.org.gt (La Asociacion Nuestros Ahijados)

Wearing La Asociacion Nuestros Ahijados tshirts, some of the people in our group had locals on the street comment about Patrick's project. Everyone had good things to say about it. One man added that it was one of the few organizations that doesn't "sell" the children of Guatemala, a reference to the practice of foreign adoption. After our experience as a service team, I was impressed by GCP, but to hear positive feedback from the people who live in the community really confirmed that impression.

*related post: Defending Voluntourism