High in the hills of the Ixil region of Guatemala, my wife and I had the wonderful opportunity to learn about how several vulnerable communities of this area are breaking the bonds of chronic malnutrition that has stunted health and economic progress for generations. Food for the Hungry (FH) began walking with leaders and families in this area 6 years ago by introducing a form of real-life social networking called cascade groups. These groups, comprised of mostly women, meet regularly with an FH staffer to receive valuable training and wisdom regarding nutrition, maternal health, infant care, home gardening and much more. These leader-mothers, as they are called, then find 10-15 other women in the community to share the ideas and concepts they have learned.
Watching these women share about all they have learned, and what has resulted from their application of these lessons, is nothing short of inspiring! The old adage “knowledge is power” was on full display as these women beamed with pride and accomplishment. For many of these women, it is the first time someone had deemed it valuable to invest in them. In learning that they could contribute to their family’s health and financial stability, rather than depend fully on the labors of men or the services of the community, it unlocks their God-given potential. Feelings of self-worth and dignity are visible. This group of women are owning their own development towards a hopeful future.
These are beautiful, strong and wise women. They receive knowledge and are learning how to apply that knowledge for the betterment of their children, their families and their community. A secondary impact is that these efforts are resulting in improved relationships between men and women throughout the town! Men begin seeing how vital these leader-mothers are to the improvement of their community.
Wherever I visit Food for the Hungry partner communities, I find women rise to play an active role in the betterment of their community. Because we seek to build empowering relationships within a community while offering sustainable development solutions to poverty issues, the impact on a community has positive ripple effects. The primary activity of the FH’s work in Guatemala is to combat child malnutrition. But because we take seriously a RELATIONAL approach… inclusive of women… the results of these activities permeate the social fabric of the entire community.