It seems that some of the poverty of the people here stems from the lack of work or from underemployment. Much of the work done here by adults to support their families would be considered demeaning work in the USA.
Though some have what we might consider to be more "normal" jobs such as being a teacher or working in a bank or a store, there are not enough such places to employ lots of people. There are two small malls about 30 minutes from me but that is about it in the entire northern region of Guatemala.
In Guatemala, an opportunity to work is an oppotunity to feed one's family. It is seen as a blessing of God. No one is whining about the kind of job they have. Persons hold their heads up high and do their work with pride no matter how small or simple a task it seems to be.
Another reason that adults do not have jobs is the lack of education. Maricruz attends class so that she can receive her 6th grade diploma. She is the mother of 4 and is a health promoter. I am proud of the 6 adults who want to learn more to help their families. Maricruz and her husband only received a education to the third grade.
Below are some examples of very, very common jobs for adults in the Peten.
Here a young man washes the truck that I drive. He did an exceptional job. This is a common job. It will take a person 30 minutes to wash a car inside and out by hand. The charge is about $2. I generally give a person more than that because I know that they are trying to support a family on this wage.
Perhaps you have set up a lemonade stand in your front yard for a nickel a glass. Can you imagine a grown woman doing this for a living? Every morning, this woman sets up shop in "her spot" on the corner and gives drinks to those who pass by and are thirsty because of the hot sun.
We use big lifts to put up billboards or now our billboards are electronic and we don't even have to go out in the hot sun to put them up. Generally, there is not a lot of big machinery here so men use their hands and in this case a ladder.
We would use a fork lift to move large amounts of lumber. Here, this man is moving heavy pieces of wood one piece at a time from one pile to another. I watched him for a long time and talked with him about his work. He was very precise in setting the wood down squarely and he worked without rest in the hot sun.
Not many cement mixers here. Cement is mixed by hand and moved by hand. A wheelbarrow is a very common tool of work here.
This man brought a table and some chairs that he made to a corner to try to sell them. The furniture is very well made and is very sturdy and durable. It is cheaper to try to sell your goods on the corner than to own a shop and have to pay rent.
This man is lucky enough to have an outdoor shop. His cupboards are in the background. Ismael bought twenty pieces of lumber at one place and then brought them here to have the surfaces cut straight by this man. No such thing as a one-stop shop for lumber and many things.
This motorized vehicle is called a tuk-tuk. It is a small taxi driven by a small engine. It might go 20 mph. You can fit a whole family in one of these and your groceries, too! This is a very common means of transportation. For longer distances some men drive a van and pick up people along the road. It is like bus service, but the distances are longer.
This man is walking with a small freezer on wheels. He sells ice-cream. He rings a bell. It is a cheap way to cool down. Some men have small carts on bicycles and sell fresh fruit or snow cones.
This woman stands at a busy street corner with a light and hopes to sell coconuts with coconut milk to the passing drivers. If you look closely you can see coconuts that she is going to sell hanging on the tree branches. People will also walk between cars to sell small snack or other items.
Chldren this age are responsible to bring the firewood to the family wood burning stove. Many times you see children or men on bicycles with loads of wood. They may have to make this trip two times a day. Usually it is a long walk or bike ride to wherever they can find skinny trees that don't belong to anyone. This is a daily chore, not a job.
Many women sell torillas from their front porches. Some happen to have a refrigerator and sell small bags of ice (at least when the electricity is working)! Some walk door to door and sell cheese that they have made.
Construction work is a very common job here. Carpentry, masonry, electricical work are all very important to the growth of housing and businesses.
SewHope is especially trying to work with young men and women who are pursuing their education. Here is Carmen (in blue) who is studying to be a nurse. She gets to learn new skills and practice her skills by helping us in the clinic. She also earns money to continue her education.
The women of El Cartucho make and sell shampoo. They use the fruits, leaves and herbs that they grow in their own yards and gardens. They walk door to door to sell their product. I use it, and it is good stuff!
Sr. Pam Buganski
Sr. Pam joined SewHope as our first American Project Coordinator in 2012