Athentikos organizes mission teams to serve in under-resourced communities in Guatemala several times a year. One of our core values is community and we strive to foster this in our relationships with the vendors that serve our teams while in country. The drivers, lodging owners, coffee makers, caterers and store vendors all play a significant role during the trips in not only the safety of our teams, but in the cultural experience during the trip. Many have become like family and have gone above and beyond serving our teams. During this time of our absence, we hope to provide a little support to let them know how special they are to us. This month, Noé and Kathlyn Chan, our in-country coordinators, visited a few of those families.
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Guatemala in March 2020. At that moment the borders closed and many other measures have been taken to prevent mass spread of the virus. This has been a huge hit to the Guatemalan tourist industry impacting almost 1 million of the population who work solely in tourism; many companies dedicated to tourism have gone bankrupt and many people have been left jobless. This has caused an increase in the national poverty which was already an issue pre-COVID19.
Late July (2020) Guatemala’s president announced the reactivation of the national economy; opening businesses slowly with strict restrictions according to the quantity of local cases in each region. Currently, the country has had a confirmation of around sixty five thousand positive cases with roughly two thousand five hundred fatalities. The areas most affected are the urban areas; areas where we at Athentikos are most connected. Many of our partnering organizations and vendors reside inside of this COVID “red zone”. Please lift them up as this is a hard time for all especially those in these saturated areas.
Even though the economy is in “reactivation”, this isn’t a fix for those dedicated to tourism like our friends who provide transportation and lodging for our I AM ART teams. We were able to visit two of our vendor’s families a few weeks ago and check in on them. We thank God that Don Cesar Xicay, who provides us a wonderful safe transportation experience during camp weeks, and his family are healthy and have had no personal connection to any cases of COVID, however it has impacted his family in other ways not connected to health. He and his wife and two children shared with us that God has always provided them with food, but they have not been able to continue paying for their daughter (the only school aged child in the home) to continue studying this year. They hope that God will provide a way for her to start back up next year. Nevertheless Cesar is trusting that things will improve soon and that he will continue to be able to provide for his family.
Another of our vender families helps by providing us a lovely and safe place to stay during our Antigua team time weekends prior to our I AM ART camps. Don Juan Charuc and his family shared with us that it has been a very difficult time for them because they depended solely on the income they were able to receive through the room rental service they provide through AirBnB to tourists (like our teams). Juan mentioned that although his family both immediate and extended have remained healthy during this time, his son’s teacher passed away due to COVID and now they are unsure what that means for him and his studies. During this time, Juan, has dedicated his time to maintaining his lovely garden of flowers and looking for ways he can earn a living to provide for his families needs.
Both of these families were provided a sack of food items by our team at Athentikos. They were so thankful to know they had not been forgotten and were blessed by the act of love shown. I (Noé Chan) cannot forget the excitement that was shown by Don Juan’s young son upon receiving the sack. He opened it quickly, promptly pulled out a one of what appeared to be his favorite cereal and ran to the kitchen in excitement; cereal in hand. Without a doubt the sacks of food were receive with great joy. It meaningful to represent Athentikos and to be able to be a blessing to these families.
Part of the I AM ART Exchange funds support the vendors who gracefully serve us. Thank you for for your support and kind donations.
Photos: Don Cesar & Family with Noé and Kathlyn Chan. The Antigua Air BnB (photos by Emily Foss).