February 20, 2010 — Singer/Songwriter Jon McLaughlin, a UNICEF Supporter, wrote this blog post upon returning from his first UNICEF field visit in Guatemala.
I just returned from my first UNICEF field visit to the beautiful country of Guatemala. To say this was a great trip would be an understatement…I left the country encouraged and inspired by the people I met there.
Our group was made up of me, my wife, the 11 other UNICEF folks from the U.S., an interpreter and 3 UNICEF staff who live and work in Guatemala, and we traveled around in a small bus manned by a tour guide and driver.
We visited a variety of places, from Roosevelt Hospital in Guatemala City where we spoke to the brilliant staff of doctors and nurses, to the city of Quetzaltenango, where we met with members of the Parliament of Childhood and Adolescence. These amazing kids, ranging in age from 11-19, informed us about the jobs they have taken on as leaders in their communities, as well as representing their fellow youth at the national level of government.
|© U.S. Fund for UNICEF/Minah/2010|
|Jon McLaughlin playing with children at a UNICEF supported school.|
The highlight of the trip was being around the kids. We spent time at a public day care center in Quetzaltenango taking pictures and playing soccer with the kids and visited an elementary school in San Cristobal TotonicapÃ¡n, where we talked to the teachers about how the classrooms are run, what the kids are learning and how the kids get to and from school.
While in St. Cristobal, we also visited a health center for mothers and babies that are supplied with Sprinkles, a nutritional dietary supplement used to help fight malnutrition. At the center, they talked about how the Sprinkles worked, how they distribute them and, most importantly, how they are seeing results.
This trip was such a great opportunity to see the progress that UNICEF is making in Guatemala and the difference we’re making in the lives of the people.
Probably the most sobering moment of the trip occurred when we visited a shelter for migrant children and witnessed roughly 40 Guatemalan migrants who had illegally and unsuccessfully crossed the northern border to Mexico waiting in the shelter for a bus to take them back to their homes. Standing there in that small room with the 40 Guatemalans who had been caught was very hard, very awkward, and very uncomfortable.
I know it has the 4th highest chronic malnutrition rate in the world and I am aware of the poverty, the governmental corruption and the need for education. But, I now know what a beautiful place Guatemala is after meeting the beautiful people who live there. And I now know some of the wonderful people working in the UNICEF offices who are committed to change. Their work makes me want to work. Their hope gives me hope. And, in the words of Cynthia, a 14-year-old girl from Quetzaltenango, hope is the last thing to die.