The Crisis in Paraíso, Guatemala

After 14 years of working in Paraíso (in English, “Paradise”) and other marginal sectors of Guatemala City we have seen how the youth have fallen into a downward slide. Five out of ten girls are sexually molested before their fifteenth birthday. Often that results in their first pregnancy before their eighteenth birthday. The man that raped her and got her pregnant will abandon her and the child. Utterly alone with no way to support herself or her child, she will move in with another man and, by the time she is 25, she will have four to five kids. The second man will also leave her, unwilling to accept the responsibilities of fatherhood and raising his own children, much less those of another man. Alone again, she’ll move in with a third guy. One day the third guy comes home drunk or high, and the cycle repeats itself with his stepdaughter. The children grow up without a father, no role model teaching them values, and without a family. Society treats them like trash and disassociates from them. Without a hand to lift them out of their poverty, the kids repeat the only patterns they know: abuse, violence, alcoholism and drug abuse. They face their deaths having lived a life without purpose.

Boys in Guatemala want to study and get ahead in life but they live in an environment without any opportunities for their desire to become reality. Desperate to escape abusive fathers and starvation, the children look for a way out. Unfortunately, they find their acceptance and family in gangs. The poverty, the violence, and the threat of gangs does not allow the child to reach their full potential.

Gang life, however, is not the savior it appears to be to the children. Gang members often lose their young lives to the violence, drug overdoses and or terminal illness before their 24th birthday. Those that do survive waste years of their life filling Guatemala’s overcrowded jails. What a waste of youthful energy and potential!

The kids we work with do not want to follow these patterns and fall prey to gangs but feel they don’t have a choice. No one gives them a hand or offers them a way out. Being from a particular neighborhood or social class locks them out of most opportunities. All they need is an opportunity to get ahead and Engadi Ministries wants to give them that chance.