A glimpse into the reality of life in Guatemala.


What I saw on my first visits to Guatemala, poverty in its rawest forms and extreme excess, living in close quarters…what I sensed, a desperation comingling with unfounded joy…I tried to fit it into my frame of understanding, in a context that I could process and I couldn’t. Having traveled outside of the walls of the children’s home, deep into the city and parts beyond, I gained a picture of the reality of every one of the children served by Casa Bernabe.

Approximately the size of Tennessee, Guatemala has the largest economy in Central America.  It also has one of the highest inequality rates in Latin America, with some of the worst poverty, malnutrition and maternal-child mortality rates in the region, especially in rural and indigenous areas.

In Guatemala, I have hauled water by hand from the community well for a family because running water is a luxury that hasn’t made it’s way to their village yet. They cooked their meals over an open fire on the ground in their “outdoor kitchen.” Electricity? Nope. School? Maybe for some but not them. Not only do they not have the money to afford “public” school but they need the little bit of income their children can bring in just to survive.

I have stood with a very pregnant, very young woman in a home carved out of it’s surroundings with tarps for walls and a ceiling, in one of Guatemala city’s most dangerous neighborhoods. A single room with a single bed, for herself and her toddler. A judge had challenged her with taking in her niece and nephew, their only hope at a family reconciliation before becoming wards of a very broken state.

I have looked into the eyes of children who carry the weight of trauma, baggage they don’t deserve but will carry for a lifetime. And in this country, this is the norm. This is the reality for the children of Guatemala. Home, for them, is a country where the majority of them are living in crisis.

Ashley Cunningham

Development Director

Friends of Children Everywhere/Casa Bernabe