It’s hard to reconcile the beautiful highlands of Guatemala, where I was in mid-January, with this stark fact: the child malnutrition rate here is the highest in the Western hemisphere. Roughly 5 out of every 10 Guatemalan children suffer from chronic malnutrition. All
The words that inspired Elizabeth to
imagine a future beyond her family’s limited means and expectations, and
empowered her to fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor, were written by her
sponsor. Save the Children’s Dr. Elizabeth Bocaletti was once a sponsored
child. This is her story.
Elizabeth grew up in a large family of
modest means in rural Guatemala. She was a good student, but opportunities were
limited, especially for girls. And yet, Elizabeth dreamed of becoming a doctor.
In fact, she was determined to do so. Elizabeth attributes her high aspirations
to the letters she received from her sponsor.
“These letters said things like, ‘You
are a great girl, a good student. You will go far. You will have a bright
future,’” Elizabeth remembers, “And I know that these words influenced my life
– the way I understood my future. They opened my mind to new possibilities.
They gave me a certain determination to make an impact on the world.”
Elizabeth did fulfill her dream,
earning her MD in Pediatrics, and then a Master’s degree in Public Health.
Today, Elizabeth works for Save the Children as an Advisor on our work helping
children survive and thrive throughout Latin America, where she continues to
make an impact on the world every day. The dream even lives on in her own
children, both of whom are studying to become doctors.
Elizabeth will always treasure her
sponsor’s words of inspiration and empowerment – and we thank her for sharing
them, and her story, with all of us.
“Never underestimate the power of your words
on the life of a child.”
– Elizabeth Bocaletti, MD, MPH,
Save the Children Advisor, and former sponsored child
Brighten your sponsored child’s day – and future – by writing a letter today.
If you are not already a sponsor, become one today.
Guatemala City, Guatemala
July 18, 2012
Sometimes the best way to serve families over the long haul is to step back. A recent change to U.S. foreign assistance policy is putting more local organizations in the lead on development projects around the world.
In Guatemala, chronic malnutrition keeps half the country’s children from developing properly. That fuels a vicious cycle of poverty that hurts children in rural, indigenous communities the most. U.S. investments to break this cycle have helped countless children and families, but new reforms mean Guatemalans will play a bigger, more sustainable role in fighting the worst rate of chronic malnutrition in the Western hemisphere.
Save the Children has worked in Guatemala for 14 years with a variety of public and private funding to help poor populations overcome the impact of poverty and three decades of civil conflict. As an international nonprofit humanitarian and development agency, we work alongside communities to implement integrated programs that improve health, nutrition, economic opportunities, disaster risk reduction, democracy and governance.
For the last five years, Save the Children was the prime recipient of funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to run a major food security project. In tandem, a local consortium created by Guatemala’s largest export corporations called AGEXPORT was running small scale projects with USAID funds opening up markets for poor rural farmers.
As a result of USAID’s policy called Implementation and Procurement Reform, AGEXPORT is about to move into the driver’s seat. Under this policy, USAID aims to spend 30 percent of its resources on local institutions by 2015. In Guatemala, USAID has required that a local organization be the prime funding recipient in a new Feed the Future project called “Rural Value Chains.” AGEXPORT has been selected to take the lead and AGEXPORT has asked Save the Children to play a supportive role by providing key technical support and institutional capacity.
We know that improving farmers’ access to markets leads to greater, steadier income through the year and–critically for children–to improved nutrition for their own families.
If the new project moves ahead as planned, AGEXPORT will bring its expertise with domestic market to the partnership, and Save the Children will bring our experience improving children’s nutrition and food security.
AGEXPORT’s selection as the prime grantee will also give the organization the opportunity to build capacity and institutional expertise to lead increasingly large-scale projects.
That bodes well for the future.
In the next grant cycle, I suspect that AGEXPORT may not need Save the Children or any other international NGO to improve conditions for Guatemalan farmers and their children. And Save the Children can move on to another area where our technical expertise and services are still truly needed.
Working ourselves out of a job is a development success.