Empowering women improves rural communities

In a country where women fight for their rights daily, NPH Guatemala helps rural women to develop skills and become more socially involved and financially independent.

Josefina at her fabric's stall
Josefina at her stall

Women in Guatemala, particularly indigenous and mestizo women from rural areas, have poor access to services, especially education, limiting their employment and earning potential. Women in Guatemala make up 51 percent of the total population, yet they have historically benefitted little from development. The Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) estimates that Guatemala has the second-highest female illiteracy rate in Central America.

Unpaid and exposed to violence

Many Guatemalan women perform unpaid childcare and domestic work, so have few opportunities to participate in the formal economy. Financial dependence makes them more vulnerable to domestic violence and less inclined to pursue justice through the legal system.

NPH and Parramos Municipality together

NPH Guatemala partners with the “Oficina de la Mujer” (the Office for Women), a service of the Municipality of Parramos, where our family centre is located, that seeks to promote the well-being of local women and families. Together we assist women to develop skills. We also foster women’s community leadership and promote their economic, social and political participation, as well as helping to make them aware of their rights.

Dina Lopez, director of the Women’s Office in Parramos and programme leader of the “Empoderamiento a Mujeres” (Women’s Empowerment) initiative, has coordinated the programme for 6 years: “Women in Parramos have an average monthly income of 1,250 quetzales (123 pounds – less than half the official minimum wage). Most women here work informally in agriculture, washing clothes or cleaning houses,” says Dina.

Baking, sewing and tailoring workshops

Many women in Parramos suffer from male chauvinism, crime, and violence. The women’s emancipation programme also helps women at risk to develop their work skills. In 2021, NPH Guatemala’s joint alliance with the Women’s Office offered bakery, sewing, and tailoring workshops to help women enter the labour market, start micro-enterprises, and improve their standard of living. Josefina, from San Luis in Parramos, is an example of how women can use this training to become more prosperous.

A family in need of funds

Josefina with her family

Josefina lives with her husband, 2 daughters and son in a small house in San Luis. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Josefina worked in a restaurant in Antigua Guatemala for many years. The pandemic caused a major downturn in tourism, so Josefina lost her job in April 2020. Since then, she has worked from home by cooking for events, and sewing fabrics to contribute to the family’s income. “An extra income allows my children to continue studying and become professionals with better opportunities in society,” says Josefina.

The price of Covid-19

Due to COVID-19, schools switched from in-person classes to teaching online. This meant that Josefina had to install an internet connection at home so that her children could continue their studies. “I have managed to make clothes and increase our family’s income so we can comply with the new schooling requirements, but it’s very difficult,” she says.

A workshop changed Josefina’s life

Josefina thinks group training is a great way for her to share her knowledge and enhance her personal skills. Back in 1996, she held talks about male chauvinism. Since then, Josefina has been a female leader in her community, teaching skills to indigenous women’s groups to help generate more income, such as how to make soap and other products, plus how to cultivate land to grow vegetables. These skills are important because in rural Guatemala women play key roles in achieving food security and increasing the livelihoods of their homes and communities.

Josefina learned about NPH Guatemala from one of her neighbour’s children, who had attended school there. One day, she saw a social media post about free workshops in bakery, sewing, and tailoring offered by the Women’s Office and NPH Guatemala. She contacted Dina Lopez and signed up for the 3-month course beginning in February 2021 at NPH’s Casa San Andrés centre.

A keen student

Josefina wanted to improve her sewing. She was an active student during the course, the only one to deliver extra garments every week. She could see the instructor’s talent: “As an keen student, willing to learn, I was attentive to everything the teacher shared, because I could see she based her teaching on the student’s ability,” says Josefina.

Josefina – best in class

On graduating , 11 women received certificates in baking and 8 in sewing and tailoring. Josefina won a prize for being the best student, and is now the proud owner of a new sewing machine. During the rest of 2021, she worked for a private business and neighbours.

Growing the business

She also took on bigger tailoring projects, like one for the municipality of Parramos, sewing 200 seat covers and 20 table runners. “I would like to learn more sewing techniques, that’s why I signed up for the second course in January 2022. I’ll be able to make other garments using more advanced and specialised sewing skills,” says Josefina.

Josefina at her sewing machine
Josefina at work, growing her business

NPH’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

NPH Guatemala is committed to the promotion and implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A family devastated by the earthquake

Jean Max tells of his family’s suffering

Jean Max
Jean Max

Jean Max is a young radiologist, who studied medicine with financial support from NPH.

He was determined to help his country but he wanted to be well prepared to do so, and therefore chose to study at one of the few universities still standing in Port au Prince after the 2010 earthquake.

He’s been working for some years now at St. Damien Paediatric Hospital, providing assessments and diagnoses, especially in the area of maternity and gynaecology. He gets satisfaction from helping to improve lives in his country.

Jean Max has experienced first hand the suffering of many Haitians since the earthquake of 14 August, and the initial anguish of not knowing whether those of his family living in the South-West had were still alive, in the areas around Les Cayes and at Perenie in the countryside.

Everything lost

Jean Max's family home in ruins
Jean Max’s family home

The first news he received was that his aunt and uncle had lost their home and their lifetime belongings. Jean Max then heard that an uncle had died during the earthquake.

A gang blocks access

Some days later he decided to go to Perenie with a cousin and an uncle, to provide support to his family. However, they were unable to get there because of a gang controlling road access to Les Cayes, near Martissant. “They prevented us from getting through to the area affected, where my family lives, which was a real disaster for us”, says Jean Max.

After talking by phone they received photos showing that his family had lost everything: their home, garden, animals and personal belongings.

Ruined home of Jean Max's family
Jean Max’s family home

They need shelter from the tropical storms, bedding, a new home and everything to put their life back together. Emotionally they have suffered the loss of a loved one, and they will have to manage that loss as best they can during this humanitarian disaster.

Aid yet to arrive

Jean Max’s family live in the countryside, in the Perenie area, isolated from international aid, which is arriving chiefly at the large cities such as Jeremies and Les Cayes.

They hope that NPH Haiti can help them to overcome their tragic personal situation. NPH Haiti is evaluating the situation of dozens of families in similar circumstances to Jean Max’s family to see how they can deliver aid as swiftly as possible in such adverse conditions.

More than 1.5 million earthquake victims are experiencing similar dramatic situations and they are waiting for our support.

Your help for those in need

Work goes on to help victims

It’s tough to get aid to the victims of the earthquake for various reasons: roads cut and collapsed bridges make it very tough to get through to the areas affected.

Injured baby receiving treatment from NPH

Gangs and storms

Gangs all around the capital, Port de Prince, and in the areas worst affected, Jeremies y Les Cayes, add an extra layer of difficulty. Additionally, Storm Grace hit the South-West immediately after the earthquake.

In spite of all these difficulties, your donations from NPH UK are getting through, via our local organization, NPH Haiti, and also the related organization, St. Luke Foundation for Haiti.

Short- and long-term support

We have managed to get through by road and sea to the worst-affected areas in the South-West. NPH is providing medical care to the sick and injured and is delivering water, food, shelter and psychological support.

Aid on route to earthquake victims
Aid from you on route to the victims

At the same time we are preparing an aid plan for the victims in the medium and long term (reconstruction of homes, planting crops and reviving the countryside as a means of sustainable support for those affected). NPH has been offering care to those we have encountered on route, as well as those in the worst-affected areas.

The Haitians are accustomed to suffering and to keeping their spirits up, but they really need our help in the face of this new humanitarian disaster.

Local staff committed to their country

Our organizations in Haiti (NPH Haiti and the St. Luke Foundation) are staffed by trained local staff, with a very high commitment to their country and its communities. They speak the local languages, French and creole, which is essential for doing their work and showing their compassion with those in need.

NPH has the necessary experience on the ground: 35 years developing education, health and nutrition programmes, as well as our involvement in humanitarian emergencies. We help to improve the lives of more than 100,000 Haitians every year.

Aid delivered directly by NPH

Donations received from our supporters are managed directly by NPH Haiti and the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti, allowing us to ensure their efficient and effective use in improving and saving lives.

Thank you for your commitment

We are grateful for your support. Don’t forget Haiti.
And, please, keep the donations coming.

Family foundations: a second chance for Areli in the beauty salon

A tough start to life is no exception for the children who come to NPH Honduras, but with the right guidance, they can shine. Enter the spotlight, Areli…

Family relations can be fraught at times, tensions may rise, trust can be broken and words are said that test the bond. But where problems arise, solutions are often hidden behind hurt and angry emotions which can only be resolved through key ingredients of forgiveness, orientation and positive enforcement, often resulting in new opportunities and personal growth.

I have learned this in my first year of working at NPH Honduras, meeting staff who work day in, day out with young people and teenagers from social risk situations, sometimes recovering from traumatic experiences, or coming from a dysfunctional family background, which is coupled with the usual growing pains of adolescence. Patience is not only a virtue in this profession; it’s a requirement, and it’s practised with unconditional love. And this was made evident to me when I was introduced to Areli.

Success stories

My role is mainly administrative. In short, I develop projects and oversee them to closure, and we have up to 40 projects at any one time. While contact with the children is limited, I still feel the energy and bond between employees and youths which is more familial than any other workplace I have experienced.

About a month ago, while closing our annual project for our vocational centre, I asked the education coordinator of the department, Nery Martinez, if there had been interesting case stories amongst the kids.

“Yes,” Nery bellowed, joyfully. “Many, in fact.”

Francisca and Areli Francisca hugging
Francisca and Areli

They rolled off her tongue proudly, fantastic stories of students achieving high scores in our assortment of workshops. As well as the formal school education which our students attend in the mornings, afternoons are dedicated to studying a vocational course in textiles, electrics, shoemaking, carpentry, metal working, home economics or hair and beauty, for students from 7th grade and onwards.

Skills for life

At NPH, we strive to provide the children with the skills and opportunities to prepare them for adult life. According to the International Monetary Fund, unemployment in Honduras was 5.9% at the end of 2017, with the majority being in the 15-24 age bracket, meaning students have an extra string to their bow in an already very competitive job market. Students must take complex exams at the end of each term administered by CADERH, a non-profit development agency, on behalf of the Honduran education authorities. Students must pass or otherwise repeat the year.

After giving me a list of the names, Nery sat pensively. “We had an interesting case. Areli. The girl didn’t actually pass, but we view her as one of our star pupils.”

Nery went into depth, stating that Areli had always been very reserved, similar to her sister Federica who is now part of the high school programme in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, 36 kilometers away from Rancho Santa Fe. Areli started the year in a bad way, with disruptive behaviour, arguing with her teacher, skipping classes and being uncooperative.

“So what happened?” I asked.

“A miracle!” she replied. “But please, why don’t you ask her yourself?”

Areli’s background

I was intrigued. A miracle? A student who failed? Very strange. I did my research on this surly 16-year-old and she agreed to chat with me in our home for the girls, Talita Kumi. I wasn’t expecting an easy ride, but I found her more forthcoming than expected.

“My sister had left Rancho Santa Fe. I was suffering and felt very alone. Our parents abandoned us when we were small, and I guess it also affected me. I don’t like to make excuses, but I was angry and difficult, and it was a dark time for me. I didn’t want to be at school or the workshop or be around anyone. Students would say something and I would lose my temper and be thrown out of class,” she said.

“I’m not proud of myself. At the end of the first term, I received a 0% grade. The strange thing is, I really enjoyed the workshop, but I don’t think the teacher liked having me in it!” she laughed.

“Something clicked”

The 0% grade affected her deeply, and it led to her being disciplined. The teacher and directors were very worried about what they were going to do with her. They sat down with her and the psychologists to identify the triggers for her bad behaviour and ways to improve her mood.

“I was ashamed to read 0% on my score card, but I deserved it. Initially the second term began like the first, but then one day I was helping to preparing a smaller girl’s hair for an event, and something clicked. The task wasn’t difficult, but the teacher liked what I was doing because it was creative. I was thrilled. I felt really good at something. And the teacher said she would like me to repeat it the next day, and the next day, and the next day, which I did. She kept showing me new ways to fix make up or cut hair, and I learned quickly.”

These performances continued, and she achieved 89% in the final term, one of the highest grades of the year in this workshop.


Francisca Ramos, the instructor in the hair and beauty salon, said, “I’ve never seen a turnaround like this. At the start of the year, her behaviour was impossible. By the end, she was supporting her classmates and smiling, being part of the NPH family. We’re so proud of her!”

She admitted it took a lot of patience and positive reinforcement to get her where she is today, but she continues to improve. “We felt so sorry for her. She just missed out, and will have to repeat the year after her difficult start. However, we’re happy to see her happy.”

Second chances

Areli added, “I was a little disappointed not to pass, but it is a blessing in disguise. Hair and beauty is something I really enjoy. I am better prepared for next year and learning what I missed out on. I thank the teacher and director for the faith they put in me and their patience. They are more than teachers: they are family. Without them, I would still be lost.”

She will enjoy the time off during the vacation and passing time with her sister, but she now looks to the future with optimism.

“I must improve my school grades. I accept that. But I want a career in hair and beauty. I know I must perform. I want to do some diplomas and learn more, and maybe one day have my own salon. But more than most, I want to thank my God, as well as my family.”

Stories like Areli’s goes to show what family support can do. And for myself, I too am proud to be part of the NPH family.