NPH renews hope for extended Guatemalan family

COVID-19 has left vulnerable families like the Lozano Canales* on the edge of starvation. However, NPH Guatemala strives to support the family and keep them together through the OneFamily programme.

Covid-19 has obliged extended families in Guatemala to stay even closer together. Rising food prices, job losses and the faltering economy have hit vulnerable families more than most.

Christina Rosana and her family
The Lozano Canales family

The Lozano Canales family are in the NPH OneFamily programme. They live in Santa Catarina Pinula, a suburb of the capital. Deep social issues, gangs, drugs and pollution are all common problems throughout the neighbourhood.

A family of modest means

Single mother Christina Rosana shares 1 small room for sleeping, living and eating with her 5 daughters and 1 grandson. Two beds, one next to the other, and a little closet with a TV on top are the only items of furniture in the room. Next to the entrance is a small kitchen area where the family do their cooking on a twin-plate gas stove. These are their only possessions. They share a sink, shower and toilets with 6 other families living in the same building. The struggle to pay the rent has obliged the family to move 5 times in 2020 alone. Situations like this are desperate, but others are even worse off.

“The 5 girls came to NPH Guatemala in June 2014, as they were considered to be living at social risk and in poverty. At the beginning of 2018, the girls entered the NPH OneFamily programme and were reunited with their mother, and the 2 eldest sisters are now part of the Hermanos Mayores programme [for children who are no longer with NPH],” explains Hibeth Arriaga, NPH OneFamily Coordinator.

Christina loses her job to the pandemic

Since the pandemic hit Guatemala in mid-March 2020, Christina lost her only source of income, providing housekeeping services to families in the neighbourhood. This gave her approximately US$17 a day to support the family. Now there is no more work for her, as families are unable to pay for domestic workers, having also lost sources of income. Paying rent, water and electricity is Christina’s biggest concern right now.

Making just enough to eat

Luckily putting food on the table is not the issue, as her daughters Marisela*, Marily*, Marisabel*, Marie* and Marina* support her by selling firewood, popcorn or the famous chicharrón (fried pork rind) throughout the neighbourhood. On a good day, they make approximately US$6.50. This helps provide sufficient food for a day for the whole family. Marisela, the eldest sister, works one day a fortnight, and that’s all they make to survive.

Lost as a family with help from NPH

“The coronavirus affected us in every way. Now we have to see how we can get along. At the moment, we are surviving with just the support of NPH, which is a true blessing for us. NPH provides us with basic foods, school materials and hygiene products. I feel that, without the help from NPH, we would already have been lost as a family!” Christina Rosana says.

Marina doing her homework
Marina doing her homework

Luckily none of the girls has been sick in recent weeks and they are healthy and happy. However, just a couple of blocks away down the main road there are known cases of Covid-19, which scares the family. Although they are now very used to the lock-down situation and restrictions on freedom, they are afraid of becoming infected. Just one case could infect the entire family. Also, quarantine could mean not knowing when they would see each other again. That’s their biggest fear and makes them think about everything they do.

“If we apply the rules nothing will happen to us. We clean our living space with bleach daily and we don’t leave the house much but if so, we use masks and antibacterial gel. And when we buy something we disinfect it before we bring it into the house,” explains Marisabel, showing maturity way ahead of her 16 years.

Being with their mother and reunited as a family makes them happy, and now in times of coronavirus their bond has never been so strong. For example, as the sisters have strengths in different school subjects, they have become teachers for one another, a new form of homeschooling, while also enjoying each other’s company.

Fond memories of the NPH home

All the girls still reminisce about their time at Casa San Andrés. Marisabel says, “Of course we miss the home and seeing Tío Orlando [Orlando Ramos, National Director]. I had a second family there and I made great friends. I miss just hanging out with them and playing games, watching movies and laughing. Although I missed my mother, I enjoyed being at the home.”

Marisela, her 21-year-old sister, agrees. “It was great being surrounded by nice people and the mountains and volcanoes close by, with fresh air and a different way of life. I learned so much from being there. I will never forget my time there.”

Marisabel washing carrots provided by NPH
Marisabel washing carrots provided by NPH

Increased support from NPH

In the meantime, to improve the living situation for the Lozano Canales family during times of difficulty, NPH increased funds for foods and hygiene products and is now covering the rent within the NPH OneFamily programme. Hibeth Arriaga, NPH OneFamily Coordinator, is also searching for a bigger and safer space for them, with more privacy and security for the girls and their mother. Hopefully in the near future the family can enjoy living together in a more suitable home in a more protective environment.

The family fully understand the impact NPH has had on them and other families. “We might not be alive if it hadn’t been for NPH. They continue to support us and they are true extension of this family, full of love. Thank you so much,” concludes Marisabel.

Privacy note

Children’s names, marked with an asterisk, have been changed to protect their privacy.