Tunajá (pronounced “too-na-ha”) nestles high in the Guatemalan mountains, home to most of the Mayan Indians, one of the main people groups in Guatemala. In fact only 25% of the national population now live in the mountains as survival is so hard. In 2007 we completely rebuilt the classrooms and feeding facility to manage the growth here, and also helped them rebuild the Church building.
This is one of the poorest of the areas that we serve, and until God miraculously enabled us to drill for water at the feeding programme building, there wasn’t even a drinkable water supply up here which had been the cause of much death and disease.
The children in the mountains live in very rough conditions, mostly in mud brick shanty houses called ‘adobe’ houses, isolated from the outside world though gradually there is some electricity being supplied to the homes nearer the road (dirt track!) for those few who have enough spare crops to be able to afford it. The people basically live from the land which explains in part the malnutrition and dietary deficiencies. Life is hard for children – 10% of the children visited by our evangelist teams have an alcoholic parent; 5% have been deserted by father, mother, or both; and 23% of the fathers go to the coast for four to six months each year to work in the sugar cane fields and coffee plantations.
We are serving 800-900 meals twice a week in the programme (Wednesdays and Saturdays), and typically this will consist of meat, fresh vegetables, pasta or rice. The cooks are up at early making 2000 tortillas a day ready for this programme. After the meal the children move to a separate building where the Bible Classes and activities take place. It is humbling to see people arriving: often soaked to the skin having walked for hours in bare feet simply to get to church to worship God together.
The people here speak Quiché – one of the 22 dialects of Guatemala – and therefore when we visit what we share has to be translated into Spanish, which is then translated into Quiché with the reverse process happening for the reply. You can imagine that church services here are lengthy as well as lively!