The GFA is a charity for families living in Britain, who have adopted or are in the process of adopting children from Guatemala. Our primary goal is to support internationally adopted Guatemalan children, now living in Britain, actively to keep a connection with and understand their roots and Guatemalan culture. We are also happy to help, with our own experiences, those in the process of Guatemalan adoption.

Chiraxaj - a profile of the village we're supporting

 

·       Chiraxaj (pronounced Chi-ra-shaj) is located 4 miles from the municipal seat of Santa Apolonia in the northern part of the department of Chimaltenango, and has 45 families (population around 250).

 

·       Chiraxaj means “the place of the horsetail plant” because there are many of these plants around the village.

 

·       It is a Kakchiquel community that has not received any support from the Guatemalan government and so there is a lack of access to basic services.

 

·       The community was founded in the 1930s.

 

·       The families’ main productive activity is agriculture, growing mainly corn and beans, but also potatoes, carrots, strawberries, cauliflower and other vegetables.

 

·       Chiraxaj has a school for preschool and grades 1-6.

 

·       There are both Catholic and Evangelical Christians in the community.

 

·       The roads around the community are mainly dirt tracks, but they can be used for most of the year.

 

·       There is no health service available in the community, so for medical attention the families have to travel to Santa Apolonia.

 

·       75% of the children suffer from chronic malnutrition. When children suffer from chronic malnutrition, their brains cannot develop properly and they will never have the cognitive abilities that we take for granted. Generations of children will not reach their full potential as adults because of the debilitating effects of poverty and malnourishment.

 

·       Chronic malnutrition leaves children with badly compromised immune systems too. Most children will suffer on average 6 bad bouts of gastrointestinal diseases each year, due to the poor levels of hygiene (lack of clean water, insufficient (often no) latrines etc.) leaving them unable to fully absorb the nutrients in their food.

 

·       The community has a water system that was poorly built many years ago and it does not provide enough water for the families. Women walk several times a day to the water source, which is 1km away.

 

·       The community also lacks sanitation facilities.

 

·       Cooking using an open fire inside a house is a common practice among the communities here and Chiraxaj is no exception to this. The smoke from the open fire harms seriously people’s health, especially women and children as they spend a significant number of hours every  day in the kitchens. The most common problems are respiratory and eye diseases, as well as burns.

 

 

·       Measurements of CO (carbon monoxide) are typically 35ppm (parts per million). The WHO says that over 9ppm is toxic.

 

·       Some families live in a one roomed house, thus further increasing their exposure to dangerous levels of CO.

 

·       Another problem caused by this way of cooking is deforestation, because the large amounts of firewood needed. This means women have to walk further every year to find wood, taking more and more of their time. Deforestation also increases the risk of landslides during the rainy season.

 

We want to raise money to :

 

·       Install a water supply from the source with standpipes to every house.

 

·       Install grey water filters.

 

·       Install latrines throughout the village.

 

·       Install cleaner and more fuel efficient stoves in every home.

 

·       Train people in the community about hygiene, health and maintenance of the facilities, as well as offering information about birth control.

 

 

The long-term benefits for the community:

·       Piped clean water to each home will reduce the incidence of gastrointestinal diseases that can be fatal for children already suffering from chronic malnutrition.

 

·       Water will no longer have to be boiled to be safe to drink, thus reducing fuel consumption and smoke pollution.

 

·       Neck and back injuries will become less common as women will no longer have to carry heavy containers of water weighing on average 15 kilos.

 

·       Women will also have more time in the day to earn money doing other work.

 

·       Access to clean water brings the disposal issue of gray water from sinks as this contaminates their patios and other water sources and, as well as being a breeding ground for mosquitoes, children play with or around this contaminated water and thus increases their risk of suffering from a gastrointestinal disease. Therefore, there is a clear need to install grey water filters when piped water is installed.

 

·       The installation of latrines reduces the risk of gastrointestinal illnesses.

 

·       The incidence of smoke-related illnesses as CO levels will be reduced to an estimated average of 3.5ppm. The incidence of burns will be reduced too.

 

·       The amount of firewood collected will be halved.

Installing stoves will see a reduction of the use of firewood by 50-60%, a reduction in burns and smoke-related conditions, and CO levels will be on average 3.5ppm (i.e. within the recommended range). 

·       Women and girls are traditionally the ones who collect water and firewood. Without those responsibilities, girls can stay at school longer and women have more control over their time.