Traveling the roads of resilient children

Guatemala, April 26, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Emily Wei/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Women and their children attend a workshop put on by Mercy Corps' PROCOMIDA program, which helps improve the nutritional status and health of women and children in some of Guatemala's poorest areas. Photo: Emily Wei/Mercy Corps

I recently went to visit the communities of Yalchactic I and Salvador Chizol, near the city of Cobán in Guatemala's mountainous Alta Verapaz region. A large portion of the access roads to these communities are in very bad shape. They have huge holes where small vehicles can easily get stuck or fall in altogether, and big rocks in the middle of the road present a safety threat to travelers on the roads.

The amount of hot dust stirred up by the heavy traffic is constant; it blocks my vision, congests my nostrils, dries up my throat and shortens my breath. I am aware of the quality of air getting all the way down to my respiratory system. I feel like a fish out of the water.

I especially feel sad and concerned about the health of the little ones I witness walking along these ravaged roads. They walk barefoot next to their mothers to attend the workshops presented by Mercy Corps' PROCOMIDA program, as well as receiving their ration of rice, beans, vegetable oil and corn-soy flour. I get goose bumps when I listen to mothers say that their journey to participate in our programs takes two hours or more on foot, on these roads.

But Guatemala`s children are resilient and keep on walking. I was touched by one boy in particular, probably seven or eight years old, who volunteered to go to the gatekeeper`s house to get the keys to the warehouse where the food rations are stored. He walked up a hill and came down smiling, proud of getting the keys.

His face represents the roots of a strong generation and a future leader who does not care about the dust in the air. He cared about getting things done.