An Abbotsford custom-home renovation company has pledged $30,000 a year for 10 years to help support a small town in Guatemala.
The project began from a desire from Alderidge Construction owners Erik Toews and Mark Shatford and their team of 12 to give back to the community – locally and internationally.
“We felt truly blessed that we were doing well, but knew that so many others weren’t, so we started looking around for ways to contribute to the quality of life of others,” Toews said.
Locally, Alderidge has supported a recovery centre for men and Habitat for Humanity, and provides pro-bono renovation work for people who have come across challenges in their lives.
Two and a half years ago Shatford contacted Food for the Hungry (FH) – a Christian non-profit organization dedicated to ending poverty in developing countries – and set up an exploratory meeting for their entire staff to see if the goals of FH meshed with their own outreach desires.
Toews and his brother Doug recently took a 10-day vision trip to the Ixil region of Nebaj, Guatemala, and specifically to the small town of Acul.
“What we saw changed our lives,” Toews said.
Located 230 km northwest of Guatemala City, Acul is home to 826 families who live in abject poverty.
Nearly 70 per cent of the men are subsistence farmers and 30 per cent migrate for seasonal work within the country.
This leaves the average monthly income at approximately $10, which is 20 times lower than the average minimum wage in the country.
The children suffer from malnutrition and chronic diarrhea caused by unhealthy eating habits and lack of clean drinking water. Formal education is scarce and practical knowledge regarding health and nutrition is badly needed. In addition, opportunities for income generation are close to nil.
FH works with town leaders to create a sustainable development plan that will build local resources to address such obstacles as health, education and livelihood.
Locals are hired and trained to teach their neighbours about the importance of education and healthy hygiene habits – such as hand washing, clean living spaces and water treatment – as well as new methods of income generation.
The FH model is a ten year commitment, after which towns such as Acul “graduate” out of poverty to sustainability. Since 1994, FH has improved the lives and futures of people in 36 communities in Guatemala.
Toews said that before the trip, Alderidge had committed to sponsor two children.
“While we were there the chance to visit and hug those kids was humbling,” he said.
For more information on Alderidge Construction’s partnership with Food for the Hungry, visit fhcanada.org/GetInvolved/Alderidge/