Monday, January 14, 2008

Little Elves of the Icy Season

Posted on behalf of Javier Cárcamo

The inhabitants of some rural communities in the mountainous regions of Rural Guatemala change their behavior in a number of ways when temperatures drop.

In December and the first months of the year, the icy temperatures force men and women to cover themselves with ponchos and sweaters so they can go out into the fields to work, because the sun’s rays, the strong winds and the intense cold irritate their faces and burn their skin. People who live in these areas call this “ishpash” (skin-splitting).

Body Aches, Coughs and Fevers
During this season, there is a sharp increase in cases of respiratory illnesses in children. The most vulnerable are small children from poor families, who often lack the shelter they need, or else their homes – built from rustic materials – do not protect them from the intense cold.

Fortunately, many children receive free medications and medical checkups at the clinics Children International operates through its Rural Guatemala agency.

Freezing the Economy
This phenomenon also affects the economy, because corn – the crop that is most important to the people’s diet – cannot be harvested due to the cold. Instead, they take advantage of this season to grow wheat, strawberries, broccoli and cabbage.

Little Elves
The more fortunate children (those who enjoy benefits from Children International) not only enjoy health care, but they also receive clothing to protect them from the cold. Their parents – poor farmers who live in the mountains – have learned that it is better to care for their children’s health and leave them at home instead of exposing them to the ravages of the weather.

So the children look like little elves, bundled up in wool sweaters, hats and boots. They peek out the windows or from behind adobe walls as they wait for their parents, who will fix them hot beverages like coffee, a cornstarch-based drink known as atole or chocolate when they get home.

This is how our children spend their days during this season – happy because a generous sponsor like you provides them the peace of knowing they have someone to watch out for their health and wellbeing.

Javier Cárcamo is the Communications Coordinator for Children International's agency in Rural Guatemala. Guatemala is known as the "Land of Eternal Springtime" due to its mild climate, so winter weather in the mountainous rural regions can be especially difficult for children whose families are not able to buy warm winter clothing.

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