Luis Cocon, our communications liaison in Guatemala, interviewed Alberto, a CFCA social worker in Colmenas, Guatemala. Alberto, known affectionately as ìDon Beto,î has worked in Colmenas since 2004 and through CFCA, brought the first outside help the residents had received.
The community transformation since CFCAís arrival there has been impressive, owing partly to Don Betoís dedication and the people’s motivation to see their community thrive. (See a video about the transformation.)
Alberto, or “Don Beto”
When and how did you start in CFCA?
In 2004 when I began working in Colmenas.
I had always longed to work with people from a remote and marginalized community; I decided to work because of my love and compassion for these families and the conditions in which they survived.
After 10 days of meeting people I decided to come with all my things to live here and I stayed at the school in the community.
My first goal was to diagnose the situation and the families’ needs. That helped me determine what kind of crops could be cultivated, and it also allowed the people’s participation.
I lived in Colmenas for five years.
What struck you in Colmenas?
The homes: these little houses were built of nylon, one narrow room and the whole family lived there. Even their dogs slept in the same place because there was no space.
They had dirt floors and lots of dust; there were no latrines; and I saw many children with poor health. The community was abandoned by the authorities and there was no vehicle access because they had no roads.
I had never seen children in such extreme conditions of malnutrition. I felt compassion, sadness and I remembered my home; I compared my life to them and realized that I am a millionaire before these families.
How did you encourage people?
I started by providing training about hygiene and health.
Giving examples of other communities where I had previously worked, I encouraged them by providing spaces for their participation in the program.
In addition I frequently visited families to show my interest and listen to them. I invited them to watch videos about hygiene and about Pope John Paul II.
People understood everything because it is more visual with video and photos. In general the community of Colmenas was anxious and wanted a change.
What personal sacrifices did you have to make?