Family strengthening – January 29 2019

Seizing the opportunity to learn

Edilia and her family live in a remote area in Guatemala. The family had to cope with many difficulties when they met the SOS team.

Edilia and her family live along a bumpy dirt road in Nuevo San Carlos in the area of Retalhuleu, Guatemala. Her house is painted bright orange, chicken roam on her terrace, plants and colourful flowers frame her humble but tidy home.

Edilia shares the house with her husband and four of her children, aged between six and 17. Her oldest daughter is married and has moved out.

But Edilia had another child, a boy with special needs. Given the limited household resources and the special attention her son required, she was faced with particularly challenging circumstances.

When one of the community leaders found out about her situation, he asked her if she wanted to be put in touch with SOS Children’s Villages to apply for family strengthening support.

“The truth is that I needed it,” says Edilia. “SOS Children’s Villages and the community leader came to interview me here at home. We talked, and they told me about the requirements of the programme.”

“We visited the family and carried out a socio-economical evaluation to assess the conditions,” explains Karen Ardón Cifuentes, SOS community worker.

Based on the assessment, the family was enrolled in the SOS family strengthening programme.

Mutual commitments

In Guatemala, SOS Children’s Villages provides support to families who are ready to make certain commitments in order to improve their circumstances and provide the best possible care for their children.

Edilia and SOS co-worker Karen in the family garden that has become an important source of nutritous meals for the family. 


Caregivers like Edilia and her husband participate in workshops where they learn about parenting skills, children’s rights and other topics related to quality care for children. Moreover, parents have to make sure their children go to school. Once a month, they receive in-kind food support to ensure better nutrition for their children.

The SOS family strengthening team also helped Edilia access a literacy course provided by the government.

Progress and achievements

Since then, many things have changed for Edilia and her family.

“For me, it has been a real blessing,” she says. “We have learned a lot. In the workshops we have learned about personal hygiene, how to work in a team, how to raise children, how to take care of them, feed them, protect them from harm – give them what they need. All of this has helped us to move ahead.”

“Raising a child is not like rearing a little chicken after all,” she adds. “It takes more because you have to educate them, right?” Not only in school, but also at home, she adds.

Another achievement Edilia is proud of is the family garden she now keeps. On a small plot of land, she grows vegetables to improve the family’s diet. At the family strengthening workshops, she also learned how to grow medicinal herbs.

Edilia has learned how to grow medicinal herbs in her backyard. The creative approach keeps the plants from animals. 


The food assistance has allowed the family to use their limited income for other investments. For Edilia, this meant improving her house.

The value of education

Her greatest personal achievement, however, has been to learn how to read and write.

“I was barely able to read,” she says. “But this year I was able to finish first grade, and I will move on to the next level. I want to learn more.”

Sadly, not all changes in Edilia’s life have been positive. One day, her baby boy died. Despite the loss, Edilia and her family have continued to participate in the family strengthening activities so that her other children have better opportunities in life. Because both Edilia and her husband, who only had three years of schooling, know from personal experience how important education is.

“My wish is that my children don’t have to go through what my husband and I have gone through. I tell them ‘study, make the most of it, you have this opportunity now’.”

Photos by Alejandra Kaiser

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