I've just returned from a trip to Guatemala with a group from my church, Chapel Hill in Gig Harbor. We support the village of Villa Hortencia I, "Town of Hydrangeas," through Agros International.
Perched 8000 feet in the Ixil highlands,families have obtained rights to the 688 acres of land in Villa Hortencia I through the government run Land Fund, Fontierras. The families’ principal economic activity is subsistence agriculture with the primary crops being corn and beans. However, due to the poor quality of the rocky land, lack of water and lack of training in knowing how to best utilize their land, the majority of the community still migrates to plantations on the south coast of Guatemala to pick coffee and cut sugar cane three times a year.
In 2006, Agros began working with the families in Villa Hortencia I, facilitating a process of community organization and leadership development. In June 2008, with the support of long-term funding, Agros was able to begin implementing their development model and 120 families now have access to training and support to maximize their productivity, as well as building on their process of community organization and human development.
Our church in involved through Journey with a Village (JWAV), an Agros International program that builds partnerships between rural villages in developing countries and churches, businesses, individuals and community groups that are committed to their support. As the families purchase farmland and build their community, the JWAV partnership supports them in developing a sustainable livelihood, which restores dignity and transforms lives. It takes a community 7-10 years to grow from a loose organization of landless families into a self-governing, self-sustaining and thriving community.
The typical JWAV partner journeys with a village for two to five years. We are in our third year of partnering with Villa Hortencia helping them realize their goal to be a self-sustaining community through funding, friendship and hands-on support. This is my second time to the village and I walked away with the understanding that this life is all about relationships. I had the awesome opportunity to travel with 12 good friends to a village of friends all joined together through the common bond of Christ.