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Empowering Catarina

Catarina is an excellent example of how the Adopt-a-Village gardening program is empowering mothers to better nourish their children, as well as provide income opportunities for rural areas. Catarina Mateo Gonzales is a Q’anjob’al Mayan woman who lives in the small and impoverished village of San Carlos in northwestern Guatemala. Populated by approximately 250 people, there are not many opportunities for work except for occasional field labor. What San Carlos lacks in jobs, it makes up for in natural resources. San Carlos lies in a beautiful valley, with a nearby river flowing through that provides water for the community. Summer months are hot — a perfect climate for growing tomatoes, cucumbers, bananas and plantains.

Catarina was widowed several years ago and left to care for her five children, ages 8 through 18. Against all the odds, she has struggled to keep them in school, a rare feat for an uneducated indigenous woman in this remote area of Guatemala. Her family lives in crowded quarters in her parents' rustic home. The two older children walk to their school in Las Victorias, a distance of two kilometers; the three younger children attend primary school in San Carlos. Much of the time, the schools are closed due to lack of teacher attendance, teachers’ strikes, or prolonged vacation periods throughout the year.

This hard-working single mother has proven to be the top gardening student in her village. She demonstrates an obvious interest in learning the various techniques taught by Adopt-A-Village's agronomist, and manages her garden well with her new knowledge of organic pesticides. She is diligent is collecting whatever animal fertilizer she can find and uses it to make her compost. Her well-managed gardens provide good dividends for the family. Not only can she provide her children high-quality nutrition with minimal cost, but she is able to sell her surplus. She regularly sells produce from her fast-growing crops of radishes, young onions and Swiss chard.

This valuable program has been funded by the Vibrant Village Foundation of Portland, Oregon, and is managed by Adopt-a-Village agricultural technicians and staff. We want to expand this successful program into more villages.

Learn more about how you can make a difference in the lives of families like Catarina’s. Your time, talents and donations are essential to change. To donate, visit,

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