Recently, I traveled to Guatemala to gain insight into the reasons why so many people in poverty stricken countries seek to immigrate to our country. I witnessed great poverty and met victims of great violence.
The economy in this and other Third World countries is not improving. Everyone’s natural inclination is to survive, to seek better. In America, we have the ability to change our lives without changing our country. For others this is not possible. When given the opportunity, they travel to America. Didn’t our own parents or grandparents seek survival here?
My visit to Guatemala showed me that many NGOs have developed alternative solutions. I witnessed, the Barbara Ford Peace Center in Santa Cruz, Guatemala, a thriving center of hope. Education in farming methods, production of honey, raising animals, are some of the techniques being taught. Reading, mathematics, marketing and sales programs are also available. Young people are being provided a way out of the violence. They now have hope of survival and a means to smile and live a violence-free life in their own country.
The alternative is the walk to America. But our doors are shutting. Now, our country’s leaders see no reasons to provide the necessary aid to help people change their lives. While other countries are trying to increase their aid, we seek to cut aid to Guatemala by 39 percent. Is this the America we were founded to be? Do not let our country turn its back on our fellow brothers and sisters.
The writer is an associate of the Sisters of Charity of New York.