Girl standing next to a shack

Extreme poverty in Guatemala

Guatemala has the biggest economy in Central America but one of the highest rates of inequality with some of the worst poverty and child mortality rates in the region. 23% of the population live in extreme poverty (on less that £1.40 per day).

Children in the poorest regions are neglected, malnourished and underdeveloped. Lack of nutrition has led to stunting rates which are some of the highest in the world. In rural communities,  young children lack access to basic healthcare, nutrition and sanitation. This already hard existence is further burdened by the impact of a changing climate as the failure of crops and lost harvests means no work and no food.

“I’ve tried to teach my son Christopher what I know about school but I don’t know much.  I know the Sisters of Mary will teach him about things that I wasn’t able to and that is good.   He will know what he wants to do when he grows up with everything he is going to learn at school with the Sisters.”

Christopher at school in Guatemala
Christopher loving his lessons at the boystown school, January 2021

Responding to the needs of these communities, the first Sisters of Mary programme was established in 1997 with the support of our donors and consisted of a medical and dental clinic in Guatemala City, Zona 13 to support the local poor families with access to free healthcare. The clinic continues to be a vital resource for the local region, now also supports the girls and boys at our schools in Guatemala and is in constant demand from patients. In 2019 the clinic saw an average of 113 outpatients per day.

The main education programmes in Guatemala which started in 1998 now comprise two schools for girls and boys aged 11-18 (Girlstown school in Zona 13 and Boystown school in zona 6). Formally endorsed with the Acreditación y Certificación certificate from the Guatemala Ministry of Education, the programmes now care for over 1800 children each year and provide live-in care, academic and vocational teaching and include an additional day-care centre for young children.


Students in Guatemala in 2024


Graduates in 2023


New students joined in 2024