Feed The Children’s – Guatemala headquarters are marked by a modest plaque set to the right of an ironclad gate. The forbidding eight foot walls are crowned with a concertina wire slinky. Bits of razors dart ominously through the Bougainvillea. This is in Zone 5 – an increasingly dicey area of the capital.
Altagracia Hernandez, the Country Coordinator, says that the seven person crew has to move – not just for safety but to accommodate their expansion into new territories. But, there is no time for that in the First Quarter. Only the accountant stays behind at the Office – everyone else is out giving away hundreds of backpacks; enrolling new communities and preparing school principals and teachers to distribute their share of the 40,000 pairs of TOMS shoes. And, after that there is the Rice give away and this means the posse will be taking some serious “Road Trips.”
It is impossible to get the” friction of distance” built into Guatemala’s ruthless topology from a map. and, distance is quite deceptive when the highway is nasty. For example, the threeFTC centers in Palencia are in the District of Guatemala City and they appear to be closest but they they are really a few hours away. Heading North; towards Solola and Quiche points also takes about three to four hours but you are gliding along the Pan American Highway. The most distant area, Chujul, is practically to the Mexican boarder, in the Ixil Triangle. It is so many hours of driving that it requires an overnight stay.
Absolutely, the roads after Palencia are the worst — the pavement degrades continuously about an hour out of the Office. Even in dry season, it took us forever to get to the nearest destination. The “good news” is that it is still dusty and the crew can hump donations in via SUVs and rented trucks. But, soon enough, it will get muddy and navigating the extreme inclines in all territories will require much more efficient vehicles.
Meanwhile, back at the office, there is no time to consider which zone might require less vigilance until the shoes are landed, warehoused, inventoried, packed and delivered. Did I mention the Rice just pulled into port yesterday???