NO. You cannot report abuses by US International Charity…

It is amazing to me that there is no part of the STATE Department that monitors international NGO’s. Nor does anyone push me in the direction of the IRS to report the financial mistatements..

Is my perception correct when I assume that there is no entity that actually monitors International Charities..?

This lack goes a long way towards explaining how wild FTC is in Guatemala.

This is a follow up on a 02FEB15 Letter regarding Feed the Children’s Abuses in Guatemala..

The Exceedingly Bad News is that there is no process to redress under-reporting aid, abuse of host populations nor mismanagement and internal theft. When you think about it it makes sense..The damaged parties are not US citizens, any damage or theft (IF proven) would be difficult to collect on or recoup. Very low ROI, full stop.

In any case, here’s the chain. From Embassy to independent Watchdog organizations

Forwarded 04FEB15 Letter to  R.E.Barney at US Embassy in Guatemala
Dear Rob,

Thanks for taking my call.  What I am looking for, in contacting the Embassy, is guidance on where to route my specific complaint.  I know that these abuses of low pay and short rations are widespread in Guatemala and I am hoping to trigger an audit of the NGO either in country or in the USA.

Below is my letter to CharityWatch.org..  What I am pointing out is that although FTC had every legal opportunity to redress Ms. Garcia-Gracia’s complaint they chose a end around legal process and turned custody of Donor Goods over to neighbor lady..This was devisive, at least.  But I believe that turning Donor Goods over to a “unconstituted” party is perhaps an infraction –sufficient to draw fire.

Their internal figure for rations for each child is 15Q
and they regularly pay less than minimum Guatemalan Wage…

Please let me know if there are ways to route this.

Thanks ,

dd

________

Ms. Dreyfus,

I’m sorry I was not able to get back with you as I had hoped yesterday.  I ended up having to leave the office to assist with a case.  As far as I’ve been able to determine you have a couple of options.  A local option is to file a complaint with the Ministry of Labor here regarding their labor practices.  Another option, from the US side, is you could write a letter to your congressman or one of you senator asking them to look into the matter, as it appears to be a US based organization.

If you would like a contact with the Ministry of Labor, let me know and I’ll ask my colleagues who you might be able to go to.

Thanks again for your inquiry.

Rob Barney

American Citizen Services

US Embassy – Guatemala

Thanks for your reply, Rob.

Rosa already has a Guatemalan lawyer pursuing the Labor violations.   As I reported, the litigation has been going on for almost two years

But, I am, frankly, shocked at the lack of oversight that the USA has over foreign NGOs.

How is it that little  501-c-3s are always nervous that their charter can be yanked for being “too political” while the Feed the Children cowboys ride free??? literally raping and plundering????

I told you that I could prove systematic fiscal abuses and you’re telling me that my only option is to write to my congressman, Hon. Sheldon Silver, who is himself under investigation?

I am sorry I am entirely dumbstruck by this reply.

Can you, please, confirm your advice to me that reporting to my LOCAL rep – not even the Oklahoma (home) state representative of the perpetrating NGO — is ALL the and the ONLY advice that the US Embassy provides to citizens for reporting tax fraud in an International NGO like Feed the Children? 

Said differently, I am asking if your response —as exceedingly limited as it appears — is the Best Practice for US citizens to invite institutional oversight for multimillion dollar NGOS.

What I am really asking is if it is true that the US Department of State is silent/ignorant in such matters?

Many thanks,

D

From: Lindsey Struck (Support staff Charity Navigator)

Dear Diane,

Thank you for writing to Charity Navigator and I’m sorry to hear about what
sounds like an exceedingly frustrating set of circumstances. I am the
analyst responsible for Feed the Children’s evaluation on our site. We have
a designation called a Donor Advisory (explained here on our site
<http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&amp;cpid=1072>) if
this information has also been reported about in a reputable news source.
Alternatively, we suggest you contact the Attorney General’s office in
Oklahoma, the state in which the charity is registered. This may be a good
first step, particularly if you have evidence of theft and sexual
misconduct in their field offices.

Thank you for your commitment to responsible philanthropy,

Lindsey Struck, MA
Program Analyst

P: 201.818.1288 x123
lstruck@charitynavigator.org
______________________________
C H A R I T Y N A V I G A T O R
America’s Largest Charity Evaluator
http://www.charitynavigator.org
http://blog.charitynavigator.org
http://twitter.com/charitynav
________________________

Hi Lindsay,

I wrote to the US Embassy and they told me to write to my (under invistigation, himself) congressman.

It is amazing to me that there is no part of the STATE Department that monitors international NGO’s.  Nor does anyone push me in the direction of the IRS to report the financial mistatements..

Is my perception correct when I assume that there is no entity that actually monitors International Charities..?

This lack goes a long way towards explaining how wild FTC is in Guatemala.

Thanks,

dd

Letter to American Institute of Philanthropy regarding Feed the Children in Guatemala

At the very least, Feed the Children seeks out host women, who will take less than minimum wage, provide space, and apparently other “favors” for their employees.

During 2013-14, I was embedded in Feed the Children Guatemala.

At the time, I was and continue to be connected to the indigenous Village of Patanatic –My friend and village leader, Rosa Garcia Garcia hosted and worked for FTC for almost 20 years.

According to the legal briefs filed on Ms. Garcia-G’s behalf, there is a sinister pattern in Feed the Children’s dealings with their host populations.  And, I know that the NGO has had internal problems with theft/ mismanagement of donor funds.  And, it appears there were sexual abuses. (In any case, Jose Albizurez –shown in the photo below – has been barred from FTC communities near the Capital for some reason)..  I know this because he was unable to drive me to the location and I walked in from the main road..

At the very least, Feed the Children seeks out host women, who will take less than minimum wage, provide space, and apparently other “favors” for their employees.

Last year, after pointedly slowing down the food and salary deliveries to Rosa Garcia Garcia for many months, an executive from the El Salvador office, Ricardo Candray, accompanied, Altagracia Hernandez, then the country director and  threatened Rosa that if she did not want to work for free, the NGO would find someone else.  Rosa’s board advised her to leave the organization.

For the last 3 months, FTC has failed to respond to Rosa’s lawyer’s formal complaints.

Last week Feed the Children ended around her and had an Act issued from the local municipality entitling them to retrieve kitchen supplies and 6 sewing machines and turn them over to an “unconstituted group.”

The “unconstituted group” believed, incorrectly, that Rosa’s charter would pass seamlessly to them.  This, even though not one of them was a signatory to the original documents required for legal  association.

NOTES: 

  1. One of the original petitions for Rosa was to have her documents returned…This has not happened.
  2. Furthermore, the FTC says it is Rosa’s fault she got paid poorly because she did not have a contract.

As the business of the Act had terminated, the women, who had come to the meeting, because they needed school supplies  joined the “unconstituted group.”

Soon, there came a moment when everyone in attendance was asked to disperse and adjourn to the new leader’s space, but the women refused to leave Rosa’s porch and insisted,

“We did not fight with Rosa, we don’t want to leave.”

So, Rosa graciously let the NGO distribute the backpacks on her property.

Then, the lawyer told FTC they needed to take the sewing machines and leave the space clear. To everyone’s suprize, the “unconstituted group” allowed that they did not have the space to store them.

So, now the NGO is asking Rosa to store the goods for the “unconstituted group” and, for the first time, the NGO will pay for the space. Meanwhile,  the “unconstituted group” must form a legal body at their own expense or with the support of the NGO — this should take a few weeks..

_____________

Backstory


In 2013 I was delighted to volunteer in Nicaragua, El Salvador and through Feed the Children’s communities in Guatemala.  My mission was to teach FTC office workers how to photograph the children.  After this tour, I stayed on working in the Zone 5 office and assisted in finding the new office — near the airport on Hincape..

I shared space and expenses on the country director’s apartment when I was in the Capital.  And all was well until she asked to borrow $2500USD “to liberate rice that was stuck in port.”  I told her the LOAN would be short term – less than two weeks- and she agreed.  After almost three months of threatening to report her she paid it back.  I believe that she often experienced shortfalls -in paying expenses for her family – and that, as an accountant and director, she knew how to cover  “loans.”

Ultimately the country director would be dismissed from the post without any charges.

My colleagues, who resigned or were fired have detailed evidence of theft, sexual misconduct and paternity.

Please let me know if you want further information.

Thanks,

dd

 Link to CharityWatch

Durante 2013-14, estaba incrustado en alimentar a los niños de Guatemala.

En ese momento, yo era y sigo para ser conectado a la aldea indígena de amigo Patanatic -Mi y líder de la aldea, Rosa García García organizó y trabajó para FTC por casi 20 años.

De acuerdo con los informes legales presentadas en nombre de la señora García-G, existe un patrón siniestro en los piensos para el trato de los niños con sus poblaciones de acogida. Y, sé que la ONG ha tenido problemas internos con el robo / mala administración de fondos de los donantes. Y, al parecer hubo abusos sexuales. (En cualquier caso, José Albizúrez –shown en la foto de abajo – le ha prohibido FTC comunidades cercanas a la capital por alguna razón) .. Lo sé porque no fue capaz de llevarme a la ubicación y caminé por la principal carretera ..

Por lo menos, Feed The Children busca a las mujeres de acogida, que tomarán menos del salario mínimo, proporcionar el espacio, y al parecer otros “favores” para sus empleados.

El año pasado, después de que deliberadamente ralentizar las entregas de alimentos y salarios a Rosa García García durante muchos meses, un ejecutivo de la oficina de El Salvador, Ricardo candray, acompañado, Altagracia Hernández, el director en el país y amenazó Rosa que si ella no quería trabajar gratis, la ONG sería encontrar a alguien más. El directorio de Rosa le aconsejó abandonar la organización.

Para los 3 últimos meses, la FTC no ha respondido a las quejas formales del abogado de Rosa.

Última semana Feed the Children terminó alrededor de ella y tenía una ley emitida por la municipalidad local que les da derecho a recuperar los utensilios de cocina y 6 máquinas de coser y entregarlos a un “grupo no constituido.”

El “grupo no constituido” que se cree, erróneamente, que la carta de Rosa pasaría sin problemas a ellos. Esto, a pesar de que ninguno de ellos era signatario de los documentos originales requeridos para la asociación legal.

NOTAS:

Una de las peticiones originales para Rosa era tener sus documentos devueltos … Esto no ha sucedido.
Además, la FTC dice que es culpa de Rosa ella se paga mal porque ella no tenía un contrato.
A medida que el negocio de la Ley había terminado, las mujeres, que habían llegado a la reunión, porque necesitaban útiles escolares se unieron al “grupo no constituido.”

Al poco tiempo, llegó un momento en que se le pidió a todos los asistentes a dispersar y suspender al espacio del nuevo líder, pero las mujeres se negaron a abandonar el porche de Rosa e insistió,

“No luchamos con Rosa, no queremos dejar.”

Así, Rosa amablemente dejó la ONG distribuir las mochilas en su propiedad.

Entonces, el abogado dijo FTC que necesitaban para tomar las máquinas de coser y dejar el espacio libre. Para suprize de todos, el “grupo no constituido” permitió que ellos no tienen el espacio para almacenarlos.

Así pues, ahora la ONG pide Rosa para almacenar las mercancías para el “grupo no constituido” y, por primera vez, la ONG pagará por el espacio. Mientras tanto, el “grupo no constituido” debe formar un cuerpo legal por su propia cuenta o con el apoyo de la ONG – esto debe tomar un par de semanas ..

_____________

Backstory
En 2013 yo estaba encantado de ser voluntarios en Nicaragua, El Salvador y por medio de alimentar a las comunidades de los niños en Guatemala. Mi misión era enseñar a los trabajadores de oficina FTC cómo fotografiar a los niños. Después de esta gira, me quedé en el trabajo en la oficina de la Zona 5 y ayudó en la búsqueda de la nueva oficina – cerca del aeropuerto en Hincape ..

Compartí espacio y gastos en el apartamento del director en el país, cuando estaba en la Capital. Y todo iba bien hasta que ella le pidió prestado $ 2500USD. “Liberar el arroz que estaba atrapado en el puerto”, le dije el préstamo sería a corto plazo – menos de dos semanas- y ella estuvo de acuerdo. Después de casi tres meses de que amenaza con denunciarla ella pagó de nuevo. Yo creo que ella a menudo se experimenta déficit -en pagar los gastos de su familia – y que, como contador y director, sabía cómo cubrir “préstamos”.

En última instancia el director en el país sería despedido del puesto de trabajo sin ningún cargo.

Mis colegas, que renunciaron o fueron despedidos tienen pruebas detalladas de robo, mala conducta sexual y la paternidad.

Por favor, hágamelo saber si desea más información.

gracias,

ddFTC-Jose

Rosa and the Rice Road Show.

ImageFeed the Children’s  Guatemala City HQ reached out and tagged Rosa and Patantic’s A-team Chefs to roll out a training and sampling session for the Guatemalan equivalent of the USDA.  This was a “big deal” that FTC´s Country Coordinator, Altagracia Hernandez, cooked up with MAGA (Ministry of Agriculture.)  If this class goes well, then, MAGA´s Solola groups will participate with the Oklahoma based NGO in their next distribution campaign:  VitaMeal.  Such alliances are key to an NGO’s functioning.
Back up in pueblo, Rosa readied the show.  And, even though it would have been easier for her to do it herself, Rosa took the opportunity to promote Juanita.   Thorough as ever, she made doubly sure the ladies would “nail” the presentation by holding a few practice sessions.   The outfit for the day would be totally “Toto”  meaning that we would wear the red, black and white brindled traje from Totonicapan and navy blue or black skirts.  Belting was freestyle.  And, I wore my thin red “training” belt while the others snorted at because they were wrapped in much wider and more decorative items.  Despite the difference in the width of the belts, I like to think that I blended into to the crew, as we waded into the market and set about examining onions, divining degrees of freshness, palpating chicken feet.  Unlike pesky New Yorkers, the Mayans haggle sweetly with their silky manners in a very fun, pleasant way.  These ladies would never-ever ever display the reptilian demeanor of, say, a Filine´s sale rack shopper – like myself.
We took a truck to Solola and eventually the nine women from MAGA’s far-flung community programs in Los Encuentros and San Antonio Palpolo  were collected.  All fourteen of us to got wedged into MAGA pick’em up truck and headed towards Dona Rosa Maria’s studio in a town that happens to have been home to Rosa’s aunt.  Interestingly, the town has a section called “Totonicapan.”  But, Rosa said, in so many words, that the place was not as “aligned” or as densely packed with people from the old District as was Patanatic.  She assured me that we would be the only ones dressed in our colors in the steep village.
The road got so extreme and we proved too heavy for the truck even in 4×4 mode, that we could not make it up that road.   So, we set out on foot across a cow path that made the prior road look like salt flats, in comparison.  We had divided the produce into everybody’s bags before making the ascent.  Rosa Maria, who was hosting the event for MAGA, met us at an unbelievably) narrowing branch – with room for only one of my feet at a time.   She coaxed us around barbed wire on the left, and cautioned about the precipice yawning on the right.  Her compound had an outdoor sink, an ample shady front porch and a 10´x8´room with a wood-stove at one end. It also had turkeys, puppies and bunnies wandering around.

Introductions were made, prayers said and the meeting commenced.  Everyone pitched in with the washing and chopping the vegetables — Don Samuel and I amused ourselves by discussing the virtues of rabbits vs. chickens.  Rabbits mature in about half the time that chickens do but do not lay eggs, he would tell me.  This factoid was offered after I told the agricultural engineer that I thought that rabbits laid eggs… and…he had believed me.
The group worked and visited and at the end seemed to enjoy the chicken soup and vegetarian rice dishes.  On the way home, in the spirit of John Lennon, Rosa said (again in so many words) “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we’ve passed the audition.”
Of course, she did.

maga1 mkt2edited P1050999 cooks3 juanaVit zoila2

Ladies Who Lunch with Feed The Children

Altagracia Hernandez, Luisa Perez, and Serfio of FTC far right -Julio Roca-Miro of ADEHGUA
Altagracia Hernandez, Luisa Perez, and Serfio of FTC far right -Julio Roca-Miro of ADEHGUA
Roza goes Ginzu
Roza goes Ginzu

Altagracia Hernandez wanted to get Feed The Children’s several Solola communities together to welcome and incorporate the newest Village Mothers from across the lake.  In mid-July,  the opportunity to share a large donation of Vita Meal suddenly appeared and FTC’s Country Coordinator set about making  hasty arrangements with ADEHGUA (Asociacion por Dereches Humanos en Guatemala) to help present the useful new staple at a luncheon seminar.  Of course, Altagracia called on Rosa Garcia-Garcia to co-host the gathering and to, please, call in all her regular homies from Patanatic and San Antonio Palpolo and, to invite the newer members from Penemache and Santiago Chacaya.

jo2

As usual, Rosa smiled and dialed all the invitees and had everything swept clean ready to go – long before the launches and pickups began delivering the traje clad visitors in their “go-to-meeting suits.”  Of necessity, any “Garden Party A-list” includes swarms of children.  The littlest of these are draped in blankets and tied on Mama’s backs, the bigger ones are carried by older children or carefully hold each other’s hands while exploring any new setting.  The tidy parade scaled the hill up to Patanatic managing their wiggly “accessories” with such grace that you would have thought that they had planned for weeks to stage such an enchanting fashion show.

The gorgeous display seemed to go on and on – without a runway.   San Antonio’s stately ladies glided up wrapped in their denim blue skirts (banded together with thin whip-stitched rainbows.)   Their sparkly jewel tone headdresses twinkled and waved conspicuously contrasting with the understated navy-turquoise flecked guipils.  The Chacayanas arrived in local Santiago Atitlan guipils striped with a gaggle of songbirds flapping  along the neck and shoulders.   Rosa’s closest neighbors from Penemache sported Victorian patterns — gros point noir – florals on black cloth – the style is currently popular in their ancestral District, Chichicastanengo.  For some reason, Team Patanatic seemed to have declared a “casual Friday.” Everyone looked kicky but only a few of the locals, besides Rosa, showed up in their formal red, black and white Traje d’ Totnicipan.  If anyone besides me had even noticed, any fashionista distinctions faded after the lecture.  Once they put their aprons on and started talking in their common Quiche Mayan dialect, they became, seamlessly, friends.  The beauty of their outfits mattered, as they would say, “no more than a radish” as they eagerly discussed their children, the future and focused on the task at hand.

With the sewing machines squashed along the walls, Rosa’s flexible studio served as both a classroom and a prep kitchen for the twenty-five participants.  As usual, Rosa introduced the honored guests.   ADEHGUA’s culinary expert, Mildred Castillio and her daughter, had come in from Suchitpequez and the Asociacion’s Director, Julio Roca Mira, from Mazatenango.  Julio began the session talking about the human rights focus of ADEHGUA.  He lamented about the levels of malnutrition in Guatemala and cited news articles about a recent rise in infant mortality.  He and Mildre would rightly condemn the abundance of sugary products particularly Coca Cola.  But, they did it with such detailed gusto describing how the billboards show us an ice filled glass and you can all most “hear the fizzzz.”  After that, several of the women muttered that they would just love a “cold one.”

Mildred was seriously excited about the contents of the institutional sized bag of rice.  The caloric content including the lentils and all the enrichments is about one and a half times more than rice alone.  Considering the list of supplements, it was amazing that the rice would taste more nutty than “medicinal.”  The chief chef had worked out a number of ways to prepare the product and was delighted to learn that women were growing several of the ingredients in the MAGA/UN-FAO truck gardens.  (Over the winter, FTC provided trainings in horticulture and built greenhouses with the assistance of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and Guatemala’s FDA.)  She explained chopping strategies for maintaining the vitamin content of the vegetables.

“If you cut finer, you do not need to cook so long.”

And, she told them the three rules for cooking the rice in any proportion.

“Measure water and rice exactly.  Pour it into boiling water…wait for the bubbles.  Stir it constantly.”

With those succinct instructions firmly in place, everyone picked up a knife and addressed her stack stack of veggies.  (This was the Mayan version “Julia and Julia” onion scene.)  Mildred circled around putting in little corrections and admiring her students.  It would take hours for the women to reduce the produce to perfectly cubed heaps meant to serve thirty plus people.

Around two o’clock, everyone trouped into the kitchen with her color laden plates on hand for the final step-   blending the fresh veggies into the prepared rice and refrying a bit to try that way.

Meanwhile, over at the wood burning stove, tortilla makers were applauding massa into stacks of toasty circles snuggled into a woven cloth.  Across the way, the several ladies were engaged in mixing the cabbage, beets, celery into a salad.

It was time to try the rice out on the children.  Mildred had reminded us, in case we did not remember, that if one child finds fault, none of them will eat the stuff.   So, after the little ones had eaten everything on their plates in a silence that smacked of appreciation, the ladies lined up.  All the seating space in the house, studio, kitchen, sink area and bedrooms were filled with the same, grateful, quiet that settles over lovingly prepared meals.

Feed The Children’s introductory Lake Lunch was definitely “the event of the ‘season.’”

[Slideshow]

Massive TOMS Shoes Give Away Completed by Feed The Children – Guatemala

Feed the Children’s ragtag caravan wound its way from Guatemala City (six hours north) up to the Ixil Triangle.  Navigating the lumpen, curvy roads the convoy appeared to have the agility of a python stuffing itself into a teacup, but,  Altagracia Hernandez, head of FTC Guatemala, had honed the logistics for the massive TOMS shoe delivery; her team would be exceptionally keen for this grand finale.  It would not be sleek –  by any stretch –  but it would end up being spectacular for its efficiency.
The TOMS project had been a big operation from the on-set and when all was done, more than a thousand people would have added value to the gifts sent by the shoemaker, whose charitable promise is: “One for One.”
(TOMS donates one pair of shoes for each pair they sell.)
The city team picked up a posse along the way.  FTC’s Central American head, Riccardo Candray came up from San Salvador accompanied by his son, Joaquin.  They arrived with a giant SUV and worked for several days ahead of scheduled meetings in the Capital.  The mayor of Palencia, who had already distinguished himself by providing storage space and volunteers to pack the majority of the shoes, went so far as to loan his wife, Zaida, a driver and a flatbed truck for this.  FIECA, a literacy promoting NGO in Solola kindly sent their colleague, Rocanna and  4×4 pickup.   At nights, the motley fleet and exposed cargo had to be stowed; and, sometimes that meant that the cloth shoes had to loaded, unloaded and boxes re-sorted for their diverse destinations.  Because it is now rainy season, this crew did it “…backwards in heels..”  through the mud.
Altagracia Hernandez and DON Adrian
Altagracia Hernandez and DON Adrian
TOMS has a very specific methodology that their partners had to agree to before they shipped the shoes.  It required that a data base be created and that each teacher would be responsible for counting and distributing their shoes.  In order to do this, by the book,  in the District of Quiche, FTC enrolled Don Adrian, a senior administrator from the Ministry of Education to help.  Don Adrian would show up “randomly” standing on this corner then that or lurking in an alley.    He had done wonders – handling the coordinating for this mission – not only the scheduling the teachers but scouting hotels, parking lots and where to eat.  Don Adrian had arranged central meeting places as well as he could.   Sometimes there was enough room for all the teachers to come in and collect their allotment and sometimes the line ran out the door for hours.
Altagracia Hernandez and Joquin Candray
Altagracia Hernandez and Joquin Candray
For the Guatemala team, the most satisfying day must have been the last.   Ms. Hernandez had given a map-talk the evening before laying out the strategy for finishing the ultimate delivery and getting the crew back home.  As they pulled out on the final leg, the elfin Don Adrian appeared to be  doing a victory jig at a gas station but he was really there to point the way out of town.  All that morning, the team labored,  as usual, moving, counting and re-adjusting .  And, as planned, by mid-day,  the whole container-load had  been distributed.  The journey had been tough – but all the children in FTC”s Guatemala territories had received their “One for One” black espadrilles from TOMS. “

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Unique Partnership Supports Give Away of Thousands of pairs of TOMS’ Shoes in Guatemala..

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Even Mayor Ramiro Pérez and his wife, Saida, came out to help bundle thousands of pairs of donated shoes.  They wedged themselves in between the high stacks of cartons to execute TOMS’ detailed instructions for the give-away. Every pair has to be sorted – just so – into bags by grade and packaged by school. Making a massive coordinated delivery operation like this run smoothly requires strong partnerships like the one that Altagracia Hernandez, Country Coordinator of Feed the Children, has built between her Oklahoma based NGO and the village of Palencia. She was happily surprised when the town officially volunteered to donate a warehouse large enough to store the entire container’s worth of goods but was most grateful to have delivery assured when the Muni recruited enough willing hands to support all phases of the TOMS’ effort.
Feed The Children had been cycling through their three distant communities measuring children’s feet for months – getting ready – by TOMS’ book. All shoes had to be estimated at a size larger to accommodate the expected lags between shipment and receipt. And, in order to meet TOMS’ data collection requirements, FTC presented trainings to Board of Education staff in their territories.
The Palencia volunteers have been most generous. A score of strong men appeared, seemingly at a moment’s notice, to unload the container when it was finally released from the port. And, on packing day, the storage area was full of neighbors carefully fulfilling the printed “orders.” These kind people stood at work tables set up in the dusty warehouse most of the day, checking off each name on the list and sorting out the mountains of shoes — pair by pair.
What is most remarkable is that these volunteers are supporting not just their own schools but all the districts that TOMS serves through Feed the Children – Guatemala. These volunteers are preforming the most slow-going work: repacking and doing it with alacrity and even a sense of urgency because the warehouse needs to be ready to handle FTC’s next in-coming shipment of donations including, medicines, books and a long ton of Food4Life Rice.

Traveling with Feed the Children

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???

Google Map show the breadth of FTC's Guatemala Operations
Google Map show the breadth of FTC’s Guatemala Operations