Break the Chains of Slavery

Dec 19, 2011

Promises to Carlitos


Carlitos came to us a few years ago. He was scared. He was scarred. He had been abused in horrific, stomach-wrenching ways. He was only 7 years old but had already lived a lifetime of trauma and abuse. Carlitos was sold by his desperate mother to a man who did unspeakable things to him.

He was placed in a loving foster family, one of our best. He was enrolled in school and given new clothing. We bought him new shoes and a back pack and everything else a little boy needs to fit in. Most importantly for Carlitos, though, we set up frequent visits to our staff psychologist.

Slowly, carefully, and with lots of love, we learned about what happened to Carlitos. We taught him boundaries and rules. And he started teaching us, too. He quickly became the face of our programs, greeting new visitors with a friendly smile and quick sense of humor.

Carlitos graduated from primary school last month. His foster father, who he calls “papa,” was there to cheer as he accepted his diploma. We try not to pick favorites, but when a child has come this far in a few short years, you can’t help but feel so proud of his accomplishments.

We’re more proud of Carlitos than words can express. But we also know that he has a long way to go. He’s about to hit puberty, which can be a rollercoaster even for children raised in the best environments. We’ve promised Carlitos that we’ll stay with him as long as he stays in school and keeps being such a great kid. But we need your help to keep that promise. Please, donate today to give Carlitos the bright future we all see for him.


Dec 9, 2011

On Human Rights Day, Do What's Right!

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

Young women and girls forced into prostitution? Invisible. Men forced to do dangerous and tiring work for little or no reward? Invisible.  Children worked to exhaustion and vulnerable to abuse? Invisible. 

Here in Guatemala, ITEMP works directly with victims of human trafficking. However, we also try to raise awareness about trafficking in a country where human rights are routinely violated. Lately, we've been reaching out to trafficking victims and educating the general public through weekly radio spots. Many families in Guatemala--especially the poorest, most at-risk ones--don't have a TV or read the newspaper. Radio is their connection to the world. 

Did you know that more than 2.5 million people are human trafficking victims right now?  That’s a lot of invisible people.

Today, on International Human Rights Day, do what’s right: help us restore the rights and dignity of human trafficking victims. Stand up for the millions of invisible slaves in our modern world with your donation.

ITEMP helped Ana, Gabriela, Carlos, Jose and Maria fight for their rights. We provided them with safe housing, medical and psychological care, social and legal assistance, and education. Education is the key for vulnerable children to break out of generational poverty, learn their rights and become less of a target for human traffickers.

Human trafficking is a crime that shames us all and violates basic human rights. This is why we work to prevent, rescue, recover and rehabilitate human trafficking victims. So today, on International Human Rights Day, do what’s right: help us give trafficking victims a voice. Help us give them their lives back!


Dec 1, 2011

From Hell to Hope

Boy in Garbage Dump
Boy in Garbage Dump

Have you ever been to a garbage dump? 9-year-old Mario most certainly has. Before we rescued him, Mario spent most of his time working in one.

Your first time in a garbage dump in Guatemala is not something you’ll forget. Only one word seems strong enough to describe it accurately: hell. The unbearable smell that almost makes you sick; the vultures circling over the endless hills of trash. And amongst it all, frail, malnourished children sifting through waste, hoping to find something to eat, recycle or sell. 

Scavenging in a garbage dump is considered amongst the most dangerous forms of child labor. Fires constantly burn in these pits, creating a toxic smoke that hangs thick in the air and stings the eyes. Exploding chemical bottles echo throughout the dump. Children are even more vulnerable because they are generally unaccompanied or out of their parents’ sight. Beyond the obvious health dangers lies another set of stranger danger for children who are often picked from these locations to be raped or sold into prostitution.

Since he has entered ITEMP’s program, Mario’s life has radically changed. He has been check out by our doctor, regularly visits our psychologist and is now enrolled in school. Not so long ago, Mario spent his days sorting trash and fighting for survival. Today, his main challenge is to get better at reading before the new school year starts in January. At last Mario has the freedom to be a kid; to play, to rest and to go to school. Your donation gave Mario this liberty. Thank you.


Oct 17, 2011


Living on the edge
Living on the edge

Help us break the bitter chains of slavery and exploitation!

When a group of tourists brought 7-year-old Noemi into our clinic on the outskirts of Antigua, Guatemala, she was dirty, wearing rags, and way too small for her age. Her little face was twisted in pain, but she wasn’t crying like most children would be. In her eyes, you could see that she had accepted suffering as part of her life.

After her appendix was removed at the national hospital, she was immediately pushed out the door. There was no post-operation care. They didn’t even tell her to come back to get her stitches removed. Luckily, our ITEMP social worker was waiting for her outside. He asked Noemi if he could give her a ride home, eager to learn more about the malnourished child’s life.

Noemi’s mom, Sonia, is just 21 years old. She already has four children and has lost two husbands. Sonia grew up in a small village near Guatemala’s beautiful Lago Atitlan.

After her second husband died, Sonia moved her young family to Antigua, where she thought she could earn money selling traditional crafts to tourists. She spent all of her savings to get to Antigua, only to realize that it wasn’t the promise land she had imagined.

They lived in a house frequented by drug traffickers. They slept on the cold cement floor because there were five other people already sleeping in the only bed. Sonia and Noemi were forced to work long hours for the home owner, just to sleep on the floor and eat whatever scraps of food he tossed them.

Sonia confessed that she was worried for her children, because the men in the house kept suggesting that she should sell her children.

ITEMP will soon help Sonia move her family and their few possessions into a safe home, with proper beds, food, a water filter, and other necessities.  Noemi and her brother are enrolled in our Dreamer Center School. And Sonia joined our Mothers’ Club, so she can continue receiving weekly food donations and enroll in a special literacy project.

As the family previewed their new home, Sonia’s eyes filled with tears. “I was never able to give my children a safe home, without strange men around. I was never able to give them a bed or good water or an education. Thank you for giving my children these things.”

On October 19th, you can help ITEMP give even more children safety, comfort, nourishment and education during Global Giving’s Matching Funds Challenge.  Global Giving will match your donation (up to $1000) at 30 percent.

Please, give generously on this day and help us towards bonuses for having the most donors and raising the most money that day.  

Help us rescue and offer a fresh start to victims of human trafficking!
On October 19, donate to ITEMP on we’ll get a 30match and it will help us qualify for two $1000 bonuses!

In addition to the 30% match, GlobalGiving is offering:

  • ·         a $1,000 bonus to the project that raises the most funds that day 
  • ·         a $1,000 bonus to the project that receives the most individual donations

Help us break the bitter chains of slavery and exploitation!

A new home
A new home
Caring for basic family needs
Caring for basic family needs


Aug 23, 2011

A heartbreaking story, hope for a better future

First chance to learn and sensitive support.
First chance to learn and sensitive support.

ITEMP seeks long-term, sustainable solutions to the root causes of slavery. By educating a child, by finding employment for a woman, by giving dignity to a man, ITEMP is able to provide the stepping stones that lead to changed lives. It is not just about treating the symptom; it’s about curing the disease with sensitivity and compassion.

In this first report we would like to share with one very recent example of how ITEMP comes alongside victims to make a very real, caring and sustained difference.

A heartbreaking story, and hope for a better future.

Carlos is one of those endearing children welcoming you with a broad smile and a big hug. When you are eight years old, you are supposed to attend a school, play with other kids and receive your parents’ love. However, for Carlos and his sisters, 12 and 13 years old, life decided otherwise. Abandoned by their parents, they were left behind to live with their 75year old grandmother Teresa, who is in poor health and struggles each day to meet the kids’ basic needs.

Before being assisted by ITEMP, the children used to be taken at 5am every morning to a nearby coffee farm to work just for a bowl of frijoles (black beans) and for a scant wage of 300 Q per month (1 US Dollar(s) = 7. 73 Quetzal), about $1 a day. However, the malnourished indigenous siblings never stopped dreaming about one day going to school and living a less tedious life.

The siblings keep their chin up as their grandmother says, “My life is over, I am too old, what will happen to my ‘nietos’?”. The unity and strength of this family is admirable; but unfortunately not something all children can rely on in this circumstance.

 ITEMP has come along side this and other families in the program with vital and integrated care providing them with a dignified new house instead of a dilapidated, dingy one room tin-roofed shack that could barely provide shelter during the rainy season. ITEMP also provides medical and dental care, regular counseling and a food allowance, a ceramic water filter, a small plastic table and chairs along with a basic hotplate and cooking utensils.

Looking forward, instead of working each day the children now attend school for the first time in their life. All three are now enrolled in Grade 1 at the special Asociación Nuestros Ahijados Scheel Centre that provides education for older students like these who missed the normal chance to attend school. Carlos commented this past week « I can now write and read, and one day I will become a teacher » with sheer eagerness. All of this support is guided by the ITEMP social worker who offers advice and makes them feel that they are not and will not be abandoned. This approach is ensured for every ITEMP beneficiary.

The children now attend school daily and are being supported by their grandmother who while illiterate, is not hindered from trying to help her grandchildren to get a good education, as a key pathway out of misery. Upon their return from school, the kids attend to Teresa’s needs and set a fire to prepare a simple dinner consisting of corn tortillas and beans. As grandmother Teresa was recently hospitalized, ITEMP has loaned a cell phone for emergency use, and is arranging for some help via support circle with neighbours and local church.  In addition ITEMP is arranging for a mentor to teach the children the basics of cooking, hygiene and home care skills that will help to prepare them for the uncertain family situation as Grandma Teresa ages.

This family is not alone as children living in the poorest households and in rural areas are most likely to be engaged in child labour and are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse that often means children do not attend school.

Worldwide there are an estimated 250 million child workers between the ages of 5 and 14 years old. Eighteen million of those child labourers are between the ages of 10 and 14 so like this family children often work long hours in agriculture, harvesting and cultivating coffee or bananas, sugar cane, sisal, tobacco, oranges, and others fruits and vegetables. Child labor is a real problem that continues to grow in Guatemala and in Latin America.

Coffee Production

 Guatemala ranks second in the world in high grade coffee production. A very important commodity to the country, but workers are often paid very little to toil in the coffee fields. As a result, coffee workers, mainly women and children (as young as five or six years old) work in the fields to earn enough for one or two simple meals per day. In order to receive their meager wages, children must meet the same quota as adults. These children cannot attend school not even for the compulsory ninth grade education required by the Guatemalan government. Even though not being officially on the payroll for the coffee plantations and therefore, they often fall through the cracks of any labour protection laws.

 The Guatemalan Government has laws that state children must be a minimum age of 14 for light work and children under the age of 16 are not to engage in work that is unhealthy or dangerous. With the seventy-five percent of Guatemalans living below the poverty line, the cycle of child labour perpetuating poverty continues when a child is put to work and they do not receive the basic education to improve their situation. Poverty is a contributing factor to these forms of child labor low pay and very hard work, as all family members must work to support their family unit and survive. With little money and no education, child labor is an unfortunate cycle that has impacts generation to generation. Some parents even sell their children into bonded labor because they are too poor and see no other alternative.

 Ensuring that all children have the basic necessities and an opportunity for quality education is one key to reducing child labour, abuse and exploitation, and ITEMP is working to break the chains of inter-generational poverty and slavery. Thanks to your support Carlos and his family have hope for a better future.

 NOTE: The names of the children in this story have been altered to respect their privacy.

Safe and Dignified Housing
Safe and Dignified Housing
Much love but an uncertain future
Much love but an uncertain future
Respect and help with real needs.
Respect and help with real needs.


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Project Leader

Jose Roberto Arevalo

Antigua, Sacatepequez Guatemala

Where is this project located?

Map of Break the Chains of Slavery