Project #7067

Rescue a Malnourished Child in Guatemala

by The GOD'S CHILD Project

Gene and Sue Jackson of Dickinson, North Dakota, USA, founded Casa Jackson in October of 2008. The Jackson’s, who had offered their assistance various times to ANA as volunteers, were impacted by the statistics of malnutrition in Guatemala and the lack of appropriate and available resources to help the children and families desperately requiring treatment and education. The Jackson’s then donated the necessary funds to renovate an abandoned guesthouse and convert it into the clinic that it is today.

Infant malnutrition is one of the most serious health issues affecting Guatemala. According to statistics from UNICEF, Guatemala has the third highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world. More than 1 of every 3 deaths that occur during childhood can be attributed to the lack of adequate nutrition. According to government statistics, almost half of all children under the age of 5 are malnourished. Children from indigenous families are twice as likely to be malnourished than non-indigenous families – 8 of every 10 indigenous children are malnourished while 4 of every 10 non-indigenous children are malnourished. 

Chronic malnutrition results in stunted growth, developmental delay, impaired thinking skills, a higher incidence of learning disabilities and other ongoing health issues. The impact on the indigenous community, those most affected by poverty and social inequality, simply cannot be taken lightly. Several studies have shown that children that are properly nourished during the first 2 years of life make at least 30% more per year than their malnourished peers. In other words, children that start out as victims of poverty and malnutrition often become adults affected by these same ailments and when they have their own children the destructive cycle continues.

While some of the above statistics can be attributed to poverty, Guatemala still has a higher rate of malnutrition than other countries in the region with similar (or worse) access to social services and with a lower medium income.

In order to successfully eliminate the problem of malnutrition in Guatemala, affected families need immediate access to quality medical care, for example, extensive education with respect to the causes, signs and symptoms of malnutrition; the serious long-term implications of chronic malnutrition; proper nutrition through the life cycle; the importance of non-contaminated food and safe drinking water, etc.

Inpatient Care:

a) All placements at Casa Jackson are voluntary. We lack the legal authority to admit children for treatment without the permission of both parents (and single mothers) despite their medical needs.

b) We maintain a small clinic of 20 beds in order to maximize the level of attention that each patient receives.

c) Casa Jackson treats patients from birth to 5 years of age.  

d) The patients live in the house under the care of the nurses 24 hours a day. (There is 1 nurse per shift – morning, afternoon, and night).

e) The pediatrician makes rounds from 8am to 10am every day. The majority of the patients arrive with various infections which include parasites, skin infections, and respiratory diseases. These patients are isolated from other patients until proper treatment has been administered so as to not spread the infection.

f) The nutritionist comes Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8am to 10am, and Tuesdays from 2pm to 4pm. The nutritionist calculates a special diet for each patient to satisfy their unique caloric and nutritional needs. Moreover, the nutritionist takes the weight and height of the patients two times a week to closely monitor weight gain and growth rate. This information is then utilized to make any necessary changes to the diet of each patient.

g) The duration of stay for each patient varies considerably depending on the health of the child and also the preparedness of the family to welcome them home and provide them with proper nutrition. The average stay is 1.5 to 3 months.

h)  Patients come to Casa Jackson in 3 different ways:

1. Word of Mouth – Concerned families hear of our program through other parents or from our efforts to spread the word and bring their child directly to Casa Jackson. We have an “open clinic” policy and families can arrive from 8am to 10am Monday to Friday for a free evaluation.

2. As References from other Health Organizations – After receiving treatment for various ailments at other health organizations, many children come to us in order to continue recuperating from malnutrition at Casa Jackson.

3. Child Protective Services of Guatemala – In situations where a child has been removed from their home due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, etc., a judge may reference the child to Casa Jackson if he/she suffers from malnutrition.

i) We ask that the parents visit their children on Tuesdays and Saturdays. This quality time is essential to overall health and healing. During this time, the parents can feed their children, speak with the pediatrician, the nutritionist, and with the nursing staff, and they can learn more about the dietary needs of their children. Unfortunately, many families live very far and don’t have the resources to come and visit more than once or twice a month.

Patient Dismissal:

a) The pediatrician considers a patient completely rehabilitated (free of infections and other health concerns) and that he/she is ready to go home.

b) The nutritionist informs the staff when the patient has reached 100% of their optimal weight for their stature. (A slight decrease in weight is expected due to the transition and adaptation period for both the child and family.)

c) The director decides if the family is prepared to provide a safe environment and adequate nutritional care for their child or if they need more education before dismissal.


Ongoing Care after Dismissal:

a) Each family receives a water filter. Due to poverty, many of our families drink untreated water from rivers that are utilized by the community to bathe, wash laundry, and wash dirty dishes. The supply of water filtration and education about food safety helps to prevent the contraction of parasites when the child returns home.

b) If the family lives in a house with a dirt floor, a service team from ANA often builds a house with a cement floor, which also considerably reduces the risk of contracting parasites and bacterial infections.

c) From time to time we hold a reunion and invite the families most affected by poverty and malnutrition. In 2009 and 2010 we invited 75 families and gave them all “solidarity bags” provided by MAGA and SESAN – these bags contain milk, rice, beans, and other nutritional goods. These provisions are an important incentive for participation.

1. During these gatherings we offered education on different topics including, prenatal care and nutrition, breastfeeding, food safety, personal hygiene, etc.

2. We took the weight and height of each child in order to monitor their development, growth, and nutritional state.

d) The children return to Casa Jackson for their follow-up appointments with the nutritionist; eventually the appointments are reduced to once or twice per year or as needed.

Social Work:

a) From first contact with each family, our nutritionist works extensively in order to identify and eliminate the unique causes of malnutrition in each home in order to avoid a reoccurrence of the problem.

b) We educate each family on proper nutrition and teach them how to get the most out of the resources they have to correctly feed and care for their children. 


Here at Asociación Nuestros Ahijados we are aware that many things can be either easy to do or delicate to accomplish, but there are no impossible tasks for us this is the reason why we hold our breath every time we know one of our kid’s health is in danger. We know we must do our best, since parents and family are trusting us to help them save the child. This was the case of Kimberly.

It took a long road and a lot of talking for Sirian Magaly Ruiz to decide to bring Kimberly to Casa Jackson and it was even harder to convince her to leave her daughter with us. She just couldn’t understand how delicate she was or how much she could harm the baby’s health if Kimberly wasn’t given immediate attention. The day Kimberly was brought to Casa Jackson we were all a little scared for three reasons: she was very tiny, she was sick, and the worst of all she was not taking any food; it was impossible to get her to eat. There was a point when we even thought she might die and as a matter of fact, if her parents would have taken two more days to bring her in, she wouldn’t have made it.

Did we give up? Absolutely not! The baby was intubated in order to be administered with a special nutritional substance that would start her recovery process. She was fed through tubes for three days before we could give her a bottle. At a year and nine months and a weight of 14.45, we could only hope for the best.  

Our staff’s effort started paying off immediately; Kimberly started gaining weight and developing skills much faster than we had all hoped. She is now characterized as being the only baby who doesn’t like to be fed by anybody but herself. She’s very playful and caring with volunteers, staff members and even other babies.

Kimberly currently weights almost 20 pounds and her parents are really grateful for what Casa Jackson was able to do for her. As we said at the beginning of this story, there might be hard situations for us but we never say no to a task.

Amarilis is the daughter of Efrain Miguel and Maria Miguel Francisco, who live in Comunidad San Vicente Guanagazapa in the state of Escuintla, Guatemala.  Amarilis is the youngest of four and has 3 older brothers;  Francisco Antonio Miguel who is 12 years old, Moises Estuardo Antonio Miguel who is 8 years old and Diego Miguel Francisco who is 6 years old.  

The Miguel Francisco family has very few resources and presently they live with their in-laws because they do not have the necessary resources to construct or even rent their own home.

Taking into account that they are a farming family and work is seasonal, Maria has shared that they don't have the most basic resources like water, plumbing or even electricity.   Nor do they possess any type of furniture, they sleep on the ground and their clothes are stored in sacks.  Maria has an iron skillet that she uses for cooking; however, it belongs to her mother-in-law.

Maria has also shared that she finds herself in a desperate situation and recently, her daughter was admitted to Casa Jackson due to complications of malnutrition.  However, she is worried for the well-being of her other children because they are still at her mother-in-laws home that they share with her two brother-in-law's who treat the children very poorly.  They are very unstable men who regularly smoke marijuana and abuse drugs; she is tremendously uncomfortable and is fearful that something could happen to her children living there.  They do not contribute anything to the household, only her husband does, and the little food that he is able to bring home , her brothers-in-law and their friends with whom they do drugs, eat.

Maria has asked The GOD'S CHILD Project for its help in order to build a small house on a piece of land that her father left her so that she will be able to take her children from this environment and for the well-being of her family.

She is very Grateful to Casa Jackson and to the entire association for all of the help that it has given her daughter.

Gerson David nearly died of pneumonia
Gerson David nearly died of pneumonia

Baby Gerson was born on March 16, 2011 and arrived into this world with relatively few complications. Unfortunately, given the circumstances in which his family was struggling to survive, Gerson faced many obstacles from the very beginning.

Gerson is one of nine siblings living in the home of his parents, Manuela and Manuel. Modest does not begin to describe the one room shack where the entire family of 11 resides –two beds, a dirt floor, walls made of scrap metal and held together with pieces of garbage that the children have salvaged from the fields. Ten days after Gerson was born, Manuela returned to picking peas with her husband. With a monthly household income of barely 100USD, missing just one day of work in the fields meant an even greater struggle to put food on the table.

Shortly after Manuela returned to the fields, Gerson came down with a cough. Manuela and Manuel took him to a local clinic and he was given medicine, but a number of days passed and he was still unable to shake it. His condition worsened and they took Gerson to a hospital in a nearby community where he was hospitalized for eight days with pneumonia. He managed to recover from the pneumonia, but the struggle left Gerson incredibly weak. He was sent home and prescribed vitamins, but they did little to give the baby more energy. Upon returning home to less than acceptable living conditions, Gerson came down with a fever, his cough returned, and a more serious case of pneumonia took hold of his fragile little body.

Manuela and Manuel did not know what to do – they went hungry so that their nine children could eat. Their wages would never be sufficient to cover the costs of Gerson´s recovery in a hospital, but they knew if he stayed in the home he would not survive. A family member had taken her baby to Casa Jackson and following her advice, Manuela and Manuel arrived at the front steps of our hospital for malnourished infants. His situation was very grave and with the help of our pediatrician, Gerson was hospitalized in nearby Antigua. He spent 17 days in the hospital, the doctors skeptical that he would even survive. His condition eventually stabilized and he was sent back to Casa Jackson to gain weight, improve nutrition, and foster his development.

Gerson came to Casa Jackson as little more than a skeleton, but he returned home as a healthy baby boy with a real chance at living a full life. His fighting spirit and will to survive carried him through this difficult time and even after everything he has lived, his smile still lights up the room. Casa Jackson exists because of the generous support of our benefactors. Casa Jackson continues to save the lives of babies just like Gerson because of the generous donations we receive from people like YOU.

Rescue a malnourished baby TODAY – donate to Casa Jackson and help save Guatemala´s most precious resource.

Gerson arrived at Casa as a skeleton
Gerson arrived at Casa as a skeleton
Manuel, Gersons father visited frequently
Manuel, Gersons father visited frequently
With much love and care, Gerson began to recover
With much love and care, Gerson began to recover
Baby Gerson happy and healthy!
Baby Gerson happy and healthy!
Mother, father, and baby Gerson ready to go home!
Mother, father, and baby Gerson ready to go home!


Shortly after arriving to Casa Jackson
Shortly after arriving to Casa Jackson

Silvia greets us at her front door with a smile and invites us to sit on the bed in her small but well-kept one-bedroom house where she lives with her husband and two little boys. We gently ask her to tell us about the birth of her youngest son, Jose Emanuel. Lowering her gaze, she smiles at the beautiful baby sitting in her lap. At the same time, a sadness flickers across her face as she begins to recount the all too recent battle to save the life of Jose Emanuel.

“Just a skeleton,” Sylvia thought, when she saw her baby boy for the first time on July 26, 2011. Jose Emanuel was born premature and with Down's Syndrome and spent the first 18 days of his life in the hospital. He was released and sent home, but it was then that the complications really began. Sylvia and her husband didn't understand anything about Down's Syndrome, how to care for a baby with the condition, or how it was going to affect their lives and that of their newborn. Jose Emanuel wouldn't eat, he never stopped crying, and his mother didn't know what to do. His health quickly deteriorated and the family returned to the hospital and admitted Jose Emanuel into intensive care. The doctor took one look at her baby and told Sylvia that Jose Emanuel wouldn't recover. His fever was so high that at one point he actually stopped breathing and the entire room thought he had passed away. They placed the baby in an ice bath and miraculously, Jose Emanuel began to breathe again. Another eight days in the hospital and the doctors sent the family home once again – no more prepared or educated than the first time to care for their fragile baby boy.

Sylvia still didn't know how to feed her baby; and after so many hospital visits and medical exams she and her husband weren't even able to afford the baby formula he so desperately needed. Jose Emanuel lost more weight and grew sicker everyday, until finally the hospital referred his case to Casa Jackson. Sylvia knew that Jose Emanuel would only survive if she left him in their care, but her heart broke when she had to walk away from him for the first time. What came next was even harder for Sylvia to understand – the idea that social workers and medical staff questioned the love she had for her child, the belief that she may have been negligent in his care, and the reality that he might be taken away from her.

Over the next four months, Jose Emanuel was nursed back to health by the dedicated staff and loving volunteers at Casa Jackson. Sylvia never missed an opportunity to spend time with her baby, and although money was scarce she made the trip to see him every week. She spent time with the doctors, nurses, and spoke with the social workers, who finally concluded that she was in fact a fit and loving mother – she simply needed to learn how to properly care for Jose Emanuel. Every week, Sylvia watched how the nurses fed him his bottle, how they bathed him, and how they administered his physical therapy. Jose Emanuel struggled every day with a build-up of phlegm in his lungs. The apparatus to help clear his lungs and allow him to breathe was expensive, and although he couldn't live without it, the family couldn't have dreamed of affording it. Volunteers at Casa Jackson raised the money among themselves to buy Jose Emanuel the machine. Each visit, Sylvia asked more questions and the nurses told her everything they knew about Down's Syndrome. “It was shameful for me,” recalls Sylvia, “What mother doesn't know how to care for her own child?” But every week it became easier and Sylvia felt more comfortable and more capable. She says that when he was first born she cried a lot and that she feared for Jose Emanuel because he would always be different. At Casa Jackson, Sylvia began to reflect and realized that their family has been blessed. “For us, Jose Emanuel is normal. He is what we have been given and we will fight for him. If we fight for him, he is going to be an even better little boy than all the rest.”

While Jose Emanuel was recovering in Casa Jackson, a service team from Nuestros Ahijados raised enough money to build the family a new house. When he was finally released, the family had a safe, dry, and clean home to take him to. Sylvia and her husband never dreamed of having their own home, “I am grateful from the bottom of my heart and always will be. This house... Casa Jackson...the nurses... they are like gifts that fell from heaven.”

Casa Jackson is home to some of the sickest and most malnourished babies in Guatemala. With your donations, we continue to provide refuge for babies like Jose Emanuel. Every contribution makes a difference in the loves of the little patients that call Casa Jackson home.

Jose Emanuel severly malnourished
Jose Emanuel severly malnourished
Sylvia, Jose Emanuel, and brother Angel Gabriel
Sylvia, Jose Emanuel, and brother Angel Gabriel
Jose Emanuel happy and healthy
Jose Emanuel happy and healthy


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Organization Information

The GOD'S CHILD Project

Location: Bismarck, ND - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Patrick Atkinson
Antigua, Sacatepequez Guatemala
$122,223 raised of $150,000 goal
2,554 donations
$27,777 to go
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