Travelling to any country in Central America one is instantly seduced by the beauty of the landscape and the friendliness of its people. Joyful colours brighten up buildings’ facades and traditional dresses. Thousands of local “fiestas” are celebrated throughout the year: people are proud of their roots and ancient traditions and they are eager to share them and make sure you feel part of them. Regardless of where you volunteer in the region you will be spoilt with an extremely varied landscape, ranging from mountains, beautiful beaches and jungles, deserts and volcanoes, ancient ruins from long-lost civilizations, such as the Mayan ruins in Mexico and Guatemala.
Development in Central America
Sadly Central American countries are also known for their high crime rates and their unequal income distribution. Many countries in the region have been hit hard by the recent financial recession and as usual the most vulnerable groups are paying the highest costs. Income from export products - agricultural and textiles - is generally in the hands of few entrepreneurs, leaving the majority of the population vulnerable to exploitation, economic insecurity, and unable to break the poverty cycle. In recent years small farmers have nonetheless made important steps towards breaking this cycle: Mexico and Guatemala are home to innovative cooperatives of producers, committed to reinvesting part of their profits into community projects.
Even before the financial crisis, limited progress had been made to improve access to health services and quality education. Water and sewage systems in rural areas are generally inadequate, especially in areas populated in large part by indigenous groups. The indigenous population is routinely discriminated by government policies: they are often excluded from accessing basic services such as health care and education. The vast majority of children can only afford to study in national schools, usually understaffed and unable to fully educate younger generations. Corporal punishment is still very common in schools in Guatemala, and children often drop out at a very young age. Child labour is widely accepted as a means to support family income: children from poor backgrounds tend to work long hours, sometimes engaging in hazardous activities; they often suffer from malnutrition and are more exposed than adults to diseases.
2Way Development in Central America
Things are slowly improving across Central America, thanks partly to the work of committed individuals and local groups across the region that have joined forces to bring about change. 2Way Development works with NGOs and social enterprises in Mexico and Guatemala that, through their work, are bringing essential services to the vulnerable communities they serve, improving access to health and education, water and sanitation services and legal protection. Countries we operate in in Central America include: