Guatemala: Child Abuse Prevention Seminars

From Wednesday, 24 August 2022, to Friday, 26 August 2022, ISHR Guatemala held child abuse prevention seminars titled “Mi Refugio” in cooperation with the organization “Prison Fellowship Guatemala”. These seminars are aimed at all those, who work with people that have been abused and who can reproduce the seminar with others who require guidance. They can be of help to tutors, teachers, directors and spiritual guides who work with people who have been abused.

Seminar participants

There were two days of training in the ruins of the convent of the church La Merced which were held from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: On the first day, a group of 15 people was trained. Attendants included directors of schools in rural areas as well as leaders of a foundation called Orphan Helpers, which has 30 facilitators who will be in charge of replicating this seminar with 900 young people who have suffered from abandonment, mistreatment, violence and physical and sexual abuse. On the second day, 50 teachers from schools were trained who attended from rural areas in Guatemala Escuintla, Rethalhuleu, Chimaltenango, Amatitlán, Antigua, and Quetzaltenango. The seminar was very participatory and the participants were grateful for the tools provided.

On the third day, a seminar was held at the Center for Women’s Orientation (COF) from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., which was attended by 63 women deprived of liberty. ISHR Guatemala gained a unique experience to see the precarious conditions inside this prison. This center in the capital city of Guatemala works with 1,025 women deprived of liberty. Many of the women never get visited by their relatives, with whom they also do not have contact via telephone. Therefore, they do not have any sentimental affection by a loved one. When asked what they did to survive because they do not have basic supplies such as toilet paper, sanitary pads, toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, and shampoo, they commented that they need to ask their companions who sometimes give them what they need and sometimes not. A roll of toilet paper in the prison comes at a considerable cost and if they do not have money, they cannot buy it. The state does not grant them these supplies. They told ISHR Guatemala that the only thing the state gives them is food and that it is a terrible diet. Many times, it is food that cannot be eaten because it is raw or not well cooked.

The women gave ISHR Guatemala a report in which the work they do in the framework of the Peacemaker program is visualized. In the seminar’s group there were eight women leaders who are responsible for developing the Peacemaker program. They run it every three months, four times a year, and it is the freedom of each inmate to register. At the end of the program there is a graduation in which the organizers reward the inmates who did it. The inmates told ISHR Guatemala that the Peacemaker program has come to help them resolve conflicts because they have seen the change of character of some of them who are inside the prison. Others had already made the change before leaving prison thanks to the Peacemaker workshop. The Peacemaker program is one of ISHR Guatemala’s most successful programs in the prisons and schools where it has been taught.

ISHR Guatemala received very hard and sad testimonies. Some of the participants recognize that they are in prison because of their bad behavior. Others said that they are there because of an involuntary error and others that they have been convicted because of a bad defense by the lawyer of the Public Criminal Defense that was assigned to them because they suffered from scarce resources and were not able to pay a professional privately.

At the end of the seminar the participants thanked the International Society for Human Rights for the support of providing them with Bibles, the books of the Peacemaker program and other books titled “My Refuge” and “Journey to Healing”. All of these books help them in their personal and spiritual growth as well as in the healing process. ISHR Guatemala noticed that there is a lot of pain. Many of the participants cried in the course of the seminar as it was developing and for that reason they expressed their deep gratitude and that they hope that ISHR Guatemala will continue to support them. In all three seminars, the last activity focused on teaching the participants to be able to put into practice what was learned during the seminar and teach the real use of the book “My Refuge”.

It was very gratifying for ISHR Guatemala to carry out these three seminars since they leave the ISHR section in Guatemala with a lot of learning and a lot of experience. ISHR Guatemala was able to record testimonies of people who were abused and whose children were abused. One of the participants had not been able to speak for 39 years after she was abused and the “Mi Refugio” seminar helped her to talk and break those chains that she had been dragging for years.

Lic. Maria Renee Bobadilla, Director ISHR Guatemala