SOS Children in Guatemala

Guatamala mapOverview of Guatemala

Guatemala is in Central America, south of Mexico. In 1996 the country emerged from a 36-year-long civil war in which more than 200,000 people were killed or disappeared.

Guatemalans live in one of the most iniquitous societies in the region. Poverty is particularly prevalent in rural areas and in indigenous communities. In 2001 the World Bank estimated that two-thirds of Guatemalan children were living in poverty. Illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition are among the highest in the region, life expectancy is among the lowest and the country is one of the most violent in Latin America.

Some 60 per cent of the school age population live in rural areas, but only 24.5 per cent of the schools are in the rural areas. Eight municipalities do not have a middle school and only 58 per cent have a secondary school. More children at younger ages are entering the labour force.

Our Work in Guatemala

We began working in Guatemala in 1976 following an earthquake which totally destroyed the town of San Juan Sacatepéquez, 30 km from Guatemala City. Five wooden houses were built to provide homes for children who had been orphaned. In 1991 it was decided to close the Village as the houses were in a very poor condition, and an SOS welfare centre and nursery were built on the site which provide day nurseries and social care for the local community, particularly single mothers and disadvantaged families. We now have five SOS Children's Villages in Guatemala.

Sponsor a child in Guatemala


SOS Children's Village Quetzaltenango was built in 1979 on the outskirts of the city of Quetzaltenango, 200 km north-west of Guatamela City at an altitude of 2,400 metres. The Village has a number of family houses and three youth houses where the older children from Quetzaltenango and other Guatemalan SOS communities can live while completing their education or learning tailoring, dressmaking and carpentry at the vocational training centre and workshops which are part of the Village.


We opened a Village at Retalhuleu in 1980. Retalhuleu, a provincial capital with around 60,000 inhabitants, is 230 km west of Guatemala City. The Village is in a residential area about two kilometres from the city centre and has a number of family houses and youth houses and an SOS Nursery which is also open to children in the neighbourhood. A workshop provides training in tailoring and dressmaking for the young people.


SOS Children's Villages Jocotán opened in 1983. It is about 200 km east of Guatemala City near the border with Honduras in a very deprived, mountainous area. Jocotán itself is a small village, 26 km from the nearest large city Chiquimula where there is an SOS Youth House for the older children. On the side of a river, the Village has a number of family houses and an SOS Nursery which is also used by children and families in Jocotán. An SOS Primary School was built in 1993 for both local and SOS children.

San Cristóbal

We opened a new community at San Cristóbal in the capital, Guatemala City, in 1996 to replace the original SOS Children's Village at San Juan Sacatepéquez. In addition to many family houses, the facilities include an SOS Nursery for the children from the Village and the neighbourhood, a welfare and day-care centre for the local people and youth housing for the older children.

San Jerónimo

Guatemala's fifth community opened in 2001. SOS Children's Village San Jerónimo is in the province of Baja Verapaz, an area that was badly affected by the civil war and whose inhabitants (mostly American Indians from the Quiché tribe) are still suffering the consequences. The Village has ten family houses and runs its own nursery for both the SOS and local children.

Children from Jocotan, GuatemalaLife in SOS Children's Villages Guatemala: Family Strengthening

Amparo Donis is an example of how someone can get back their life with just one opportunity.

When the community centre "Rayito de Luz" opened its doors in May 2006, Amparo was one of the mothers selected by the family committee to participate as a community mother. She was glad to attend the courses that the SOS family strengthening programme puts on for community mothers; every day she learned something new to put into practice with the children. "I wasn't scared, I just wanted to keep learning. It was like a calling."

In June 2007, in recognition of her dedication, SOS Children's Villages selected Amparo for a scholarship for the nanny certification course offered by the Social Welfare Secretariat. The course educates women on nutrition, special care, values training, first aid and general education for the care of children from birth up to eight years.

Six months later, Amparo is one of the 75 women to have completed the course. It is her graduation day. With tears in her eyes, Amparo holds her diploma and poses for a picture. She is visibly trembling but the satisfaction expressed in her face says it all.

The mothers of children in the community know that these women, who they entrust their children to every day, receive constant training and show vocation for their work.

What Amparo likes most of all about her work is that she cares for little children. And she has experience. Her third child is about to be born and she feels more than ready. The child's father - her current partner - has supported her a lot and he also sees her two daughters as his own. Both are involved in the various services of the SOS family strengthening programme. Now, with more knowledge, she will begin to plan her family. "I feel that everything is beginning to improve, but I know that I must continue to fight," she says.

Local Contact

Asociación Aldeas Infantiles SOS de Guatemala
Apartado postal 2908
2908 Ciudad de Guatemala
Tel: +502 - 2419 1500
Fax: +502 - 2419 1512


SOS Children is not political and sponsored children are brought up in their own religion and culture.