Serve Abroad

La Pila, Guatemala – A Community in Need

Guatemala is divided into 22 departments (departamentos) which are in turn divided into 334 municipalities. La Pila is a small Mayan village in the municipality of Patzicia which located in Chimaltenango, a department of Guatemala. La Pila is located about 40 miles away from Guatemala City and has a population estimate of approximately 1,200 people all of whom are of Kaqchikel Maya descent. The Kaqchikel are one of the indigenous people of the Midwestern highlands in Guatemala. The Kaqchikel language, one of the Mayan languages, is spoken today by 400,000 people. They subsist agriculturally, and their culture reflects a fusion of Maya and Spanish influences.

Guatemala suffers from a level of inequality and widespread poverty that is extreme even within Latin America. The country ranks 13th in the world for income inequality. Guatemala struggles with high illiteracy rates and low school attendance beyond the 6th grade. Many families struggle to provide the basic needs for their families and cannot afford the expenses associated with school. 

Access to basic health care and housing is also scarce. Infant mortality rates are high with preventable diseases often resulting in premature death. Malnutrition is common among children since many homes are made of scavenged materials, with dirt floors, no toilets, and no drinkable water. 

According to a World Bank report entitled, Guatemala Economic DNA, the poorest 40% of Guatemala’s 15 million citizens live on $1.50 per day. The indigenous Mayan people are particularly hard hit with poverty with most Mayan villages lacking access to clean water and basic healthcare. Most Mayan families are trapped in a cycle of poverty driven by lack of education and an agricultural economy that encourages boys to work in the fields and girls to become homemakers at age 12-13 leading the majority children to drop out after completing 6th grade. 

Some staggering statistics about Guatemala that you may not know:

• Over 50% of the Guatemalan population (over 9 million people) live below the poverty line. 

• Over 20% percent of the total population (over 3 million people) live in extreme poverty. 

• Nearly 70% of children under 18 years old live in households below the poverty line.

• Over 70% of children under 10 years old live in poverty.

• Some estimates state that 90% of water sources in Guatemala are contaminated 

The trips are typically 5 days long and leave on Friday evenings returning the following Wednesday. For sign up for an upcoming trip or for more information please contact Missions Coordinator, Debra Schrader at


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