Large families often insulate a child from loneliness and discouragement, but such was not the case for Elias, the middle of eight children. His family struggled in poverty for years. Finally, Elias’ father made a difficult decision to emigrate from Guatemala to the United States to earn money to send home.  The family waited for the money to arrive, struggling to get by on what Elias’ mother could provide for them. Years passed, and they never heard from their father.  A year ago, Elias’ hard life got harder when his mother died in a bus accident.  Together, the children struggled to survive, falling into desperate poverty.

When Elias joined ZOE the following year, he connected with encouraging peers in his working group. He participated in ZOE’s trainings:  first one on agriculture, then one on health and disease prevention, and then several more on business management, finance and other life skills topics.

Through ZOE, Elias learned how to properly keep their house, yard and latrine clean and free from pests.  During an early home visit, ZOE’s staff worried the children might have worms. Staff ensured the children quickly had access to de-worming medicine and other disease-prevention necessities, such as soap. Those simple interventions quickly made a big difference in Elias and his siblings’ lives.

Feeling better, Elias and his family could now apply themselves at school and plant a field of corn and beans on land they rented with a ZOE grant. Elias has also begun raising chickens.  Using skills he received from ZOE training and participation in his group’s large-scale chicken-raising project, Elias is now successfully raising his own flock of chickens for food and income.

Early on, Elias was frustrated and easily discouraged. He found it hard at times to keep going after losing both parents. Through ZOE, Elias connected with a new friend named Valdemar, who always encourages him to keep going with ZOE and with his education.

Now, Elias is in turn mentoring another group member named Guadalupe.  Elias helps Guadalupe with his work and guides him on how to become a better person. Elias shares with his friends what he learns at church, and prays with them often.  Through ZOE, Elias has two large, supportive families — his brothers and sisters and his ZOE family.