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Common Hope COVID-19 Updates

4.26.21 UPDATE

Dear friends,

Happy 35th anniversary to each of you who have made Common Hope’s mission possible since our humble beginnings in 1986, when the Huebsch family made the decision to move to Guatemala to serve. This past year has certainly been different than any we’ve experienced before, but with your generosity hope continues to be a source of strength for us, and for those we serve.

First, I want to thank you for walking alongside us during this time. Your generosity and support refuels us each day as we continue our efforts to have meaningful impact in supporting our families through the pandemic. Secondly, I’d like to share an update on what’s new in Guatemala and let you know that our work continues to serve our students and families.

It has been a year of pivoting and we’ve termed a new phrase for ourselves – ‘covid-keepers’ – those pivots that will continue going forward. I’ll share a few of our keepers and other noteworthy updates below.

Access to health care continues to be a critical need for our families – our first covid-keeper is our telemedicine line, which has provided access to health care for families throughout the entirety of this pandemic, and is still in use as a first connection. Now that the Antigua Clinic has re-opened to in-person visits by appointment, telemedicine continues to help families access the doctor even before they travel to the site.

We are closely monitoring opportunities for our families to be vaccinated against Covid-19, and look forward to a time (in the hopefully near future) where it is available to everyone in Guatemala. Because of Common Hope’s medical programs, we had the good fortune to receive vaccinations for all of our Guatemalan staff this month, so now most have been vaccinated. Guatemala has a similar system of phases for vaccination as the US and the second phase of vaccination has just begun – allowing availability for people over the age of 70. Social workers have been busy contacting all Common Hope families with older family members who qualify for the vaccines to ensure they have information and access to these resources if they want it.

The school year is underway, although it was a slow start this year. Classes began several weeks later than normal, and we had great hopes that students would have hybrid classes this year. To date, however, schools have been operating with distance learning, just as they did all of last year. We had several Covid-keepers last year in our education programs – ultimately allowing us to support more students in 2020 than ever before! By providing connectivity to students and forming a variety of support networks, we again have a network of homework groups for varied subjects, schools, and age groups. In addition – we have a homework help-line where any student can call in for 1:1 support if they need it. Our primary goals during distance learning are to support students in their homework and to reinforce important skill development for their progress in school, as we still are unable to gather in groups.  We were thrilled that 96% of our students were promoted to their next year – and we celebrated 174 graduates last November!

As a result of the pandemic, we have also learned from some of the high schools we work with that there are students with one year of high school left who are unable to complete their education due to financial hardship. This year we are providing Scholarships for 35 students with one year left until graduation who wouldn’t otherwise be able to graduate – ensuring that they will reach their graduation despite financial hardship for their families. These are in addition to more than 100 new families and their children that begin their own education journey towards graduation this year.

Our social workers are in regular contact with our families, and are resuming in person visits. Another covid-keeper – our families and social workers both report that they feel closer than they have in the past because of the more frequent contact that phone visits have allowed them over the past year – we will continue to do these going forward!

We learned through a series of conversations with families that we have nearly 400 families that have ongoing food insecurity issues as a result of the pandemic. For these families we have established a plan for the balance of this year to support their needs on a regular basis. We will also be providing health and hygiene baskets to all of our families in the coming weeks because until vaccinations have been provided for everyone eligible, hygiene and masks will remain critically important.

There is no one untouched by the impact of Covid-19, and that continues in 2021 for the families we serve. We are grateful to have sustained our programs despite the economic impact in 2020, but still need your help.

Please consider a gift to offset the food insecurity faced by our families, and to ensure that they all have necessary masks and hygiene supplies so they are able to stay safe and healthy. To do so, please click here. However you can help, we are grateful. Together we will continue to make hope a source of strength.

Mil gracias, Shari

P.S. Please also consider joining us for our 35th anniversary celebration in Guatemala in November – we look forward to celebrating the achievements of our 2020 and 2021 graduates, the 20th anniversary of our work at New Hope, and the 15th school year at New Hope School!   More information is available! Click here.

8.7.2020 UPDATE

Dear Friends,

As the impact from Covid-19 continues to evolve, I share this update with you with hope that you and your family are safe and healthy. August 17th marks four full months of fast and furious pivoting and transition to meet the needs of Common Hope families during this pandemic. Hope continues to be a source of strength for us, and for those we serve.

We have learned so much about the stamina and resilience of both our families and our staff. First, I want to thank you for walking alongside us during this time. Your generosity and support refuels us each day as we continue our efforts to have meaningful impact on the way our families tackle the ripple effect of the pandemic. I also want to share an update on what’s happening in Guatemala and confirm for you that our work has never been more important.

For those of you who are Sponsors of a student and their family, you will be receiving a communication from them in the coming week. We have just finished translating more than 3,000 letters that were dictated, photographed, and sent via electronic messaging for you. For most, their families have been affected by lack of work, an inability to purchase ample food for the family, the struggle for their children to learn remotely in an environment with very limited connectivity, or a combination of all of these. Their messages are heartfelt, and can be heartbreaking. Please know that we continue to take steps to alleviate these issues and the stress that accompanies them.

As a direct result of the information we’ve received in these correspondences, Common Hope is in the process of implementing the purchase and delivery of a fourth relief package for families. It again includes ample food staples and hygiene products. This time we are also including seeds for fast producing vegetables that will allow families to grow food of their own to provide an ongoing source of nutrition.

Our social workers are in regular contact with our families, and we have health and socio-emotional support resources for those who need them. We are just completing health consults, updated lab work and medicine delivery for those patients with chronic health conditions, and continue to provide education support for homework, computer lab access, and data plans for students who need assistance. In addition, all families with preschool and primary school children have received delivery of an education kit to support learning at home. For students, it is unlikely they will return to the classroom this school year in Guatemala, which is normally completed in October. We will continue to foster their engagement in learning with activities included in their education kits, and shared on our Chispudos network. For 860 families with the greatest food insecurity, they received additional food relief. All of these activities were based on responses received during a series of social work interviews I have told you about in previous updates.

Guatemala is in the early stages of re-opening, with some public transportation available and longer days/shorter curfews. This will allow many to begin working again, and that means better ability to provide for their families.

There is no one untouched by the impact of Covid-19. We are grateful to have sustained our programs despite the economic impact resulting from our inability to host visitors in Guatemala, hold our annual Noche de Colores benefit, and introduce new friends and family to join our mission through these and other events. We are making it work, despite the impact on the revenue needed to fulfill our programming. We remain hopeful, because of you.

In the next four months we need your help to continue to meet the needs of our families. Please consider joining us for any or all of the following ways to promote hope and opportunity in Guatemala:

  1. Walk for Hope – Join our first ever virtual walk to raise awareness and funds for Covid Relief

  2. Sponsorpalooza in September – Sponsor a student, become a relief sponsor

  3. Write a note of encouragement to your student and their family

  4. Give a gift to our Covid Relief efforts, to support the greatest needs of our families – food, connectivity, health and education support.

If you’ve given all you can, we thank you. If you can share a little bit more, we thank you. However you can help, we are grateful. Together we will continue to make hope a source of strength for Guatemala.

Mil gracias, Shari

6.12.2020 UPDATE

Dear friends of Common Hope,

We anticipated this day would arrive, and sadly we are now seeing COVID-19 virus cases in the communities we serve, including two members of the Common Hope family.

Our social workers are supporting these families as they navigate working directly with the Ministry of Health for further testing, treatment and recovery. Common Hope is not currently allowed to intervene for health care for those diagnosed with the virus, but our medical staff remains diligent in understanding how best to prevent, monitor, and prepare for what is to come. We are concerned with the capacity of the health care system in Guatemala, even with the many precautions in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Our social workers will, as always, do what is possible to provide ongoing support and advocacy for each family.

If a student or family member has been diagnosed with COVID-19, Common Hope will not provide this information to sponsors. As in the U.S. this practice maintains the privacy of our families and also reserves our social work resources for family support. As always, we will leave it up to each family to choose whether or not to share health information in their letters. Your continued support of all families and your encouraging words go a long way. We hope you share your kindness by sending a note in the link below.

You may ask what we can do. We will continue to accompany our families during these challenging times–

  1. Providing food and other relief

  2. Providing access to tele-medicine for physical and emotional health

  3. Creating education and distance learning opportunities for students

  4. And improving connectivity to better serve our families and help our staff be more accessible to all of our families

We are grateful that we were able to deliver additional relief baskets to families last week and we are in the process of preparing education kits for all families with preschool and primary school students. These resources will be delivered by mid-July and will include games and LEGOS as birthday gifts for our students in order to provide resources that are both fun and engaging and also reinforce reading and math skills while learning at home. With your help we’ve been able to deliver on the new plans we’ve put in place as we continue to pivot our programs to deliver on our mission. Thank you for making that possible.

The families we serve need our support more than ever. We all hope that this virus will quickly run its course and the people of Guatemala remain healthy. However you share your intentions – prayers, well wishes, and positive thoughts are always welcome.

I hope you and your family continue to be healthy and safe,


5.15.2020 UPDATE

Dear friends,

I hope this message finds you and your families safe and healthy. Since my last update, there is much to share. We completed the delivery of Hope Kits filled with food staples, face masks, hygiene supplies, and educational materials to all 1,656 families we work with in Guatemala. Thank you for making those initial gifts of hope possible – impacting over 14,000 brothers, sisters, moms, dads, grandparents and more.

There is much to share with you on this day as our work evolves daily and the impact of Covid-19 continues.

  1. As of this week there are 1,342 cases in Guatemala and a reported 29 deaths. To our concern, the number of cases jumped significantly over the last two days – from 62 to 143, despite strong measures to slow the spread of the virus.

  2. Fortunately, we still have no confirmed cases among Common Hope families or staff.

  3. Guatemala enforced even stronger restrictions last night, mandating that our colleagues and families be in a lockdown in their homes.

  4. Travel within the country is limited and face mask usage is required in public. International travel to/from Guatemala continues to be suspended and we cannot host visitors and volunteers for the foreseeable future.

  5. Beyond this weekend’s mandated quarantine, a curfew exists requiring residents to be in their home bewteen 6pm and 4am daily.

  6. Businesses, schools and public transportation is closed and grocery stores and other “essential” services have limited hours and open times.

  7. The country’s COVID-19 response is updated weekly by the President. Originally, these updates were provided on Sunday evenings. This week, however, the new quarantine and regulations were shared on Thursday.

Given the continued closures and safety measures, we are working fast and furious to generate innovative and creative solutions for supporting our families and delivering our mission during this crisis. It has become imperative to find answers in the face of uncertainty, pivot program delivery and meet our families where they are. Social workers have been resilient and tireless in their efforts to help our families. They have completed a series of five different ‘check-ins’ with families and their work has allowed us to identify the following priorities in our response efforts:

  1. Food Insecurity. Food is available in Guatemala, but decreased income has effected the ability of families to purchase what they need. Common Hope social workers have identified those families with the greatest need and we are preparing additional food baskets for 860 families that we’ll begin delivering next week.

  2. Health – Physical, Emotional, and Educational. Creating a “holistic health” approach has become increasingly important for families and staff. Our Antigua clinic staff continue to lead the development and implementation of safety protocols for those delivering programs. In addition, the creation of our tele-medicine resources has been and continues to be a critical resource. Our work to support the physical health of families, in accordance with the directive of the Guatemala Ministry of Health is imperative during this pandemic. We’ve also dedicated resources to address address anxiety and emotional health challenges utilizing Common Hope social worker expertise and our psychologists as well. Lockdown and financial stress are definitely weighing on our families and our staff during this time. Our goal is to support their mental health, as well as their physical health. And our education team is on the frontlines of keeping their educational health at forefront as well.

  3. Connectivity. Throughout this experience, we are more aware than ever just how critical it is to be ‘connected’, in so many ways. We know this here in the United States as we see our sons and daughters educational growth become dependent on the internet to deliver lessons and instruction; as we work from home or remotely. Being “connected” is a resource, it could be argued, we take for granted here – as we see just how imperative it is, too, for our families, students, and staff in Guatemala. And, just how difficult it can be to acquire. There are countless ways to demonstrate the ways we need to be connected.

As social workers used to rely on home visits – now we need cellphone contracts and increased number of minutes and wifi to ensure that we can connect with families via telephone. And, families need data plans, and in some cases, phones to ensure they can take social worker calls, access tele-health and homework helplines and their children can participate in distance learning required by the Ministry of Education. Many junior and senior high school students need even greater access to a data plan and/or computer or phone to complete homework. Our staff is reorganizing spaces at the project, scheduling appointments for the computer lab, and providing data plan minutes to others to ensure they can complete their required assignments.

The need for connectivity is among the highest during this crisis, not only at Common Hope, but among our peers serving families in Guatemala and across Latin America.

  1. Educational Support. While school is not in session, our education team is piloting an innovative strategy for connecting with all of our preschool and primary school students via social media, ensuring they continue to build their foundational skills in math and reading – interacting in fun and engaging ways. More than 1,000 families will be invited to participate. I am eager to share more about our progress in this initiative in my next update – as the team is creating incredible solutions for safeguarding progress around reading and math skill development. As has been the case since the beginning of this crisis, our educational support team continues to support the homework hotline and help students whenever they need it.

Like so many, we are adapting and changing as quickly and efficiently as we can. Still, the economic impact of this crisis is real, both for families and for Common Hope.

In the coming weeks, we will be rolling out a campaign for this Covid -19 response. Ensuring that food insecurity, holistic health, connectivity and educational support needs are met as best as is possible in this crisis is something we hope that you will help with. We know that these times are hard for all of us. And, that the impact of the Covid1-19 is far-reaching and all-inclusive. It has always been our mission to bring hope and opportunity to those in poverty. Today, a new level of poverty confronts us in these efforts.

I thank you for all that have done and continue to do to make it possible for us to change the ways we serve our families and our students. I look forward to continuing to work with you in this way and to experience even greater success during this crisis. I hope that you will consider becoming a Relief Sponsor, participating in upcoming events like the golf tournament or supporting our Covid-19 response Campaign in the coming weeks.

Together, with HOPE as our source of Strength we will weather these storms…

With gratitude, Shari

4.16.2020 UPDATE

Dear Friends,

We hope this note finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy, and that hope continues to be a source of strength for you as it does for all of us at Common Hope.

What you should know at this time:

  1. As of April 15th, there were 196 confirmed cases of Covid19 in Guatemala, with 19 recovered and 5 deaths, which continues to be low compared to neighboring countries. We are grateful to report that there are no confirmed cases among Common Hope families or staff, although there was one case diagnosed in a village where we work. The case was confirmed not to be from community spread.

  2. Guatemala’s strong measures to contain the spread continue with its shelter in place and daily curfews extended through May 1st. Transportation and businesses remain closed, and travel between departments isn’t allowed so many are no longer able to work as a result. We continue to postpone our Vision Teams and visitors because of closed borders.

  3. In addition, it is now a requirement to wear a mask when in public, and there are fines for those who do not comply. Fortunately, we were able to include masks for every family member in our Hope Kits that we continue to deliver to families this week.

  4. Our social workers continue to be in contact with our families, and are learning that there is increased concern that there is enough food to eat so our Hope Kits are arriving at just the right time.

We began delivering Hope Kits to families two weeks ago, and our social workers and team members have been overwhelmed by the gratitude from our families as they received food staples, cleaning supplies, needed medicines and educational materials for each child, customized to their age level. Your messages of support in each basket are treasured, and families have responded with messages of hope for you in return:

…Thanks for being the light that shines in this difficult moment…

…I am asking God that soon we can go back to school to finish my 6th grade and go to 7th grade. My goals are: to continue studying to graduate from high school, get a job and help my mom. Right now, my mom has no job because of this situation. I hope you are well at your home. Sponsors, I trust that we will move on from this illness.

…I am writing to say thank you for all your help, for what I have gotten for me and for my family. I would like to say that in God we will move on from this illness. Thank you for your support…

…I would like to give thanks to Common Hope and to my Sponsors for all the help you have given to us in this difficult time that we are living. May God spring on you and your family infinite blessings and may he protect you from all type of illnesses…

On behalf of all of our families and every team member, thank you! Our families need us now more than ever before, and we’re able to respond because of your generous support. We still need your help – if you haven’t tried sponsorship before, or know someone who might consider it – you can become a temporary Relief Sponsor for a family whose kids currently do not have sponsors.

On behalf of all of our families and every team member, thank you! Our families need us now more than ever before, and we’re able to respond because of your generous support. We still need your help – if you haven’t tried sponsorship before, or know someone who might consider it – you can become a temporary Relief Sponsor for a family whose kids currently do not have sponsors.

Our hearts are with all those affected by this crisis. May you and your family continue to be safe and healthy.

With gratitude, Shari

3.26.2020 UPDATE

Dear Friends of Common Hope,

As before, I hope this email finds you and your family healthy in these unprecedented times. “Hope is my source of strength” was the centering thought from my favorite podcast this week, and it fits so well with the good work that our teams are doing both in Guatemala and the US to continue to bring hope to our families.

What you should know at this time:

  1. Guatemala continues to be proactive in keeping people at home, and has added a curfew from 4p.m. to 4a.m. every day, which is being reinforced with fines for those who don’t comply. There are currently 20 cases confirmed in Guatemala, and gratefully none of our families or staff have been diagnosed as of this writing.

  2. By Monday of this week our social workers had spoken directly with 1,028 (62%) of our families, and plan to have connected with everyone before the end of this week. They are learning that:

  3. The majority of families are staying at home, and have a good understanding of what the President is asking of them and why during this health crisis.

  4. Our social workers are asking each family about their physical and emotional health, their work stability, and whether or not their children have access to their school’s educational materials.

  5. The greatest concerns families have shared include understanding how they can prevent illness, inability to work during this time, and a lack of enough food for their families as a result.

  6. Our clinic team began delivering needed medicine to patients last Friday, and has begun accepting telemedicine calls to assess health issues. They will refer patients to the designated health centers for respiratory or COVID19 symptoms as required by the Ministry of Health, and will help find needed transport. They will also diagnose and assist them with other health issues remotely, and our psychology team members are providing mental health support as needed.

  7. We have received verbal approval from the Ministry of Health to bring medicines and food to families’ homes within curfew hours.

With hope as our source of strength, Common Hope will address these needs by providing every single family a HOPE KIT over the next few weeks. Hope Kits are Common Hope’s way of sharing we know this is a hard time, but there is hope. Each kit includes: food staples, bleach, soap, acetaminophen, and information on how to stay healthy during this time. It will also include educational materials to ensure students continue their learning while they are at home and not in school, and with your help a message of encouragement in every basket.

Please consider funding a Hope Kit for a family in need and send them a hopeful message.

All the best to you, Shari

P.S. For those of you with students on track to graduate in Guatemala, you will be receiving your invitation to join us in Antigua for graduation in November. We are hopeful that graduation will continue as planned, and will keep you posted if anything changes.

3.18.2020 UPDATE

Dear Friends of Common Hope,

Again, we start by sharing our hopes that you and your family are safe and healthy as we navigate Covid-19 and become accustomed to social distancing in our every day lives.

Since last week when I messaged you, leadership in both Guatemala and the US have been responding to the continuous movement around COVID19 virus and efforts to combat its spread. As an organization, health and safety of our families, volunteers, visitors, donors and staff continues to be our foremost concern.

What you should know at this time:

  1. Since my last communication, there are now 7 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Guatemala. Still, we are grateful to report that there are no confirmed cases among Common Hope families, staff, and/or visitors to date.

  2. Progression of the virus continues to evolve rapidly, and we are grateful for the strong preventive approach that the Guatemalan President is implementing for the people of Guatemala. Borders have been closed to all visitors, including the US and Canada. Everyone has been encouraged to stay home, all schools and educational programs are closed, public organizations and businesses with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, and take-out restaurants are closed, and public transportation has been shut down. As a result, our regular programming has been suspended through the end of March. The President plans to revisit this decision in 7 days.

  3. All of our visitors to Guatemala have returned home safely, and we are rescheduling teams whose trips had to be postponed due to travel restrictions.

Like so many, our families are worried and concerned. And, we are working tirelessly to determine how best to continue to provide HOPE and OPPORTUNITY during this time.

  1. Health Care All respiratory and Covid-19 cases are required to go to the government hospitals, so we are creating new ways to deliver health information and services. We will begin tele-medicine with families to assess their health issues and either refer according to Ministry of Health requirements or serve those with chronic health conditions and unique cases as allowed. We are establishing dedicated telephone access for the clinic to support this, and we have also assigned three clinical therapist staff to attend to the emotional and mental health of our families.

  2. Social Work Our social work program has never been more important. Right now the social work team is fully deployed and charged with contacting every family both to check-in and also to provide education on how to avoid spreading the virus. Ensuring these staff keep themselves and our families safe is an incredible challenge. We are purchasing mobile phones, calling minutes for existing phones, and setting up hot spots to access the internet since they will be unable to meet face-to-face.

  3. Systems We are also busy ensuring that other staff can work remotely whenever possible, adding technical capability to do so. Unlike the US, most staff and families do not have internet access in their homes, and many do not have mobile phones with data plans for viewing email and messaging. Our leadership in Guatemala is busy ensuring that staff who need access and communications have it available to work remotely where possible to limit travel to/from our project sites.

  4. Sponsor/Donor Relations Teams in the US and in Guatemala are defining new ways to communicate with sponsors/donors. While we cannot carry letters to Guatemala right now, we can receive electronic letters via our website and can translate those letters to be delivered to families as soon as we are able. Please write a letter to your sponsored student via our website!

  5. Visitors and Events We are working with our upcoming teams and event planning to modify our schedules as necessary. For those of you in the Midwest, we have rescheduled our Noche de Colores event from May 14th to October 14th in St. Paul, and hope that you are able to join us at that time.

In addition to the immediate areas we’re addressing in Guatemala, our Education support teams are also planning for how we could help keep students on track with their studies while school and educational programs are closed to group activities. We’re proactively considering where we will have savings during this closure in order to reallocate resources in anticipation of hardships for our families and for our donors as a result of this global crisis.

Our US Office is closed to visitors at this time with most of our staff working remotely. We are available via phone and email if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you again for your commitment to the families we serve, in particular as we navigate these uncharted waters.

Best regards, Shari

3.12.2020 UPDATE

Dear Friends of Common Hope,

We hope that this email finds you and your family healthy and unaffected by the spread of the Covid-19 virus. As I’m sure you are aware, it has been a growing global concern over the past few weeks, and information and progression of the virus is evolving rapidly. Over the last few weeks we have heard from many of our amazing Common Hope family members – sponsors, vision team members, volunteers – inquiring on our families, students and travelers. Common Hope has been monitoring the situation closely and our leadership in both Guatemala and the US have been preparing for how we will respond to the COVID19 virus as it continues to spread.

As an organization, health and safety of our families, volunteers, visitors, donors and staff is our foremost concern. Common Hope has developed a multi-phase plan to manage our operations as risk levels progress in the US, Guatemala and for visitor travel.

What you should know at this time:

  1. Guatemala has no confirmed cases in Guatemala, or among Common Hope families, staff, and/or visitors

  2. While this is the case, the Guatemalan government yesterday mandated a 7 day quarantine for anyone arriving from Europe, and it is possible that soon the same could be done for visitors arriving from US states that have confirmed cases.

  3. As a result, Common Hope is suspending visitor travel through Semana Santa/Easter weekend of April 13th.

  4. We have been in communication with our pending travelers and will continue to do so, with the plan to reschedule their trips at a later time.

  5. As of today, Common Hope is continuing normal program operations for our students and families AND a heightened safety, cleaning, and hygiene protocol according to CDC recommendations. This is continuously being reviewed, and we will continue to adapt as the virus progresses.

  6. For those of you who have written to your sponsored students, we will translate and transport those letters as quickly as possible given travel constraints. If you want to write electronically via the website, those communications will continue to be delivered until further notice.

The US State Department raised the global travel advisory to Level 3: reconsider travel. Read it here:

We continue to monitor advisories here and in Guatemala and any restriction impacting travel to/from Guatemala will be communicated directly to those impacted.

Our hearts are with those families affected around the world. Thank you for your understanding as we continue to keep everyone’s safety and health at the forefront of our work.

Best regards, Shari


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