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Love from Canada is felt in Guatemala

Ambassador Rita Rudaitis-Renaud

As daylight broke in downtown Guatemala City on July 1, the #CanadaTeam was already hard at work hand-in-hand with Guatemalan volunteers in preparation of the Canada Day celebration.

Ambassador Rita Rudaitis-Renaud handing out maple-leaf cookies.Ambassador Rita Rudaitis-Renaud handing out maple-leaf cookies.

The idea was to do something different to mark Canada Day in Guatemala under the COVID-19 crisis, an event in which Canada would be able to show its solidarity to the Guatemalan people, especially those most affected by the current situation.

As in previous years, the event included a meal with a Canadian flavour. This year’s menu had pancakes, maple syrup, sausages, eggs, and of course, as every Guatemalan can tell you, it HAD to include black beans. This particular Canadian breakfast was prepared by a group of young Guatemalan volunteers at a local restaurant called Rayuela. Since the closure of businesses due to the health crisis, this restaurant has used its kitchen to prepare free meals for hundreds of people in need in the downtown area of Guatemala City. Many of these people have lost their sources of income due to the economic recession brought on by the COVID-19 confinement. The small team of volunteers included some special guests wearing maple leaf vests, who helped pack and distribute 500 Canadian breakfasts in take-out boxes. These were then taken to the main square in front of the presidential palace. There, some of the Rayuela volunteers organized people in lines, with priority lines for women, children, handicapped and elderly, and a separate line for males, keeping physical distancing and providing hand sanitizer. The other group of volunteers helped to set up the tables with the lunch-boxes and stools where each box was picked up individually to avoid direct contact.

Political Counsellor Mateo Barney helps prepare the Canadian breakfast boxes.
Political Counsellor Mateo Barney helps prepare the Canadian breakfast boxes.

COVID-19 has increased food insecurity in Guatemala

Even before COVID-19 affected Guatemala, 46% of the population already lived in precarious conditions and did not have reliable access to nutritious food, with 3 out of 5 children suffering from chronic malnutrition. When the Government of Guatemala put in place strict confinement measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, many Guatemalan families lost their sources of income and they continue to struggle as the economy has slowed down. Nowadays, it is hard to drive down the road for more than a few blocks without finding a young mother holding her children and a white flag, which is a call for help symbolizing that she has no food to feed her family.

Many mothers and children stood in line, respecting mandatory social distancing recommendations, in Guatemala’s iconic Central Square, with the National Palace of Government, the Cathedral and the Guatemalan flag as backdrop. Ambassador Rita Rudaitis-Renaud and Political Counsellor Mateo Barney handed the lunch boxes, as well as maple-shaped cookies and maple lollipops to the children.

Physical distanced line-up at Guatemala City’s Central Square
Physical distanced line-up at Guatemala City’s Central Square

Sharing Love from Canada

This year’s Canada Day event filled our hearts with joy… and reaped numerous messages of gratitude, respect and love for Canada from government officials, fellow diplomats, non-government organizations (NGO) representatives, human rights defenders, private sector and the general public. Canada’s gesture was prominently featured by printed and online media; the Canadian Ambassador even made the front page of one of Guatemala’s main newspapers. The mission received messages from Canadians in Guatemala who told us they had felt pride of how their country had marked its day.

Child looks expectantly as Ambassador Rudaitis-Renaud hands a maple lollipop to his mother.Child looks expectantly as Ambassador Rudaitis-Renaud hands a maple lollipop to his mother.
Indigenous women and men were part of the Love from Canada celebration.

Truly… on this special commemoration of Canada Day, we could feel the “Love from Canada”.

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