Guatemala Program Update

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Dear Friends and Supporters of Progresa,

Several of you have expressed your concern about the coronavirus crisis in Guatemala and have asked about what is happening here with our students. I want to thank everyone for your interest and love for our country and our students. In appreciation of your concern I want to share this brief report.

The first confirmed case of coronavirus in Guatemala was detected on Friday, March 13. As of March 20th, twelve cases have been confirmed, and one death. Due to these situations, the President of the Republic has decreed a series of drastic measures to prevent the massive spread of the virus, the most important of which is the closure of all borders -- air, land and sea -- to foreign visitors except diplomats and other special cases. Guatemalans who were traveling may re-enter the country, but all must go into automatic quarantine. In addition, he mandated: the suspension of all public transport systems within the entire country; the prohibition of any public meeting or event of all kinds; and, the closure of all businesses and organizations that do not

provide basic services such as food, medicine, gas stations, electricity, telephone. All organizations and companies were asked to allow their employees to work from home when possible. These measures will be in force for two weeks; at the end of this time their possible extension will be evaluated.

Furthermore, all classes in universities and schools of all levels have been suspended. All schools have been asked to find ways to continue the educational process without requiring students to personally attend classes. The general population has been asked to stay home and go out only for essential activities. All these provisions were decreed on Monday, March 16.

Progresa has closely followed the development of this pandemic before it came to our country. We were planning actions. Thus, since Friday the 13th, when the first confirmed case was announced, we have implemented the following actions to protect our students and employees:

1.     We suspended all face-to-face activities with our students. Monthly interviews will continue -- but by phone and other digital media.

2.     We will reschedule our annual conference, originally planned for the end of April. As most of you know, this is the one time each year when all of our students meet together, and is very important to the program. Even though everything was planned and in order, we have decided to postpone it until November or December.

3.     We will implement virtual meetings from time to time with our students to provide support in various ways and to foster a sense of community. For example, on Saturday, March 21, we will have a videoconference in which a doctor, a former student of the program, will talk about the coronavirus issue and answer questions and doubts that students may have. In April, we are planning another video conference with a topic that will help the mental and emotional health of our students.

4.     Our employees will work from home, except Jaime, who lives just two blocks from the office; he will be the only one present in the office to attend any situation there. The other employees will maintain permanent contact via digital means.

5.     A video conference was held last Monday, March 16, to communicate all this to our students; they were also advised to abide by all official regulations. In addition, they were encouraged to inform themselves adequately about the situation and to take a leadership role in their families and communities. Many of them will be able to calm people and help them take the necessary measures to get out of this crisis soon.

6.     Progresa will closely follow all that is established by the government and health authorities and will keep students constantly informed about such provisions.

7.     In the monthly interviews this month, we are paying special attention to the situation in each student’s community and family. We will inform them that they can count on us in case additional support is necessary.

Our greatest wish is that our country can overcome this situation soon, and we will do everything in our power to support our fellow citizens. We also want each of you, our donors and friends, to be well. We hope that this pandemic does not affect any of you or your loved ones.

from Miguel Costop, Progresa Director (March 2020)

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