Engaging Leaders: The Smitty’s Families Initiative

About a year ago, CMT met Mr. Bob Smith, a North American who’s been living in Guatemala for more than 10 years. Mr. Smith came to live to Guatemala by himself after his retirement from working in an oil company in Alaska. As many other people, Mr. Smith wanted to help and serve Guatemalans so they find and develop better and sustainable ways for living.

In order to accomplish that goal, Mr. Smith got the support and participation of his long time school friends –who they konw each other for more than 65 years– by creating what they call “The Smitty’s Charitable Fund”. Basically, the “Smitty’s” friends raise financial support every month to help in education, health and small businesses a group of 12 families who live in the community of Santa Catarina Pinula. Mr. Bob or “Papa Bob” as these families use to call him, is turning 84 this year, and his health has deteriorated lately. He’s almost blind, although his mind reminds his early days growing in Chicago playing baseball and hunting rabbits. He can name all his friends by name, and tell stories about them. Beautiful, simply beautiful!

We got to meet with Mr. Bob through our accountant who was contacted by the representatives of the “Smitty’s Fund” from the States. We got into conversations of how CMT Guatemala could serve them in order to walk alongside Mr. Smith and continue doing the charity in a short term basis making sure that the families get what they need, but also they become fully responsible of their own future since this support has been happening since early 2000’s. We accepted the challenge, and the commitment was to work  collaboration with a local partner who will be operating the support. It so happens that this local partner already knows many of the families that have been supported by the “Smitty’s Fund”.

Mr. Smith delivering school supplies for one of the families.

A year has gone since we decided to work together. Our relationship is closer now. Although, we have deep concerns on how to continue supporting and empowering at the same time. Sometimes, we even question ourselves about the very reason that move us to do this kind of work. We’ve had hard conversations: not all the time we are satisfied with the way things go, but we have an open communication and we trust each other. This year we have decided together on how to healthy invest for the families to be dignified so they can also let us know what is it they want, and how we can best serve them for a short period of time. We are both learning to plan, implement and evaluate in different cultures. Challenging, very challenging!

Today, we thank each one who has participated in making possible the engagement of leaders of faith and good will. Thank you for your ongoing prayers; we feel them. Thank you for entrusting us with the funds we receive and we transfer to many organizations who are doing a marvelous work in the city; we celebrate with them. Thank you for challenging us to build our organizational capacity; we learn from that. Keep doing so!



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