The Project For Hope Story
by Chris Steed
Before my wife and I relocated our family from Jacksonville, Florida, to the rural farming community of Magdalena Milpas Altas, we led a fairly normal life. I had spent the past fifteen years working in sales and management. Holly cared for our three boys and ran a home-based business.
In 2008, I participated in a leadership team that oversaw the formation of the 12x12 Love Project, Inc.—a 501(c)(3) non-profit housing ministry that assists families living in abject poverty in Magdalena Milpas Altas and the surrounding villages. Our hearts were immediately pulled to Guatemala as we sensed a greater purpose for our lives.
We have since assumed daily operations of the 12x12 Love Project, and in the past three years have overseen construction of more than 100 homes. During this time, we observed the plight of widows and single mothers in the community and identified key themes that keep these families in a generational cycle of poverty. Lack of education leads to lack of employability. And fatherless families are at particular risk as they lack resources for education and healthcare.
Over the years, friends have visited and noticed the lack of basic necessities many of these families face. Our visitors have been very generous and often have provided food baskets to families in need. The families were very grateful to receive such gifts, but once the visitors return to the states, it’s only a few weeks before these families were hungry again. It became obvious that there is a need for something sustainable.
At the end of the day, these widows and single mothers need work to become self-sufficient. As we looked deeper at the issue, we found that lack of a basic education was only part of the problem. The little work available in the area requires long hours and does not pay a fair, livable wage. For instance, we know of widows who leave their home at 5 a.m. to catch a truck to work and don’t return until 9 p.m. This causes children to care for other children for long periods of time. It keeps children out of school. It forces moms to look for small jobs such as laundry or sweeping the street to buy only enough food to survive.
The Land of Eternal Spring
This is where God put an exciting vision in our hearts: A ministry for fatherless families that could assist with employment, healthcare and education while investing in the lives of children. These boys need Godly examples of men. These girls need to know the love of a father. So we began investigating how to employ widows and single mothers to help them break the cycle of poverty.
Agriculture is in the blood of Guatemalans. Climate and rich soil make this country an ideal place for cultivation of many varieties of fruits and vegetables. In fact, the country is referred to as The Land of Eternal Spring! We’ve visited many farming operations and have found that cultivation of tomatoes and peppers in a greenhouse environment meets all of our criteria for this project:
1. Pays the daily wage and benefits required by law in Guatemala
2. Provides work that can be performed by single moms and widows
3. Provides work that can be performed in a regular 8-hour work day
4. Provides a work site close to home that does not require significant time or cost to commute
5. Ultimately becomes a self-sustaining project without the need of donations to survive long-term
The Steed Family
Chris and Holly Steed have 5 children; Jack, Jon, Jed, Angela and Kendy. In January 2011 we left our home in Jacksonville, Florida to serve as missionaries to the people of Magdalena Milpas Altas in Guatemala. We first visited Magdalena in 2009 and felt a pull to give ourselves to serving our neighbors and sharing the hope of Christ. Visit our website here to learn more about our family.