Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Family-To-Family: 30 years of pairing families in the United States and Guatemala

by Lisa Sharkey, for the Inland Register

(From the February 19, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

Weaving is one of the skills taught in Family-To-Family’s classrooms in Guatemala. The skills help families improve their economic circumstances, providing much-needed income. (IR photo courtesy of the Guatemala Commission)

Family-To-Family (FTF) is an outreach program of Spokane’s St. Thomas More Parish, designed to aid in the economic development of the indigenous native people in the highlands of Guatemala. FTF operates within the non-profit framework of the Diocese of Spokane’s mission support to the Mayan Indians of Guatemala.

FTF began in the mid-1980s at a time when children were being brought from third-world countries to Spokane for medical care by the Healing the Children organization. The children stayed with foster families. When foster parents Jerry and Clara Monks returned a little girl to Guatemala, they witnessed the poverty in which she was raised. These foster parents founded Family-To-Family, in 1985, to provide immediate help of food and medicine to the needy families, as well as longer term training assistance by helping them learn some income-producing skills.

The FTF program has a staff in Guatemala who identifies the neediest families, explores their commitment to improving their lives, and designs a program to help them on their way to self-sufficiency. A U.S. sponsor assists a specific family by sending $40/month for up to three years. Sponsors receive a family history, photo, and periodic reports on the family’s progress. The sponsored native family initially uses half of the money for supplies and training available in one or more of FTF’s classes – weaving, sewing, embroidery, baking, carpentry, and raising animals or crops. The rest of the money is typically saved until they can afford a major purchase – house, latrine, stove, cow, hand loom, and so forth. Approximately 970 families have completed this three-year program since FTF began.

Roger and Miriam Devaney, the new directors of the FTF program, traveled to Guatemala last fall with Jerry and Clara Monks, the founding directors, and Ron and Donna Connell, of the Guatemala Commission. They completed a week- long tour of the various project sites sponsored by FTF and were met by dozens of families from the program who wanted to express their heartfelt gratitude to their U.S. sponsor families. Some had walked up to three hours to be there. The stories of these families brought the visitors to tears.

One of the program sites visited last fall involved coffee production, a fair-trade operation that includes picking, sorting, and drying of coffee beans before they are carried out of the mountains so that they can be taken into the city to be roasted. The “Cafe de Adela” is then sold to restaurants along the Pan American Highway in Guatemala.

Another important project sponsored by FTF is the reforestation program. It has received considerable national and international recognition and is cited as a model program. It was begun about 15 years ago and now provides fruit and other trees for sale as well as employment and training for forest managers. The forests also yield firewood for native families and lumber for construction. The trees have also helped in an environmental way to stabilize the soil in mud-slide vulnerable areas and to retain groundwater on formerly barren land.

Because of the one-on-one nature of the Family Sponsorship Program, FTF is only able to accept a certain number of sponsors. For information about sponsoring a family or making a donation, call Miriam (509) 466-0740 or visit the FTF website at:

All donations are tax-deductible.

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