Doña Catalina’s Children

In January 2016 we traveled to Bisan, a small village outside of Nebaj in the Guatemalan highlands. As members of the Guatemala Solidarity Project delegation, Laurie Levinger and Matthew Zimmerman met with local leaders to learn more about their community.

We had the opportunity to talk with several women leaders and this is how we met Doña Catalina (pictured at right):

Dona Catalina

We were inspired by Doña Catalina’s resilience and generosity in the face of overwhelming tragedy. We are starting a fund to help pay for food, clothes and school fees for the 6 children now in her care.

Here is her story:

Doña Catalina is 62 years old. During the early 1980’s when the internal armed conflict raged in the countryside, five members of Doña Catalina’s family were “disappeared” by the Guatemalan military. She herself was a victim of horrific violence.

Doña Catalina is a comadrona, a midwife , in her village. She became Ricky’s mother when he was “given” to her when she delivered him. Ricky is now an energetic 4 year old who quickly attached himself to Matt, calling him his tío (uncle).


This past September, Doña Catalina’s sister and brother-in-law died within 2 months of each other, leaving their 5 children. Doña Catalina took them in and is now their sole means of support.

The oldest child, Petrona, is 20 years old and in her 4th year of high school. She wants to be a teacher and has 2 more years left until she gets her teacher certification. Domingo is 18 years old and in his 3rd year of básico (middle school). Josefa is 16 years old and in her 1st year of básico. Tomás Emiliano (pictured below, far left) is 14 years old and in his 3rd year of primary school, and Ana (pictured below, far right) is 12 years old and in her 4th year of primary school.


Doña Catalina is a weaver as well as a midwife and mother. She came to see us at our hotel and brought some of her weavings with her, including a handwoven, embroidered huipile used for religious ceremonies.

When Laurie asked why she was selling the beautiful huipile, Doña Catalina said simply, “I need money to pay for the children to go to school”.


We could not buy this beautiful dress hand-made by this beautiful woman. We can, however, raise money to help pay for food, clothes and school fees for the 6 children she is now supporting.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to help Doña Catalina and her family, you can write a check to:

UPAVIM Community Development Foundation
c/o Laurie Levinger
28 McKenna Rd
Norwich, VT 05055

Please write “for Doña Catalina’s family” in the memo line. We will make sure that all money goes directly into an account to help the family.

Please send this request on to other people who might be interested in making a contribution.

If you have any questions, please contact Laurie at or Matthew at

Laurie Levinger
Matthew Zimmerman
Guatemala Solidarity Project

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