Guatemala (MNN) — In Guatemala, every four days a child is abandoned, and every week 10 children are violently killed in streets.
Street kids are vulnerable. Many suffer from drug addiction, hunger, lack of medical care, depression, suicidal desires, post-traumatic stress syndrome, mental illnesses, and abuse. It's for that reason that At Risk No More exists.
Their teams work to form relationships with street kids by providing a community filled with unconditional love and forgiveness. The ministry is centered on rescue, refuge, and release-based care. But there are thousands of children who need help.
At the other end of the spectrum is AMG International. Their Guatemala team works with thousands of kids, says AMG Guatemala's national director, Chad Smith. "We serve about 8000 children that live in very impoverished slum-like communities in the cities as well as in the rural areas…kids that are just chronically malnourished."
What's the difference? Experience and resources. Smith describes AMG's strengths. "The 36-year [history] –and the infrastructure and financial accountability that AMG offers working with at-risk kids in Guatemala–is a huge strength, along with our church connections. We partner with over 20 churches. We see that as an ability to offer both infrastructure and organization."
However, the staff could see they weren't reaching some of the kids who most needed their help. That's where At Risk No More came in. Smith explains, "AMG has been specifically focusing on just our population of at-risk kids. We haven't identified the street children. We haven‘t been able to develop a very robust program going out into the community and connecting with the churches."
The two ministries could see how working together would help both of them, which led to merger talks, says Smith. "The street child focus that At Risk No More has, and then as we focus in the communities where we're already at, using their strengths to identify street kids that aren't in schools, kids that are being exploited and abused, bringing them into our network of schools and programs."
That finally came into being this month, when At Risk No More and AMG International officially became part of AMG International's ministry in Guatemala.
AMG International operates in 40 countries, is EFCA-approved with proven financial excellence, and is dedicated to making disciples. AMG is a results-based ministry strategically planning, monitoring, evaluating, and learning from their work. With their focus on developing national leaders (currently over 550 in Guatemala), the two groups believe this will only strengthen their current initiatives in communities where they work.
Actually, says Smith, the idea is to work themselves out of a job. "Our long-term vision is that AMG wouldn't have to exist because the church would step up to its role in offering relationships to these children, showing them a way out of this brokenness that they have right now. "
AMG also brings 28 Christian schools, a hospital, medical & dental clinics, scholarship programs, and vocational preparation to the mix. At Risk No More's personnel bring their passion and experience serving the forgotten children of Guatemala. It's a model that can be replicated elsewhere, too. "Our vision for At Risk No More would be to eventually take this worldwide," Smith notes. "There are so many countries and so many children that are at risk. So as we develop this program, we see a day when we can bring restoration to many children and bring the hope of Jesus Christ."
If you want more details and links on AMG's work in Guatemala, check our Featured Links Section.