Guatemalan women, especially those who are indigenous, have long dealt with pervasive domestic and sexual violence. But historically they haven't been able to bring about cultural change, says Brian Thompson-Royer.
Brian and his wife, Sandi, have been working in Guatemala with the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala since 2014 to help women protect themselves and their children.
"When women suffer the entire family is at risk," Brian says.
The couple will speak about their years of experience in Guatemala and the plight of many people living in the region on Thursday, March 7, at Gates Presbyterian Church, 1049 Wegman Road. The event starts at 6 p.m.
Men have controlled the Guatemalan Presbyterian church for years, and they've been dismissive of women's concerns, Sandi says. She began working with women in the church to develop their leadership and communication skills so they could return to their communities and educate people about the need to stop violence against women.
The couple also worked with Guatemalans on developing fresh water sources and they've helped set up micro-loan programs that help women develop their own small businesses.
Guatemala's struggles are enormous. The country endured a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996. Land ownership is concentrated among a small group of powerful families and businesses. And the government spends little on education, Brian says.
And people flee the country because they fear ongoing violence, he says.
"It's a messy history, and most of us could not know the kind of stress and anxiety they live under," Sandi says.