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 | Julianne Connell Sachs

Family-to-Family develops property at Xeul

Connecting folks living in extreme poverty with opportunity—that’s what Family-to-Family (FTF), a nonprofit economic development program founded by Jerry and Clara Monks and initially guided by Sr. Barbara Ford (SCNY), has been doing in the Guatemalan Highlands for 37 years. Various dimensions of the program manifested themselves on New Year’s Day, 2022, as 534 visitors (not including those under age five) gathered at the bustling FTF recreational center of Xeul near Old Ixtahuacan.

FTF participants, past and present, were invited to sell their wares in an open market along side program-produced products such as coffee and trout. Xeul is home to six trout tanks, a pig pen, a chicken coop, gardens, and a plant nursery. Raising livestock, composting, and reforestation are skills some families learn during their three years in the FTF program. Other program participants may attend sewing, weaving, embroidery, or cooking courses. At any given time, there are between 100 and 120 families working to become self-sufficient by accessing skills-training resources through FTF. 

Envisioned and developed over the past five years by regional manager Adela Tambriz, Xeul offers a beautiful and safe community gathering space for cultural, religious, work, and social activities. Shaded picnic areas, green spaces, terraces and walkways provided ample area for families celebrating the New Year to relax while the playground, exercise equipment, soccer field and swimming pool (previously a fish tank) encouraged physical activity. FTF consistently promotes good health and nutrition by offering gardening courses, providing starts for vegetables and fruit trees from its nurseries, advancing food security, teaching health and hygiene, and improving safety and sanitation.

There are two houses on site at Xeul, one where workers (FTF participants) stay during their two-day shifts and another for visitors. Housing construction has been a major element of FTF, as each participating family builds a new home or improves their existing home. Often families begin the program in a house made of sheet metal or boards with a dirt floor on which they cook without safe exit for smoke. As families take part in program courses, they receive building supplies such as concrete blocks, rebar, a stove with an exhaust pipe, a latrine and a sink, thus significantly improving their living conditions.

FTF’s work to empower individuals and communities is partially funded by the program itself as product sales and park entrance fees are reinvested in opportunity. Once Adopt-a-Family through St. Thomas More of Spokane, Family-to-Family now runs parallel to the Guatemala mission of the Spokane Diocese and relies on sponsors to continue its work. If you are interested in assisting a family in their efforts to gain income-producing skills, you would like to help improve living conditions for someone whose basic needs are not met, or you hope to invest in community projects that promote environmental and economic sustainability, please contact us at To learn more about our work, you may also visit our website

Fish tank converted to swimming pool at Xeul.


Construction of visitor house at Xeul.