What we do
Cultiva’s mission is to eradicate poverty; internal and external poverty. It’s a big mission, but we started small. We tried and failed, listened and evolved, and finally discovered some real solutions for those ready to change their life.
We teach families in Guatemala how to improve their family’s nutrition and lift themselves out of poverty. We help families in Guatemala find hope for a better life. We don’t do hand-outs. Some people think we are a bit mean, but we don’t handout anything. Period. Handouts don’t help, not in the long term. They just foster dependence and that leads to more hopelessness. We don’t do that.
We mentor families and foster independence so that people can help themselves. When they realize they can help themselves, that changes everything.
We’ve seen that happen over and over again in Guatemala.
The face of this change is Juan Cosigua.
Juan Cosigua was the very first employee of Cultiva International.
Today he is the most popular man in the highlands of Guatemala. As Cultiva’s field director, Juan has been responsible for installing more than 2,000 garden boxes with local families, thousands of training hours at two different training centers, and thousands more hours of mentoring and home visits.
Juan doesn’t offer a hand-out but he does offer a hand-up — and it’s a hand offered as someone who knows what it’s like to struggle.
Juan’s story is amazing. More on that in a minute. But when Juan was asked, after years of living in poverty, how it felt to have some abundance in his life, Juan replied, “I fight with my wife less.”
If you are thinking in terms of external poverty, you probably think about how nice it would be to have enough food for your family. After years of struggle, that would be amazing, right?
But Juan doesn’t mention that. He makes a reference to internal poverty. He has margin in his life now. They aren’t so stressed and at their end mentally and psychologically that they are impatient with one another.
He has food in his belly and hope in his heart.
Food makes him a better person. A better husband, a better father.
You can read more about Juan’s below.
The problem is you can’t go up to someone and give them hope. It has to be cultivated in them. It comes from seeing their situation in a new way. Changing their perspective, changing their view of their own self-worth. This comes through relationship.
The relationships we build with the local Mayans are the foundation of Cultiva, helping us to understand their real needs. By living in Guatemala and working alongside them as their friends and neighbors, we’re provided an intimate look at their culture, language, and day-to-day lives.
The more we listen and learn about their culture and values, the better we understand their needs and how we can truly help empower them with the hope, confidence, and skills to help themselves.
With that in mind, we’ve developed our proven approach. We call it The Cultiva Way.
Hands-on classes teach families the seed-to-plate concept and self-sustainable skills.
Completing classes earns them their own garden box that they help install and plant together with volunteers.
Monthly visits are made to each home to answer questions and provide ongoing education. Lives are not changed by people swooping in as saviors. Lives are changed in relationship. We provide ongoing mentoring and support.
We also hire and send out native Guatemalans to do the mentoring. These people used to be in their situation. They know the culture, the challenges, and the unique ways to reach out to those in the most need.
Once they’ve finished, families can repeat the same class or participate in other classes, like composting, to earn additional boxes or other projects. Either way, the support keeps coming!
By replacing dependency with independence and by showing instead of doing, we promote a real cycle for change—we address the cause, not the symptom.
In 2013, co-founders Greg and Lucy Jensen moved their family to Guatemala to pursue a simpler lifestyle. Seeing a country in need, they couldn’t help wanting to give back to a people they had fallen in love with.
However, many of the nonprofits in the area provided temporary relief without creating sustainable change—something Greg and Lucy felt strongly about.
With their friends the Dennings, they moved to the “Homestead,” where they began teaching self-sustainable skills to the neediest families in the area.
The response from the community was incredible. Seeing firsthand the change in people that teaching self-sustaining skills brought fueled an even stronger desire to empower as many people as possible. In three short years, we’ve worked hard to develop and refine a sustainable model that works.
Cultiva has evolved over the years and will continue to evolve, but our core philosophy will remain the same—help without hurting.
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