Project Genesis, Help Build a School!
Project Genesis is a school program situated in a small village called San Andres Itzapa, outside of La Antigua, Guatemala. The project was established in 2012 by a local man from Antigua in his 30's named Ricardo Armas. Ricardo decided to start the project after visiting the village of San Andres Itzapa, a rural community about an hour outside of Antigua. Arriving without any intention of anything more than a short visit, Ricardo left with a strong desire to help this community. He saw children without the opportunity to receive an education, and the long term effects that was causing on these families living in the cycle of poverty.
Ricardo has made many sacrifices to fulfill his dream of ultimately building a school for the children of this region to help them grow out of poverty. Ricardo had to leave his job after an ultimatum from his boss. He was told that working with the poor meant bad luck for him, his job and therefore his boss as well. Ricardo chose to help the children, and he is now working for his father's business, for just a fraction of what he could've earned at his earlier job in order to fulfill his dream of building this school.
Project Genesis consists of teaching, nutrition, and recess every afternoon from 2-5 pm Monday-Friday for the local children. Ricardo has helped coordinate the help of volunteers from all over the world through connections with various volunteer programs. Ricardo personally drives his beat up Chevy to the village every day to pick up kids to make sure they safely make it to school. Other kids walk or find other means of transportation. For some, the project provides the only education they receive. Currently, the project is hosted by a local woman, who donates part of her property every afternoon to provide a space for these children. In the first couple years since the program's inception, it has been a huge success attracting over 70 kids from the region.
Ricardo's dream is to establish a school in the village, and his program is close to being approved as an NGO. This approval would turn his project into an official organization recognized by the government that would help him receive some funding as well as private sponsors to move forward. Ricardo wants to build a school that is self sustainable, grows food, and supports a small computer lab. In fact, he already has the computers all that is left is to build this sustainable school! It is a dream of mine to help Ricardo with the building of this school. Building this school would not just fulfill dreams, but it would change the lives and future of an entire village.
Any donation is a huge donation! I am simply asking that you please just participate! Even $1 would be greatly appreciated! Muchas Gracias!
If you care to learn more about Project Genesis, read about my story below. You can also learn more by following this link, Project Genesis!
This past summer I had the privilege of teaching at a rural school program outside of Antigua, Guatemala in a small village called San Andres Itzapa. It was a dream of mine to give back to people who have very little in hopes to help make their lives better. Volunteering in my local community just didn't seem like enough. I wanted to really reach out and help people in a different part of the world. In my search, I found Guatemala. Guatemala is a beautiful country with a rich Mayan culture, but in some regions extremely poor. I wanted to help enrich these peoples lives. I met some wonderful and happy people who helped enrich my life, and I hope I left an impact on theirs. This is a summary of one day on my journey.
A Guatemalan man, Ricardo, after seeing this poor community decided he wanted to make a difference in the future of the children of this region. He decided to start this English program to help give the kids of this community a better opportunity and future in life. Knowing English is a valuable skill in Guatemala as tourism is a big part of their economy. Ricardo personally drives his beat up pick-up truck 5 days a week to pick up kids to take to the after school program he started as it is not always safe for them to walk there. It is a 45 minute drive from Antigua to this village, where we pick up the kids. On more than one occasion Ricardo's pick-up broke down, and with a smiling face he would say, "Uno momento por favor!" as he would take off running down the street of dizzying traffic. He always managed to fix the truck problems to get us to the school. When we reached the outskirts of the village kids would begin to pile in. One day, we piled in 14 young smiling faces along with 3 adults. Yes, 17 bodies in the back of his ancient Chevy! When we arrive at the school, kids spill out the back of the Chevy to join their eagerly awaiting friends who have walked to school.
We gather the teaching supplies for the day, and pile into a tiny room without electricity to teach for several hours. With 20+ kids on a given day we split into two groups, elementary level in one group, and middle/high school in another to conduct the day's lessons. It's incredible how eager they are to learn, and how proud they feel of their accomplishments. I am not a teacher so I can't relate to this experience very much, but to see their faces light up to answer a question is priceless. To see their progress day to day is very exciting. I'm sure teachers anywhere can relate. We would give our days lessons and practice what we taught, often times playing games that became very competitive. I've never heard the names of fruits and vegetables screamed so loudly and quickly before! One of the favorites among the kids was Pictionary. They loved to draw pictures of their English words for their fellow classmates to guess. There was often playful banter at pictures that looked funny or at first misunderstood. I couldn't always understand what they were saying, but the laughter and fun was contagious.
Towards the end of our teaching session the kids would grow rambunctious as the anticipation of one of their favorite games drew near, Futbol! After all, what kid doesn't want to play outside! On a slanted dusty field, a soccer frenzy ensues among all ages 6-16. The goals are bamboo posts, a house on one side of the field prevents an area of out of bounds, and the emotions run high! I loved to play soccer with the kids every day, and Ricardo would join in the fun as well. Not everyone played soccer as other kids played various games, drew with chalk, or sat and talked.
After recess, it was snack time. Kids in this community did not always receive the best nutrition so a concoction of something like corn porridge with protein was provided. I will admit I did not try this drink as I never wanted to take any from the kids so I don't know what it tasted like, but they seemed to enjoy it! They are also taught to brush their teeth on a daily basis and take their vitamins. At the school, they have their own tooth brush as well as tooth paste and vitamins that are provided.
At the end of the week, we decided to throw a little party during recess. We bought a Winnie the Pooh PiÃ±ata, or "Winnie Pooh" as the kids called it. We stuffed it full of candy. The kids encircled Winnie Pooh, and it didn't take many little ones big swings until Pooh's belly exploded with candy. It was madness for about 15 seconds and I swear you could not find a single piece of candy left on the ground. The kids brought us thank you cards, and hugged us goodbye. It was priceless. To anyone who has ambitions of volunteering abroad, go for it. It will change your life. I will forever have a smile on my face when I think of my Guatemalan friends, and they will always be in my prayers!