I spent this past September volunteering as an English teacher at Mi Escuelita, an after school program in San Pedro Las Huertas (a village south of La Antigua, Guatemala). This project began a year ago, founded by a local community member, Hector Morales, who was concerned about the high drop-out rate of students and the high level of class repetition amongst kids in his community. His mission has been to motivate students of all grade levels to continue their education, to improve their academic performance, and to become their best person.
If I did not see it with my own eyes, I would never believe how far a bit of guidance, attention and love can go with these kids. Many of them have had a track record of behavioral problems and now are transformed into best in class students after receiving help from Mi Escuelita.
Emanuel Silvestre, 11 years old, was a troubled child just a year ago. His attitude has completely turned around in and outside of school, and he is now recognized by his peers and teachers to be the most extraordinary math whiz. He and I used to play a multiplication game using five dice, and he answered faster than all his peers, and nearly faster than his teachers while responding in English and Spanish! A kid like that would not have realized his potential without the additional support, encouragement and guidance from the teachers and volunteers from this program. Hector reflected and said that,"this is perhaps the most beautiful thing and is what motivates us to continue with this project. Children have enormous potential; it's just a matter of knowing how to guide them and educate each one". And, I agree.
Before I left my volunteer placement, I sat down with Hector and pledged to him that I will raise money for his school. The immediate needs are for three construction projects and scholarships for five students.
As you can see in some of the photos on this page, the school needs a new cement floor to cover the mud puddles that come from the afternoon rain. While I was a volunteer, it rained every afternoon without fail, and the students would be covered in mud just after walking around in the classroom. The current aluminum roof is a patchwork fix. In fact, on my first day as a volunteer, it rained so hard that part of the roof collapsed, and water started pouring into the classroom and onto the students. We had to push their desks into a corner to keep them dry while they finished their homework. Finally, Hector hopes to provide a healthy meal for the kids because many of them are malnourished. He explained to me that although the children appear fed and plump, most of them subsist off of tortillas and junk food, much cheaper food options than nutritious produce and protein. This is why Hector wants to upgrade the "kitchen", which is currently a pile of cinder blocks. (see Floors, Roof, Kitchen Construction photo)
In Guatemala, the government provides public education until the 6th grade. Beyond that, the parents are expected to pay out of pocket for school uniforms and school supplies, which are often too expensive for local families. As a result, most children drop out and head to the fields to work with their parents. The five children shown in the photo: Jonathan, Wendy, Evelyn, Ana, and Andrea, are students who want to continue their education beyond the 6th grade, but cannot afford to. I am aiming to raise $100 for each of them so they can pay for application fees due at the end of October, new school uniforms, school supplies and books.
I am collaborating with Maximo Nivel, the local volunteer center that placed me at Mi Escuelita, to manage the progress and funds for these projects. Our hope is to improve the conditions of the facility so that it becomes a place conducive for learning, and a place kids will look to as their after school destination. We want to continue the mission of educating the youth and keeping them off the streets.
Thank you so much for your support!
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