In rural agricultural based communities it is common for everyone in the family who can work to help support the family, especially in the past generation, which means kids often work instead of going to school. Augusto went to school through 2nd grade and Juana didn't go to school at all. (Her family has six kids and the parents could only afford for 2 of the boys to go through 6th grade.) Augusto had the opportunity to learn how to read when he was an adult, through classes provided by an NGO that was working in town. Juana started literacy classes through a government program that required mothers to take literacy in order to receive food rations, but a few weeks into the class it was cancelled because the government wasn't paying the teacher. I worked with her in the last few weeks I was in town, and she learned the alphabet and is able to sound words out. She is so eager to learn and is frustrated that she can't help her children with school work.
Despite being one of the poorest families in town (they make $100 during a good month), they still prioritize education for their children. Three years ago when Abner, the oldest son, was going to start 6th grade, he knew his family needed money and that he could be working instead. He told his parents that he would quit school so he could work in the coffee fields. They responded by telling him that even if they weren't able to eat some days, he would still go to school. For a lot of people having an elementary school diploma is almost equal to having a university degree in the states. It's a huge accomplishment. Even though for most people completing 6th grade is considered that you have "finished" school, Abner always told his parents he wanted to study more. This worried them because they knew they didn't have the money to help him do so.
6th grade is the highest level of education offered in free public school in many rural communities. After helping the Gomez family search for local scholarships that would allow Abner to enroll in 7th grade, and coming up dry, I decided to find another way to cover the costs. With the help of a few family members, we paid for Abner's school tuition and school supplies for the past two years. He is one of the most gracious, thankful and eager to learn 15 year olds I have ever met.
This year Abner will start 9th grade, and Idalia, the oldest daughter, will start 7th grade. It is my goal to raise enough money to continue supporting both of their educations. Looking into the future, with 5 more little siblings following in the footsteps of Abner and Idalia, I realize the cost will only continue to increase, which is why I need your help! All money raised will go directly to the payment of school fees and the purchase of school supplies and uniforms. For an average month $100 will cover the cost of tuition, and supplies for classes and projects for both Idalia and Abner. Any money raised past what will be needed to cover expenses this year, will be used for years to come.
If you would like to read more about this amazing family, please follow these links to blogs featuring the Gomez family during my Peace Corps Service:
Where there is a will... -
To Give & Receive -
Something Worth Remembering - https://triciapc.shutterfly.com/708
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