Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Guatemala Education Project

After living here a little while and thinking in terms of what makes a "long term impact" in helping to break the cycle of poverty, we believe education is one of the keys.  If a child can go to school, learn to read and write, and further his/her education by learning specific skills and a trade, their chances of getting a job that pays a good wage greatly increases.  If having a job that can support a person or a family - a house, food, medicine, clothes, schooling, etc.,  then the chances of that person/family living in poverty greatly decreases.  We know countless single moms who can't read or write and countless people who have never gone past the 6th grade, some of those can't read and write either.  How do they support themselves and their families?  They have jobs that pay minimum wage working in fields and tiendas but they struggle and therefore live in extreme poverty.  We've asked ourselves, what can we do and the most logical answer would be to give those people a better job.  But what is necessary for a better job?  An education.  

Here in Guatemala, primaria (elementary school) is free for students to attend. However, students may only attend if they can provide the required supplies and uniforms. The cost of those things is approximately $90 US Dollars. That amount of money is as much as one family might earn in one month here. Many families make much less money than that. Multiply that by 2 or 3 or 4 schoolchildren in a family and it is easy to see why so many kids do not get the most basic education. 

Last month we started an education project that we are VERY excited about. We know so many kids and families here in Magdalena who can't always afford food and who often have their kids work to help support the family. We help these families as much as we can, but now we are helping the kids specifically. We have been working with some folks at Journey Church in Jacksonville to get these kids' school expenses sponsored, giving them an opportunity for an education. It has only been a couple of weeks, but people in the States have already poured so much love and support on these kids! We are thrilled and we are basking in God's goodness.  

Unfortunately it seems we have hit a little bit of a bump.  Getting an education is a challenge but for a couple little guys we know, the challenge is greater.

Meet Kevin and Selvin......

 Kevin 11 and is in 2nd grade. Most 2nd graders are about 7 years old. Kevin isn't like most 2nd graders, though. He dropped out of school this year because he can't read. Last week we took him to a tutor. She said he was "slow" and needs a lot of help - extra time doing assignments, more explanations, help with reading, etc. She recommended he go to a smaller school that could give him more attention. The only problem is that there is no smaller public school. There is no help for him at public school. The only schooling option he has right now is private school. 

Selvin is 7 and is going to be in 1st grade. He has never been to school before. We just saw Selvin and his family last week, all dressed up. They were headed to enroll Selvin in a small, private school in a nearby town because he is "especial". We had no idea Selvin was in need of a special education! What we do know is his family was going there because they heard it was free and it seemed like their only option for an education for their son. But, the school they were going to visit is only free for students who live in that area, which would not include Selvin. 

Both of these families are poor, poor and barely have food to eat and sometimes, even as I'm writing this, not even that. I have given both families food this week. Private school is not an option or even a possibility for these families. 

But I really can't accept that school is over for Kevin and that Selvin will never start. Both of these boys just got a pass to go work in the fields for the rest of their lives and are destined for a life in poverty.  However, God put our family here for many reasons and these boys are two of them.  

There is a small, private school here that's great (affiliated with a group in the US) and takes all kids. ALL kids! This is really the only option that Kevin and Selvin have, but the tuition is around $30/month per child plus supplies and uniforms. After they have been in the school for 6 months, students are put on a waiting list to be sponsored by people in the US. Even after they are sponsored their families are still responsible for 1/2 the tuition- $15/month. It is my understanding that once they are in the school and they get sponsored through the organization, they are set for however long they stay in school, even through basico (middle school). But right now we are just praying that God would make a way for them to be enrolled at the school. We are trusting that He will work out the details. The tuition would be $300 for this year for each boy. School starts in January.

I know it's a lot but it's not too much for God. 

Selvin's family

Kevin's family