When we took our year off to travel around the world, there was no question in my mind that our children would learn more being out of school than in. So what ever made me think it would be any different for me? Here I am in Antigua, Guatemala to study Spanish, but it’s the day I played hooky from school that I learned the most!
As a guest of Penny Rambacher, Founder and President of Miracles in Action, I attended the inauguration of a new school in San Martin Jilotepeque, 61 kms. from Antigua. Before you begin to imagine what this new school looks like, it’s a good idea to understand that while this pueblo is only 61 kms. from Antigua, it took almost 2 1/2 hours to get there, only half of which was on paved roads. It’s also important to get a glimpse of the old school.Here, at the old school, there was just this one room which serviced 48 students from first through sixth grade. There were only dried corn stalks for walls and a roof which does nothing to keep out the rain. There was only a dirt floor which turns to mud in the rainy season and only a few benches for the kids to sit on. There was no money for school supplies i.e. pencils, pens and paper. Through the generosity of Miracles in Action, a 501(c)(3) charity, the pueblo now has a school that looks like this.
We were greeted by the entire community lined up to welcome our entourage. A path of pine needles was layed out for us, the Mayan version of a red carpet. The Maya are a shy people but they welcomed each and every one of us with smiles and interest.
The majority of the community does not know how to read or write and many speak only their local language, Kaqchikel. The one thing that was perfectly clear, however, regardless of translators, was that these people were overwhelmingly grateful and thankful for their new school and the opportunities it will bring to their children and their community. Without this school, the future of these children is continued poverty and a life of hard labor.
Miracles in Action has built a total of 37 schools in the rural pueblos of Guatemala over the course of 7 years. Thanks to the generosity of many people, Maya in Guatemala are being given a chance to move their lives out of the poverty they have been born into. While Building schools may have been Miracles in Action’s original intention, it didn’t take long to realize that a school with a teacher was only one small step in helping these people. The tasks to provide school supplies, teacher resources, clean water, sanitary latrines and fuel efficient wood burning stoves quickly became part of their agenda. Miracles has also taken it upon themselves to provide fair markets for some of the handicrafts produced by the women of these villages. All of this is a daunting task which Penny pursues with patience and grace.
This particular school was possible through a generous donation by Paula Latshaw in memory of Nadine Alexander, a school teacher of over 50 years. Paula’s family joined her on this special day to rejoice in the occasion. I had the honor of “tagging along” to witness the festivities and to help distribute school supplies to the students of the new school. Each student received a new backpack, pencils, pens, crayons, a toothbrush and a toy; the first ever for most of these children. While I can’t be sure, I would venture to guess that many of those children went to bed with those backpacks as clearly it was now their most prized possession.
Many people look at the woes of the world with sadness but hopelessness. They feel there is nothing they can do to change things. Fortunately, Penny never took on that attitude. She is clearly making a difference in the lives of many; as can you. Please check out Miracles in Action and help make a difference in the lives of the Maya of Guatemala.