Thanks to our partner – Grapes for Humanity Canada the new Middle School opened with great fanfare.
In Attendance were representatives from the Guatemalan Ministry of Education, the Mayors of La Union and Coatepeque, and the Canadian Delegation from Grapes for Humanity and the Access Education Board. The most important guests were the parents, children and teachers.
A big shout out to Edna Barragán de Peña – Director of Ground Operations in Guatemala and the Director of the School – Ruth Veronica Alvarado for their incredible work and spirit!
There wasn’t a dry eye in the Canadian delegation when the children, teachers and all of us together sang O Canada.
Our delegation was made up of Tony Aspler and Deborah Benoit of Grapes for Humanity, Marta Stiteler and Ron Rubin from the Rotarian Club of Hamilton, Ontario, Abe and Anne Katz who are ardent supporters, Josh Katz and Claire Merbaum and their children Maya and Jacob Katz. Claire and her family are spending a year in Guatemala and Claire’s role on the Access Board has become quite meaningful. She is now in charge of Academic Excellence for the Access Schools.
The school opening ceremony was over three hours long in 30 degree Celsius heat! That didn’t stop the kids from storming into the new classrooms that they had yet to inhabit and soon pickup trucks began arriving with the furniture.
Update from Claire Merbaum
I am sure you have all heard what an incredible school opening ceremony there was here in Guatemala. To see all those teenagers in the crisp uniforms, at the beautiful campus that Access helped build, in the program that Access began, was really overwhelming. I see them and think that only a few short years ago, these kids would be languishing at home or out on the streets, with very little hope for the future.
Edna surprised us all by bringing forth all the students whom we sponsor from middle school through to high school and university. It is much easier to fully comprehend the impact of our work when you see these children in front of you, rather than as numbers on a spreadsheet. I hope this inspires everyone to work hard to insure that the last phase of this project – High School is reached over the next two years. We are presently paying to send our kids to a private High School and it is quite costly.
Currently there are 173 students in Middle School; all teachers have been retained for 5 years. The school was recognized at the ceremony by the Ministry of Education as having one of the best programs in the Province of Quetzaltenango.
There have been 2 graduating classes; ALL students went on to high school! In the past, 10 or 11 students continued on from Grade 6 to middle school; now 76 of 80 ( 95% ) continue to attend school.
I also want to write about another of the ACCESS goals coming to fruition. We have entered the phase of community building. With the opening of the campus, Veronica (principal of middle school) and Edna announced an information meeting for a “school for parents”. They were shocked to find 115 parents came out to hear about it! This is a true indicator that Access has gained the trust of the community.
We are about to begin the two pronged program for parents of our students, which will consist of literacy classes for 40 illiterate parents, and bi-weekly lectures for parents about different issues such as family planning, positive discipline, and various topics. Each lecture will be given by a professional from Coatepeque (e.g. doctors, social workers, etc.).
We are also working on putting together a library as there isn’t one book in the school.
Meet BEBERLY BARRIOS
She studies in the Rafael Alvarez de Coatepeque school. She is just about to complete elementary school. Each year, she has won a medal of honour for being the best student in the school, which means that she now has 6 medals! Last year, she won the competition for becoming ‘judge’ for a day, while this year she won the competition for becoming ‘deputy minister’ for a day, as well as ‘assistant mayor’ for the day. She has also won competitions in poetry, drawing and oration.
Beberly is one of the girls that Access Education offers a scholarship to so that she can go to school. She does not have a father, and her mother is a domestic worker, who earns 700 Quetzales (equivalent to $100 CAD) per month, with which she must pay for food, clothing, and rent of a small room. Without our support, this incredibly bright and motivated young woman would have little hope for a better future.
When she spoke at the school inauguration on February 5th, she brought down the house. Without so much as a note she gave an amazing five minute speech. We all left saying she would become the President of Guatemala one day. We hope to introduce Beberly to you at this year’s Gala!