An Amazing Day
Updated: Feb 9
Here you can see the children at Cerro Alto that are anxious to go to school after 5 years of not school. There are mother's and younger children ready to go to school. These are temporary school buildings. You can also see the chief blowing the horn (conch shell) calling everyone to the meeting.
(The following letters were sent to my friend, Marcia Barlow. She and I have attended many many United Nations meetings together, and we have worked tirelessly to write and promote good family-friendly language in the international documents. This month is the meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women,
and I have received many emails regarding the activities at the UN. Some of that prompted these feelings:)
I have been thinking about you a lot lately -- probably because I keep getting notices about CSW, HLPF, and others.
But, today I was there, where the "rubber meets the road." We had a meeting with four chiefs of villages in the Cahabon District. One of the villages is finally getting a school, and the children are going to school for the first time in 5 years. The City of Cahabon (really only a town) provided some materials for them to build a school, and the parents are building the school. They provided some corrugated steel sheets for the roof, loaned them a road grader to level the land (everything is on a hill), and some dirt for the floor. We visited them last week, and will be bringing backpacks, and some books, to them next Friday. They are so excited to be going to school, after 5 years.
Then we talked to the other Chiefs. Two of the villages do not have a school, and they don't have a teacher, and the kids have not gone to school for 4 years (it's a long story why it's four years). So, I suggested that maybe we could help them get a teacher (they are very cheap), and they could meet in a building in the village. Well, that was not acceptable to the Cahabon City leaders, because the "sc
hool" would have to be approved by the government. So I said, "They could meet in a home." I said, "I'm an NGO, not the government. I can hire a teacher to come teach them." But, the Manager of Cahabon said, "No, it doesn't work that way, etc., etc. I was getting pretty hot under the collar, and I said, "If I can't do anything to help these kids go to school, after not going to school for four years, I'm going home."
I asked how much it would cost to build a school -- the answer: Q15,000 (about $2,000). "So, if we built the school, would the government recognize it and give them a Code (necessary), and let a teacher come and teach them?" Well, that got them thinking. The City Manager called the Guatemala Minister of Education, and soon he said the children could go to the other village, where they are building the school (they already have 110 children, and this is about another 100 going to a very simple structure -- but it would have two teachers -- for 210 children).
Previously, the children would have had to pay money to go to this other school, and these people have very little money (or nothing extra after trying to pay for their land). Then he said that the government would try to hire a teacher (there are thousands of teachers without work), and they would give it a "Code" so the children could go to the neighboring school without paying. And, after it had a code we could build them a school. The Municipality (Cahabon) said they would help build the school, and we could help them pay for it. And, since they would now be going to a school they would be really happy to have backpacks for the students (see our Back to School project on
So, I guess I'm staying for a while longer, and will help move things along to help these children get some kind of an education (the children who can afford it go to a private school - these schools are public schools). And, another 100 children will actually have the opportunity to go to school -- to help fulfill SDG #4 :-). I could have spent a whole year attending UN meetings, and not made as much difference as I did this morning in Cahabon, Guatemala.
Actually, these people are a very special people. We love them. Their children are so bright. They just need a chance for an educati
on! That's the best way to overcome their poverty.
We had 35 people at Sacrament Meeting last Sunday. And. we have two missionaries living with us now. They are as busy as possible! But, the Mission has not yet allowed them to baptize anyone -- not until there is some local leadership identified (we are too old and non-sustainable). But, there were 10 men of Melchizedek Priesthood age at Church last Sunday.
So, before I sent this email, a sweet mother and her 8 yr. old daughter came to visit us. I have noticed the little girl before. In fact, I took a picture of her on Children's Day. She was so kind and thoughtful, I wanted to show my grandchildren her picture. Then, I kept seeing her at the park by the Municipality. She as an only child. Her mother had her at the age of 38. Her mother is involved with the Board of the Community they live in -- the La Libertad Community. Well, it happened that the missionaries had come back to the house for some reason, so they were here when this mother and her daughter arrived (Maria and Loos Maria, the daughter). They taught her the lesson on the Restoration, and gave the mother a Book of Mormon in Q'eqchi, and the daughter a Book of Mormon in Spanish.
They walked out of here very proud of their new books. I said to the English speaking missionary, "you should invite them to Church Sunday," and he said, "We will be teaching them at their house tomorrow -- you didn't think I would let that pass, did you?"
So, maybe we will see them again on Sunday.
What a day!!!