Guatemala is a country that is known for its beautiful lakes, volcanoes, Mayan ruins, and brightly-painted buses; unfortunately, however, its residents struggle with widespread poverty, illiteracy, crime, and high rates of unemployment and underemployment. Even though the country boasts the largest economy in Central America, Guatemala faces many social problems, and it is one of the poorest countries in Latin America.
The income distribution is highly unequal, with more than half of its population living below the national poverty line. Guatemala City, the nation’s capital and home of our affiliated project the Juan Apostol School, is no exception to these conditions.
An incredibly proud moment
When our President and Chief Executive Officer, Ron Carter, first visited the Juan Apostol School in 2014, he didn’t know what to expect; he knew little more than what he had been told about the project from our Director of International Programs, Luis Bourdet. Founded in 1964, the Juan Apostol School serves children living in the surrounding impoverished area, ensuring that they receive a well-rounded education. The school also offers skills training courses so that students may have increased employment opportunities after graduation.
Luis had explained to Mr. Carter that the school serves elementary to high school-aged children in two different buildings. There, they receive instruction in core academic subjects, including English. Additional courses in drama, arts, and music are offered, too. Luis also explained to Mr. Carter that many of the children in our program there come from single-parent homes, and that many suffer from neglect and malnutrition – and some, even abuse.
When Mr. Carter arrived at the project, he was greeted by our Volunteer Coordinator, Tita, who gave him a tour of the school. She further explained that the Juan Apostol School and the Children Incorporated program are enriching the lives of more than 500 children. Mr. Carter wrote this about his first visit:
“I had an absolutely wonderful visit to the Juan Apostol School; I honestly cannot say enough about Tita and the incredible warmth and hospitality I was offered. It was much more than I had expected. When I arrived at the school, a group of the kids had cooked for me, and they were so proud to show off their cooking skills. It was a real spread, too – salad, spiced shrimp, steak with a spicy chili pepper sauce, and cheesecake. I tried all of the food, then took a nice tour of the school – only to be told that another group of students had prepared more food! This time it was a chicken dish in delicious mole sauce, traditional rice, and tamales!
“I also had the opportunity to meet some of the young people in our program. One young man, Hugo*, is a senior this year. He has been in the Children Incorporated program since he was very young, and he has really excelled academically. He is the band director for the school, and they have won many trophies as a result of his skills. Furthermore, this same young man had a serious dental problem a while back; his front teeth had been badly damaged, and he was ashamed to look at people face-to-face and to smile. Children Incorporated paid to have his teeth fixed, and now he has a wonderful smile. Seeing this made me so incredibly proud of the work we do!”
More impressed than ever
Upon Mr. Carter’s return to Guatemala with me and Luis this past June, Tita and the school director, Mr. Morales, greeted us warmly at the school entrance. As we toured the school, Tita explained that in the last four years, the school has grown exponentially. Now, more than 1,300 children are in attendance between the two campuses, and the Juan Apostol School ranks top in the area.
Tita and Mr. Morales feel that the school is successful as a result of high parent — as well as student — participation. Not only do parents attend regular meetings at the school, but they also help with fundraising; and some even take skills training courses like cooking, sewing, and cosmetology alongside students, so that they may have an upper hand in the job market, and thereby better support their families.
As we visited with Children Incorporated kids in their classrooms, Tita expressed to Mr. Carter her gratitude not only for our sponsorship program, but also for the additional support that we provide to all the students. Thanks to our Hope In Action Fund, Children Incorporated has been able to purchase instruments for the school’s award-winning band, so that students who otherwise couldn’t afford to do so could participate.
We have also provided funding for all of the school’s skills training programs, including computer repair and graphic design courses. Additionally, we were able to fund the construction of new classrooms at the Juan Apostol School, in order to house an increased number of students.
As we continued our walk between beautiful open-air school buildings and playgrounds, I could tell that Mr. Carter was more impressed than ever with the Juan Apostol School and everything it is doing to help children in need. While discussing with Tita how happy he was to see the school expanding their programs each year, Mr. Carter also spoke of his desire to find more sponsors for the unsponsored children on our waiting list, so that even more kids could benefit from the amazing efforts of this impressive school that continues to have a huge impact on the community year after year.
*Name changed for child’s protection.
HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN GUATEMALA?
You can sponsor a child in Guatemala in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org; or go online to our sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in Guatemala that is available for sponsorship.