Guatemala is a country that is know for its beautiful lakes, volcanoes, Mayan ruins, and brightly painted buses, but unfortunately struggles with widespread poverty, illiteracy, crime, and high rates of unemployment and underemployment. Even though the country boosts the largest economy in Central America, Guatemala faces many social problems and is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. The income distribution is highly unequal with more than half of the population below the national poverty line. Guatemala City, the nation’s capital, and where our affiliated project, the Juan Apostol School is located, is no exception to these conditions.
An incredibly proud moment
When Mr. Carter first visited the Juan Apostol School in 2014, he wasn’t sure 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, Juan Apostol serves deserving children who live in impoverished surrounding areas, making sure they get a well-rounded education while also being provided skill-training courses so they have better opportunities of gaining employment upon graduation. Luis explained to Ron that the school serves children in first grade through high school between two separate school buildings where they were instructed in core academic subjects, including English. Additional courses are offered drama, arts, and music. He also explained to Ron that many of the children in our program who attend the school come from single-parent homes, and suffer from neglect, malnutrition, and sometimes abuse.
When Mr. Carter arrived to the project, he was greeted by our volunteer coordinator, Tita, who gave him a tour of the school, and further explained how Juan Apostol and the Children Incorporated program was helping the lives of more than 500 children. Ron wrote this about his initial visit:
“I had an absolutely wonderful visit at Juan Apostal; 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 - cheesecake, spiced shrimp, a steak with a spicy chili pepper sauce, and a salad. 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 a delicious mole sauce, a typical rice and chicken dish, and tamales!
I also got to meet some of the young people on our program. One young man, Hugo*, is a senior this year. He has been on 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 bad dental problem a while back; his front teeth had been badly damaged and he was ashamed to look at people face-to-face and 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 his return this past June with Luis and myself, Tita was at the entrance of the school to greet us warmly, along with the Director of the school, Mr. Morales. As we toured the school, Tita explained that in the last four years, the school has grown exponentially. Now, more than 1300 children are in attendance between two campuses, and Juan Apostol ranks as the best school in the area. Mr. Morales and Tita felt that the reason the school is so successful is because parents are willing to participate in their children’s success – as well as their own. Not only do parents attend regular meetings at the school, they also help with fundraising, and some even take skill-training courses like cooking, sewing, and cosmetology along with the students to give them an upper hand in the job market so they can better support their families.
As we visited with our sponsored children in their classrooms, Tita expressed to Mr. Carter her gratitude for not only our sponsorship program, but also for the support we provide to all the students. Thanks to our Hope in Action Fund, Children Incorporated have been able to purchase instruments for the schools award-winning band so that students who otherwise couldn’t afford to do so could participate. We have also provided funding all the school’s skills training programs, including computer repair classes and graphic design courses. Additionally, we were able to fund the construction of new classrooms at Juan Apostol so the administration could increase the number of students in attendance.
As we continued our walk between beautiful, open-aired school buildings and playgrounds, I could tell that Mr. Carter was more impressed than ever with Juan Apostol and what it was doing for 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 waitlist so even more kids could benefit from the amazing efforts of this impressive school that continues to have a huge impact on this community year after year.