Greetings from Guatemala! I am writing this blog on a warm summer morning at Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala’s Maya Jaguar Educational Center. The academic school year in Guatemalan runs from January through October, so classes are in full swing and the campus here is lush and green and bustling with activity.
Last week we hosted the first Parents’ Day at our rain forest campus. Logistically, it was quite a challenge! Many students and their families reside in distant villages that are many hours of travel away. Some parents caught a ride to campus at 2:00 a.m. on a local truck, which eventually connected with Adopt-a-Village’s pick-up truck, traveling another two hours to campus with more than a dozen parents in the back. With only one vehicle, our driver masterfully staggered the arrival and departure times of two groups, while the cooks strategically coordinated refreshments throughout the day for our enthusiastic guests.
As parents toured the premises, I could see in their faces how pleased and grateful they were to see their children living and thriving in our vibrant learning community. The Maya Jaguar campus is “green” in every sense, beginning with our location in a pristine 200-acre section of rain forest where students do much of their studying in open-air pavilions under the trees with the soft background music of songbirds. In addition to classroom learning, students’ schooling includes regular travel to outlying villages to engage in community service projects. Here they lend their skills to primary school children, teaching them organic vegetable gardening as well as basic math and language skills. Maya Jaguar students develop strong leadership training through these activities, a concept that has become central to the organization’s mission.
Our commitment to sustainability is fundamental to all that we do at Maya Jaguar. Rainwater is collected in holding tanks and used for cooking, bathing, and watering the gardens. Solar equipment powers the schools and living quarters for students and staff, as well as the school kitchen and dining area where students gather for meals. Students are assigned daily chores, which include tending to the small chicken farm, watering and weeding the gardens, and keeping the schools and grounds orderly and clean.
For me, one of the most moving parts of the parents’ visit was watching them walk arm in arm with their children, exploring the lush rainforest, sitting in on classes, inspecting the buildings, and uttering oohs and aahs as they entered the new girls’ dormitory and the specially designed earthquake-proof middle school. Many of our students’ parents spent years of their youth in Mexican refugee camps during the violent 36-year civil war of Guatemala. Others suffered unremitting poverty that destined them to a childhood of field labor. As parents, they are incredibly grateful to see for themselves that their children are earning an outstanding education and that there is hope for a promising future.
I was particularly struck watching the students beam with pride as they showed their parents the school’s computer equipment. The tablets that one of our generous donors provided are a huge hit. They allow students the opportunity to manage research projects, load educational applications, learn math through a variety of games, and much more. Our new staff nurse (a graduate from Maya Jaguar), installed an excellent nutritional course online, which has become the basis of her teaching material.
I am grateful for the abiding support we’ve received from generous donors who continue to fund Adopt-A-Village programs and initiatives that are profoundly changing the lives of indigenous children and families in Northwest Guatemala. Parents’ Day was yet another wonderful reminder of all that we’ve accomplished together.