Hey everyone! As many of you guys know, Miracles in Action supports a wide variety of projects in Guatemala that aim to make a lasting impact and in my role as our new Project Coordinator here in country I thought it might be a good idea to give you a monthly update from my perspective here on the ground. First off, I should probably introduce myself: My name’s Michael Estill (pronounced Es-tell), and I’m originally from the eternally damp Great Northwest, specifically Portland, Oregon (SOUTHEAST Portland for anybody wondering) and I figure to a part of the Miracles team for as long as they let me stick around. I’ve been living and working in Guatemala for nearly a year and a half now, although I’ve long been puzzled and intrigued by how to effectively address the issue surrounding “development” in Latin America, and more recently Guatemala. Today I celebrate my first month working with Miracles, and while there has been no shortage of things to do or interesting stories I still find myself settling into my new role.
While I will be doing a little bit of everything, my primary duties figure to revolve around assessing and providing follow-up to the many different wonderful projects that we currently have going on while also keeping an eye to the future to make sure that we continue to be as effective as we can be. The work that Miracles has done to date has been nothing short of amazing, and I mostly hope to blend in with our amazing team and facilitate in any way that I can. With that said, as somebody that’s paid close attention to international development both in the classroom and on the ground, I feel like I bring a unique perspective to the team that can hopefully push both Miracles in Action and Guatemala to new heights. That all sounds ambitious enough, but what’s the point if you ain’t got a dream?
While I hope to have more concentrated updates in the future, I did want to bring up a particular moment from a somewhat impromptu visit with some of our sponsored scholarship students from the municipality of San Martín Jilotepeque in the department of Chimaltenango. While I feel that looking at the issue of development requires to consider all the factors at play, be it the local and greater economy, policy, environmental issues, health, etc., I have found education to be a particularly critical and powerful component to the equation and one that gives me the most hope for the future. After being a scholarship student myself and years of working in schools and with troubled youth I have a pretty unique appreciation for the opportunities that a solid education can provide and feel certain that there is a certain amount of potential in all of us just waiting be unlocked. With that said, the situation here in Guatemala is less than ideal as families are expected to pick up the often times exorbitant tab for a less than stellar educational experience throughout the entirety of their educational years. The economic sacrifice asked of families, the lack of employment promised at the end of the road and a shortage of facilities would seem to have the cards stacked pretty high against us at this point. While I like to do my homework and can recite just about all of the disconcerting numbers associated with Guatemala off the top of my head like most of my peers in the nonprofit world, I still can’t help but view Guatemala as a country of tremendous opportunity. In a system devoid of so many essentials, the smallest of changes can have truly amazing impacts.
Over the course of my brief time working with Miracles I have already seen the impact that building a school in a previously unserved area can have upon a community; of how promoting greater consciousness and leadership can open up a new world of imagination and possibility for children previously tasked with menial tasks like toting firewood back and forth for their families; of the stealthy impact of what sponsoring, training and placing new educators within the system can have on the future generations of tomorrow. While it might not set the world on fire overnight, all of these projects do add up to make a real difference. While all of us adults feigning expertise scramble to try to come up with a magic solution for all Guatemala’s ills, the safest bet to figure it out and change the future are the children all around us -provided that they’re given the same keys.
In spite of those same stacked odds and the unimaginable adversity that student after student recalled having experienced during our visit in San Martín Jilotepeque, each and every one of them wanted nothing more than to better themselves and help those closest to them and felt that the best way to do so was via education. Wipe away the tears and the glint in their eyes remained. They weren’t ready to resign themselves to migrating up north or to a life shining shoes in town like their parents before them did. They wanted more; they deserve more.
To slightly modify a quote from one of my favorite television series, the most dangerous thing in the world is not an atomic bomb or whatever military monstrosity you may conjure up, but rather a child with a library card. Let’s keep at this and get Guatemala’s children signed up.