Our goal – to make a lasting impact on the lives of the poorest of the poor.
We work in indigenous areas of rural Guatemala building schools, to improve education, help people gain skills to earn a living, and provide the basics of healthy living with safe stoves, clean water, latrines and nutrition projects. A primary focus is building schools. Read more, below, of the story of School #18 as an example of how we work.
Working in Partnership
With all of our projects, we work in partnership with the community. We believe that the people we help need a hand up, not a hand out. We ask what they need instead of tell them what we are going to do for them. We work with in-country NGOs (Non-government Organization) as partners on our projects, as they are more in-tune with the needs and also are able to better ensure that donor money is well-spent and not falling prey to corruption. We visit often and see our projects with our own eyes and invite our donors to come see too.
How do we build a school? The Story of School #18
We were asked to visit a remote village called Captzincito, in Huehuetenango. Alirio, our charity partner, warned us, “It is in the middle of no where, over dirt roads, and at 9,000’ elevation”. We agreed to take a look. The village was as he described it, and also, freezing cold. To our surprise, the women and girls wore towels around their shoulders, because they were too poor to buy a sweater or coat. As a result, the village of Captzincito was nicknamed – Towel Town.
BEFORE: This community used an old church building to hold classes for grades 1-6, all in one room with one teacher. The room had no windows, making it very dark inside. Wind whipped across the mountain top, and went straight through the cracks in the wall boards, creating dusty, freezing cold conditions. The floor was dirt and no desks were available. Some students sat on a cinder block, others squeezed together on a bench. The room was too small for all the students, so many of the village children did not attend – there was just no room for them.
The children looked so unhealthy with chapped and wind/sun burned cheeks, runny noses, and cold hands with red, cracked skin. We swallowed down the lumps in our throats and were brave enough not to cry in front of them. We waited until later to shed a few tears and sit down to make a plan with our partner charity to build them a school and bring them some warm blankets, sweaters, coats, hats and mittens.
AFTER: When we raise funds to build a school, we try to find donors who will be project partners. For Captzincito we asked Marla Zell (a flight attendant coworker of Penny’s) to sponsor the school. Marla lost both her parents in the same year, and she wanted to honor them by building a school. Edward and Maureen Talton were both educators, and Marla was certain they would be pleased with how she used $17,000 of her inheritance. Their names are proudly painted on the front of the building, and also on a permanent corner stone plaque.
YOU CAN BE PART of building a school and making a difference in the world. Various donors like you will be our partners for next school. Leave a legacy of learning!