This article first appeared in the Black Mountain News.
David LaMotte, musician, peace activist, and philanthropist, stopped by Black Mountain Presbyterian Church Weekday School to give the students a personal thank you for their help with a school in Guatemala that was in need of books.
The Escuela David LaMotte, usually called Nino’s School, was started and is directed by Nino Tecun, a Mayan man from the village who has a third grade education, but wanted the children to have the opportunity of education.
“He started the school in a rented space, but he only had room for about 14 kids in the small room he was renting,” LaMotte said. “In 2005, PEG Partners, an organization founded by me and my wife, Deanna, funded the building of a permanent school building. It has room for many more children. Some 55 attend the school now, in two classrooms. After the permanent building was completed, they surprised me by naming the school after me. It was both touching and a bit awkward. PEG has continued to be involved with the school, and recently took funding to make several needed improvements.”
Mistie Cogbill heard LaMotte speak and realized how few books the Guatemalan children had. She proposed to her four and five-year-old students that they have a reading drive. The goal was to read 30 books, with the help of mom and dad and some big sisters and brothers. After each book was read, change was put in a jar to take to school.
“I am so proud of these kids,” Cogbill said. “I never even thought about them raising $100.”
“These small children raised over $100, and they donated the change to PEG Partners, my little non-profit that works with schools and libraries in Guatemala,” LaMotte said. “I just got back from Guatemala, and I took that money to the Escuela David LaMotte School, in Tzanchaj, so that they could buy school supplies with it. It’s a sweet story of children reading here so that children can read there. The children’s money donations will help out with a traveling book box program that serves two different schools. Schools in Guatemala often have no libraries at all, so the traveling book box brings books each week and has story time.”
LaMotte had instant rapport with the 19 students that worked hard listening to their parents read to them.
“I’m so impressed with the children at the Black Mountain Presbyterian Church School, and their teachers,” LaMotte said. “This is such a beautiful project, given the symmetry of it – children in Black Mountain reading so that children in Guatemala can read. I love the fact that these small children did this. I was in Africa a few weeks ago, and they have a proverb there. ‘If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito.’
“Many of us feel like we’re too small to make a difference, but these little ones remind us that the main thing stopping us from making a difference is often just that we’re not trying to. These young children have had a significant effect in Guatemala. And I’m the lucky one who gets to know the kids in both countries and see the effect firsthand.”
Lily Berry, a local student, said the reading drive was an okay project.
“It was kind of hard, because you had to listen to someone read to you every single night,” she said. “My big sister read to me.”
Five-year-old Lyle Sulzman said he didn’t have a favorite of the 30 books.
“They were all okay,” he said. “I’m sure glad those other kids got some books.”