It has been quite a year in Guatemala. We are grateful for your partnership, and have some things to celebrate with you, as well as some things to mourn.
2020 has been a tough year for many of us. We have had to navigate turbulent and trying challenges, and largely redefined how we go about loving each other (physical presence, for instance, used to be one good indicator of that love, and now keeping distance may be a better one). For some of us, 2020 has brought inconvenience, and for others, it has been catastrophic.
In times like these, I often find myself pulled in two opposite directions — part of me wants to run and hide and pull back from connections that ask something of me, and the other part wants to immerse myself in community, lean on the people I love and invite them to lean on me, even across the necessary distance. Both are natural reactions, but I think the latter approach leads to healthier ways of being in the world.
With that in mind, we (Sarah and David) want to give you an update on the work of PEG Partners in Guatemala, and let you know where we think we are, and where we are going. Thank you for supporting this work in the past, in whatever way you have done so.
Escuela David LaMotte (Tzanchaj)
In the middle of March, in-person classes were suspended in all schools in Guatemala. Many schools, especially in more urban environments, have found creative ways to teach. Some created Youtube channels and posted weekly videos, others used Zoom meetings, while others were able to partner with a local TV channel to broadcast classes.
For rural communities like Tzanchaj, however, access to the internet, smart phones, computers, and televisions is extremely limited. Thankfully, the school has a resourceful teaching staff! They created workbooks for their students and visited house-to-house to help the students learn at home. The teachers did this at their own initiative, and when the public school families saw this effort from the teachers at EDL, they petitioned their school principals to have their teachers do the same. The ripples go on.
Brillaguate Program (El Tejar)
This year 15 young women have been involved in Brillaguate, a mentoring program for some of the poorest students in El Tejar. We are excited to announce that 2020 was the inaugural year for a similar mentoring program for young men, which supported two students in its first year.
In April, as most work dried up in response to Covid-19 restrictions, Brillaguate provided a food donation to help the young women and their families make it through this challenging time.
Classes were moved to an online platform in the spring, which means that the Brillaguate participants were mostly unable to attend school, as they do not have sufficient access to the internet or computers. This is the case for most children in Guatemala.
El Tejar Music Program
The music program in El Tejar, supported by PEG donors and a partnership with LEAF International, FUNDIT and Child-Aid, has been able to continue instruction through WhatsApp, and most of the music students have been able to continue learning, since many are from middle-class families who have access to a smartphone at home. This is not the same as in-person instruction, of course, but we celebrate that this program has largely been able to make that transition.
Covid in Guatemala
COVID is unquestionably serious in Guatemala, with the CDC ranking the country as Level Four, their highest risk level (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/covid-4/coronavirus-guatemala). It is hard to get a clear sense of things, though, since there is not adequate testing data, and many people are much less likely to seek medical attention due to cost and widespread fear of the medical system. In Guatemala’s favor, many people have a lifestyle that involves a great deal of time spent in open-air spaces, which is made easier by the temperate weather in much of the country (Guatemala is often called the ‘Land of the Eternal Spring’).
Because of the relationships and logistical channels PEG has already established over sixteen years of working in Guatemala, we were able to help out with food distribution as the pandemic made ongoing food insecurity issues even more acute. Friends who have traveled with PEG to Guatemala have also made direct donations to the school to help out with food. To date, PEG has supported seven food distributions (about $7000) in Tzanchaj and El Tejar.
Building the new school in Tzanchaj
Perhaps one of the most exciting bits of news that this year has brought for our work in Guatemala is that the Rotary Simple Schools Grant has been approved. PEG bought the land for the new school two years ago, and the grant process has been long and complex, but construction is expected to begin early in the new year, and we are so grateful to the Rotarians in Guatemala and the United States who have worked so hard to make this happen.
Some sad news to share
A few days ago, we received word from our friend Cathy Druley that her dear sister, Judy Royer, has died. Judy and Cathy have been working in Guatemala for many years. They have partnered with PEG at the Escuela David LaMotte in Tzanchaj, in addition to many other communities, through their organization, BEAMS. Judy will be deeply missed, and Cathy will be carrying on with their good work. Our thoughts are with Cathy and the many other people who loved Judy as they navigate their grief and celebrate her life.
PEG is a small organization, and US dollars go a very long way in Guatemala. This year, we had a few folks sign up to become monthly donors, and that helped to keep us going in a challenging time. PEG has always kept our Administrative funds separate from our Program funds, and left it up to donors to determine how their support is designated (if no designation is made, the default is that funds go entirely to Program). Since March, when so much changed for so many, we have had a slump in Administrative donations, in particular (PEG only has one part-time employee, and we are quite frugal with those funds!). This year, since it was prudent to cancel all three of the trips we had planned, we lost a significant source of support there, as well.
That steady, predictable support makes a huge difference in our capacity to plan and move forward on projects supporting our partners in Guatemala. If you would like to become a monthly sustaining donor, you can do so here: pegpartners.org/donate/
After you click the ‘Donate’ button, you will see a checkbox below the donation amount that says “Make this a monthly donation.” If you need any help setting that up, feel free to get in touch at PEG@PEGPartners.org. We will be happy to walk you through it on the phone. Checks can be sent to PEG Partners, P.O. Box 551, Montreat, NC, 28757. Donations are tax-deductible.
Teacher Salaries in Tzanchaj
The Escuela David LaMotte, in Tzanchaj was founded by Nino Tecún, a local Maya man, fifteen years ago. PEG has been partnering with the school for fourteen of those years, and the school has made a big difference in the community, serving the poorest children. In the past, individual teacher salaries at the Escuela David LaMotte have been covered by individual donors, not all of whom are able to contribute this year. The school is about $6000 short on teacher salaries for 2021 (school runs from January to October). If you, or a group you are a part of, would like to take on all or part of that funding, this year or ongoing, we would love to hear from you! You can reach Sarah at PEG@PEGPartners.org.
Trips to Guatemala
As of now, we are waiting to see how the Coronavirus will resolve, in Guatemala and elsewhere, before making plans for any trips. That said, if you would like to do some dreaming together about leading a trip for your faith community, school, or private group, we would be delighted to talk with you.
Spreading the Word
If you know folks who might like to know more about PEG and our work in Guatemala, please feel free to share this newsletter, or send folks to www.PEGPartners.org to learn more. Thank you, as always, for your generosity and compassion, and for partnering with us in this work.
Please keep in touch, and know that we are truly grateful to be doing this work with you.