The work PEG Partners does in Guatemala is rooted in long-term relationships. This year, we saw the fruit of seeds planted years ago, with some long-held dreams coming true. We’ve also been doing the back end work this year, though. As PEG grows, the Board is working hard, professionalizing and developing better systems so that we can have the best impact possible. In the end, though, it’s all about relationships.
Here are a few updates from our partners in Guatemala…
The Brillaguate (bree-yah-WAH-tay) program in El Tejar provided scholarships and mentoring for 15 girls and 6 boys to continue in their studies of middle and high school. The families of these students struggle financially, and most of the students work to help out. This makes it challenging to have time and energy for school, but all of them attend Saturday classes in math, English, and computer skills.
Early in the pandemic, when classes went online, a PEG donor contributed funds to create safe and secure computer labs in homes in three different locations in the students’ own neighborhoods so that they could continue their studies. The mentoring these students receive from the programs’ leaders is also invaluable, as is the community of other students who are going the extra mile to move forward in their education. The program began by serving a group of girls, but there is now a healthy and growing group of boys as well.
The young woman in the video above is Dilcia Guisell Muñoz Camey, who recently received a Bachelor’s degree in computing. Last year we provided a computer for her to keep at home, because she needed it for her studies. Dilcia says the support she received from PEG made the difference in her being able to complete this program and earn a degree.
Sara Morales, one of the leaders of the program, was proud to report that all of the students in the program who were of graduation age graduated this year.
Escuela Comunitaria David LaMotte
It’s been a very big year in Tzanchaj (Tssahn-CHAH), where we finally had the ribbon cutting for the new school building, after four years of very hard work from Rotarians and the Rotary Foundation, who paid for and oversaw the construction. The building is gorgeous, and the 78 children who attend there are getting a great education in a supportive environment, giving them a great start on their education.
One of the incredibly inspiring things about this program is the engagement of the parents. Many of the students’ mothers, who did not have the chance to go to school themselves, make and sell beaded jewelry, which is sold to support their own families, with a percentage also going to support the school. With that support and local fundraising efforts, the school was actually able to build two more classrooms as well, which qualified the school for a particular kind of government licensure that opens up more possibility for the school.
While PEG covers about 70% of the school’s operating budget each year, it is deeply gratifying to work with people who are so motivated and engaged. Since public schools require fees that the poorest families cannot pay, most of the children in this completely free school would not be going to school at all if it were not for this escuelita, which the founder, Nino Tecún, named after David in 2004.
One of the extraordinary things about having worked together for so many years is that we have literally watched some children grow up from preschoolers to young adults. The young woman to the left, Wendy Rosmery, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design this year. Wendy started out at the escuelita, and has built on that good start to go all the way through university, which is extremely rare for children from Tzanchaj.
The young woman on the right, Sandra Paola, just finished a master’s degree in Bilingual Intercultural Education. Sandra did her practicum by teaching back at Escuela David LaMotte, where she had been a student. When she was ten years old, her mother died, and Melchora says that she had to struggle to get an education, but graduated with a master’s this year. The EDL teaches bilingually, in Spanish and the local Mayan language of Tz’utujil, so it was the perfect place to grow her teaching skills.
This year the teachers at the school, under the excellent leadership of the school’s director, Melchora Reanda, also undertook some further education of their own, studying pedagogy with our friends at Puerta Abierta.
El Tejar Music Program
The El Tejar Music Program began in 2007 as a cooperative project, with PEG Partners and LEAF International splitting the financial burden, and FUNDIT handling some of the administration and hosting the program. Since the very beginning, the program has been led by Sara Morales, an extraordinary music teacher.
In 2012, a group of young students traveled to the United States to perform at the Lake Eden Arts Festival in North Carolina. One of those students, Sara Ramirez (affectionately known as Sarita), went on to study classical marimba at the National Conservatory in Guatemala City. Now, Sarita has returned to the program as an instructor.
Here’s a solo piece by Sarita, to give you a sense of her playing. The distinctive sound of a Guatemalan marimba is on full display here, with the buzz of the wood that is part of the typical sound of Guatemalan marimbas, as opposed to marimbas from other cultures. Marimba is considered the national instrument of Guatemala.
The sixty-nine students of the El Tejar music program were thrilled to be able to end the year with a live concert for the first time since the pandemic began. Two of the 2022 program graduates, Alexa Fernanda Orellana and Anthony Joshua Sian, are also headed to Guatemala City to study at the conservatory.
This is a video the students and teachers created to share some of the work they are doing.
Come See For Yourself!
The team at PEG Partners is always working to gather the funding to support these programs and others, but we also love to take people to see for themselves. Consistently, trip participants have called their journeys to Guatemala “life changing” and “heart opening.” Our trips are relational — learning about the people, culture, and history of the country, engaging with the issues that are currently and historically relevant to the relationship between the United States and Guatemala, and getting to know our friends there. We lead trips for organizations, including universities, churches, civic groups, and businesses, and we also sponsor our own trip at least once a year. We will be leading another ten-day ‘Open Trip’ in mid-July of 2023. If you would like to join us, there are more details here.
Thank you for being interested in the work we’re doing. If you’d like to get involved, we are happy to hear from you!
Deanna LaMotte, co-founder and President
Sarah Robinson Bryan, Executive Director
David LaMotte, co-founder