Two years ago, I dragged my husband to Guatemala, a place I’d always been dying to visit. Larry was slightly less enthusiastic about the trip, but by the time we left the Western Highlands and Lake Atitlan, he was madly in love with the place. In fact, this year he returned (without me!) to San Juan La Laguna, one of the smallest and prettiest villages around the volcanic lake, to live with a Mayan family and do two weeks of immersion in Spanish.
I’m not quite sure how much Spanish Larry learned, but I do know he got totally immersed in the life of his San Juan family. The household consists of Don Pedro and Juana (parents of seven grown children), Edna at 18 still living at home, and Kayla, the adorable granddaughter they are raising. Like many of the indigenous people of Guatemala, Don Pedro and Juana struggle to come up with the money to send their two girls to school. Guatemala’s public schools are so thinly supported by the government that families must buy books, paper, pencils and supplies for their children, at a cost of about $125/year.
When you consider that 35% of all Guatemalans live on less than $2 a day and 75% of the indigenous population lives in poverty, it’s not surprising that the country’s illiteracy rate is 31% (65% for women). Yet ironically, statistics prove that just one member of a household completing secondary school will raise the family’s income level by 50%.
Larry’s heart was stolen by Kayla and Edna– as well as by some 43 other students in San Juan who are being supported by a small grassroots organization in Gig Harbor, Washington called El Fondo Para Mi Escuela. This dynamic group of 30 American families purchases school supplies, clothing and shoes and provides financial support for the hardworking, intelligent children of San Juan who would otherwise not to be able to afford to go to school.
Through El Fondo (and probably directly, too) we’ll be contributing to Edna’s college fund, and helping Don Pedro and Juana to keep the lovely Miss Kayla in school. They are so worth it!
The address for El Fondo is via: Jim Vaughn, 1391 11th Lane, Fox Island, WA 98333 or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maybe I shouldn’t complain so much when I see that giant list of school supplies that my children bring home every year!
Nice summary of Guatemala. I have a daughter adopted from there and we LOVE the place, especially Lake Atitlan. If more people traveled there, I think they would appreciate our lives here a little bit more…