What a fun day! Daniel (Program Director) and I went to Xela to check in with Jorge Chojolan, Director of the Asturias Academy and to see how Julio and Carlos are two alumni were doing in their roles as new fellows at the Academy. School starts the 16th, so teachers are in planning mode. Jorge described Julio and Carlos as “sponges.” I wasn’t sure that I would go, but I’m glad I did. It’s good to take the time to meet in person when possible and share thoughts about this Fellowship. Jorge wanted to talk about years 2 and 3 and beyond! I told him we considered this a pilot and wanted to check in with him later in the year to make sure all was working well for everyone before committing to this as a formal program, but the bottom line is that we are all very excited about the potential in this fellowship program – both for the scholars themselves and for the communities they will return to!
After a handful of meetings we picked up Julio and Carlos to take them out for lunch. They were so pleased to see us. They are learning so much and really like their colleagues. Their fellow teachers have been very kind to them, offering to take them around Xela (the second largest city in Guatemala) and helping them learn the teaching methodology, etc. Tomorrow the teachers are playing soccer against the teachers of another school. Needless to say our boys, our alumni, are settling in well.
Before leaving we made sure to stop by the young mens’ boarding house. They are learning their way around as they were able to direct Daniel how to get there! It’s a modest home divided up artificially for the family to take in borders. Julio and Carlos are the only two right now but it will fill when the university classes begin at the end of the month. The mom of the house cooks three meals a day except Sunday. Julio showed me the set menu for lunches (the biggest meal of the day). There were meals laid out for each day for six weeks (and then the rotation begins again). It all looked really delicious to me, and was a veritable feast for them! I think the young men have selected an ideal situation for themselves.
Here’s the best story. There was no bus on January 1 going from Solola to Xela, so Carlos’s father drove them in a pickup (it’s about an hour and a half on the highway) along with Carlos’s sister and Julio’s mother. It was comforting to learn they had family members with them as they settled into their new digs. Julio’s family calls him every day, and Carlos said his sister told him that his dad has been crying tears of joy over what Carlos has accomplished.
I can assure you that those were not the only tears shed. Myself and our board members have shed tears of joy across the country as we learn of the lives being changed. I have never been so sure that this is just the beginning of so many great things.
– Linda Smith, Executive Director of Reading Village