Founder’s Corner: Parent Meetings in Guatemala

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Linda Ismael and the girls

Today was parent orientation day in Chuacruz and Concepcion. I skipped the Chuacruz meeting and went to Concepcion to check in on some of our alumni.

I found Rosmery at home. She has been teaching kindergarten the last two years at schools that are far from her home. She has put in an application to teach in the district closer to her home and may obtain a spot at the little school on the hill in Concepcion. It has one teacher for every two grades. It would be such a good thing for her and for the children in Concepcion if she were hired to teach there. And it would also open up more opportunities for Reading Village to collaborate with that school.

Laura was with her mom at the “odds and ends” store they run. They also have a “paca” (used clothing store) right next door. But there is ever-growing competition in the paca market, so Laura is considering dividing the store and putting school supplies in the other half. I think there may be better ideas than school supplies, and this is why Daniel will be useful to help smart young women like Laura find resources to be smarter business women.

Juan Carlos was out working in the fields when I stopped by. He hopes to find bookkeeping work in the city (Solola).

Antonio was zipping around in his tuk tuk, keeping busy on a Saturday running people to town.

Parent orientation has become one of my favorite gatherings of the year. The meeting is designed to draw on parents’ personal experiences to help them connect to the work Reading Village does. Every teen introduced the parent or parents they brought declaring what they admire about their parent. And then the parents proudly shared what they admire about their children. Lidia’s mom is proud of her promotion of literacy, and Lidia is pleased that, although she is a girl, her mother has always supported her in her education. Victor admires his mother’s strength and courage. With his father in the capital most of the time, he admires that she has played the role of both parents to him and his brothers and that she has been with them every step of the way in their education. Elena’s mother never went to school so she is very proud of her daughter’s dedication to her studies and that she is on a path to become a professional. Camilo admires that his father is a community leader, but Camilo’s father never had an education and so he knows that his son will go much farther than he did. Olga’s mom is also alone in fighting for her children’s survival and education. She admires Olga’s work ethic and that she is respectful of her elders.

There was a nice feeling of unity in the room after this sharing.

Ismael, our Community Facilitator, then asked the parents questions about their own personal experience with education, literacy and leadership to then take their comments and connect them to the work that Reading Village does to keep their sons and daughters in school, promote literacy and develop leaders.

Elena’s mother spoke about how her father died when she was young and, though there was a school in her village, her mother hid the children when the school representative came by. She wants her daughter to have the opportunities that she did not have.

Olivia’s father shared that his father was killed in the war, so he spent his youth working on the coast (where many Mayans migrate to pick crops for large agricultural landowners). He saw how poorly people were treated because they didn’t speak Spanish. They were taken advantage of, poorly paid, poorly fed and poorly housed.

Ana Graciela (also known as Cheli) is the younger sister of Angelica who graduated from our program last year. Her mother said that Angelica paved the way for the rest of the girls to study. Once she could see what Angelica was capable of learning and doing — thinking critically and making good decisions — she wanted all her girls to go to school.

Camilo’s father said that if he had a magic wand he’d unify the entire community in the way the group of parents and teens were unified today in our gathering.

It was good day for all of us and the magic was, indeed, tangible. More from Guatemala soon!

– Linda Smith, Founder & Executive Director of Reading Village


Victor and mother


Mirna and mother(2)
Martin and parents

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