Buenos Dias! We’re fundraising for a very special cause – Join Us!.
The chants and applause starts before we even enter the stately concrete gymnasium of Lazaro Central Primary School, intensifying as we walk through the cheerful gauntlet of giddy school children throwing up high fives and big smiles as we make our way to our seats between them and gymnasium stage.
Seeing the excitement in the children’s faces reminds me of my elementary school days, when we’d have special guest speakers–usually guys ripping phone books in half and telling us to “just say no to drugs.” And We thought those guys were as cool as David Hasselhoff, Knight Rider David Hasselhoff that is, for no other reason then the fact that they had traveled to our school to connect with us. Nowadays, with all the hype over celebrities, sports figures and even reality TV stars, I sometimes forget that I can make a difference in a kid’s life. But the reality is that young children don’t care about titles and materialistic nonsense, they just think we’re cool, period.
An enthusiastic “BUENOS DIAS!” snaps me out of my Hasselhfoff daydream. Turning around to take another look at the kids, I notice a few boys hamming it up for Beth’s camera, while the rest of the children stand by patiently in their charming blue and white school outfits. The children glow with exuberance while keeping their composure as the inauguration and presentation ceremony begins. After being welcomed by the school administration, Cooperative for Education volunteers present awards, certificates and sporting equipment to the faculty, and offer up some encouraging words to the students. The school children also get in on the act by performing a cultural play for us and their peers.
Following the presentation ceremony, we spend the next hour interacting with the children, working on several different learning activities that the teachers use for reading comprehension.
One of my favorites was locating letters in a newspaper and then connecting the letters, before finally cutting them out into a shape. As a former print news journalist, it’s nice to see that newspapers still have a place with today’s youth.
Witnessing the teachers and students in action is really something special, especially when you consider that prior to Cooperative for Education’s involvement, the prevailing thought among Guatemalan educators was that first graders couldn’t be taught to read, which was a direct result of teachers not having the proper training or education to understand how to engage young school children in reading.
If you grew up in a well developed nation, it’s easy to believe that properly teaching young students to read is an innate skill that all teachers have. The reality is it’s not.
Reading education is a learned activity that teachers have been trained to do for generations. So, while techniques like reading circles, which help to engage the students through the teachers storytelling and the books pictures, seem so natural to us, for someone whose never been taught this way, how would they know to do it?
In the United States, our teachers are trained to be educators. However, in Guatemala, a country still healing from decades of civil war, teachers only need to have a high school diploma. Couple that with the fact that textbooks were non-existent in most classrooms until CoEd was founded, you end up with an education system that offers little incentive for children to pursue schooling, especially when parents are forced to pull kids from school so they can help out at home and on the farm.
Despite high attendance rates for primary school–97 percent of male children and 93 percent of female–a vast majority of them, especially the indigenous children, drop out of school before the 6th grade.
In fact, only 40 percent of males and 37 percent of females even make it on to secondary school. Comparatively speaking 87 percent of males and 89 percent of females attend secondary school in the United States. More than half of their Guatemalan student counterparts are losing that opportunity every day, further escalating the country’s poverty issue.
We were really moved by the progress we saw in the classrooms and the enthusiasm from the educators, students and families, so we decided to help out by raising money to bring new technology to a computer lab in Panajxit!
Growing up, I was lucky to attend an elementary school that had an Apple computer lab in its library. And while most of my memories from that time come from playing Oregon Trail, the exposure to new technology that came from having that lab was priceless, and for children growing up now, I think it’s even more important than ever for them to have access to computers. I mean, who knows, one of those students may even start their own travel blog someday called CervezasandFrijoles.com.
Simply donate using the button below or scan the QR code with your photo to make a donation!
Beth and I are both really excited about this project and we’d love to have you guys participate in any way that you can. Obviously, if you can pledge money to our goal that would be fantastic; however, just spreading the word to your friends, family and co-workers would also be very much appreciated!
And remember we’re completing a crazy dare for every $500 that we raise towards our $2,000 goal so if you have a crazy dare you’d like us to complete and record on video please let us know! So far, it looks like we’ll be doing a Polar Plunge and Randy might be getting a mohawk and then dying his hair the colors of the Guatemalan flag!
We’ve written a couple of posts about our Guatemala volunteer trip with Cooperative for Education, so these are great place to start to find out more about what we are doing:
- Travel with us on a Very Special Journey to Guatemala
- My Favorite Memories from our Trip to Guatemala with CoEd
- This One’s For The Children
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*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first. Thanks!