Thank you for your July 2020 donation of $8,000 in support of our mobile school program! When I first wrote you in April about this effort I told you that we were struggling financially to keep the schools open. By July we were in crisis – in large part due to COVID and related reduction in donations – and were on the verge of having to suspend the mobile schools. Thanks to your donation we were able to continue operating the schools and everything that you read and see in this report would not have been possible without your support!
I prefer to start with the bad news so that we can end with the good. In 2020 there were significant problems that caused serious harm to the communities supported by the mobile school program. COVID of course was one of them. Fortunately, there were no confirmed COVID deaths in any of these communities. However COVID has provoked an economic crisis in Guatemala, and this crisis has been acutely felt in our partner communities that were already suffering from high levels of malnutrition.
In addition, November was a particularly difficult month for our partners. Guatemala was hit by two consecutive hurricanes – Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota. These hurricanes caused massive damage throughout the country, killing dozens and destroying huge amounts of infrastructure. In one of our partner communities six people were killed by a mudslide. Fortunately no one was killed in any of the mobile schools communities, but these communities were severely impacted.
This video shows flooding in the community San Jose el Tesoro, one of the communities benefitted by the mobile school program. They were suffering from widespread malnutrition before the flooding of their homes and crops:
This video appears to show a motor boat passing through a lake. The boat is actually passing over several communities (Rio Frio, Bella Flor, Santa Rosita Quinich and el Recuerdo II) that were supported by the mobile school program and badly flooded by the hurricanes. These communities lost many houses and most of the subsistence crops that they rely on for survival:
Unfortunately not all disasters are the result of weather, viruses or other random events. The last bad news that I will mention is the story of Joselin. I actually sent you her picture when I wrote you last in July. Here she is again, as a reminder:
In addition to the teachers, we have hired a nurse to travel to the mobile schools to support the health needs of people in the communities. She sent us this picture of Joselin in July, and said that she feared Joselin and many other children in the community were on the brink of starvation and needed urgent support. Using the mobile schools as a foundation for requesting support, we were able to get significant medical and food supplies.
However shortly before our team headed back to the community, the Guatemalan military closed off all the roads in the region in support of the illegal construction of a mine. No travel or meetings were permitted in the area for several weeks, and our team could not reach the community. On August 1, Joselin died of starvation at the age of 22 months.
As awful as this is, I hope I am able to explain what it shows about the massive impact your support for the mobile school program has had. We have a goal of not allowing any child to starve to death in any of our partner communities. Seems like a fairly low standard, but unfortunately it is a challenge in Guatemala.
Joselin starved to death when we were unable to travel to the community for a few weeks. Apart from this, no child died of starvation in the mobile school communities. You gave us the support we needed to keep the schools open, and in addition to providing education we used the schools as a base to acquire large amounts of medicine, food and clothing from organizations that only donate to schools. For example last weekend we sponsored a medical brigade in which multiple doctors visited several of the communities in the mobile school program. This would not have happened without your support. I do not know exactly how many children would have starved to death if you hadn’t taken action, but I’m afraid that Joselin would not have been the only one.
Below are some picture of some of the food and medical donations we received. There was a significant quantity and we were only able to receive these donations because of the schools. If not for your donation which allowed us to continue operating the schools, we would not have been able to deliver these life saving foods and medicines.
While the school program is of course focused on children, we have also been providing limited afternoon classes for adults. This effort has been restricted because of the limited resources and above mentioned difficulties, but some adults who were denied education as children have been able to take advantage of this opportunity to learn to read and write.
And finally, here are some pictures of kids in the mobile school program. As you can tell, the schools are extremely basic and the kids do not have the materials that they should. But it is exponentially better than receiving no education at all. We believe these schools will open up many new possibilities for these children. We also believe they will serve as a tool to pressure the government to take on the responsibility of providing access to education to all children in Guatemala. Already one of the eleven part time schools we ran last year has become a full-time, government recognized school. Thanks for making this possible!
Finally, I wanted to end with a few pictures of the Sanchez family. In order, the first three pictures are of Axel, Ana Rebeca and then Diego. The last picture is Juan and Santa in New Jersey!
I understand that your foundation is going through some changes and that your daughter will be directing much of the work. I also know that both of you are involved in many other important projects. I hope that you will still be able to support the mobile school effort so that we can bring education access to hundreds of children and continue to save lives.
Thank you again for your support, I wish all the best for you and your loved ones. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.
Palmer Legare, RN BSN
Volunteer Coordinator, GuatemalaSolidarityProject.org