Quickly and unexpectedly, the opportunity to go to Guatemala for a week opened up to me. I jumped at the experience without fully understanding what I would be doing. I knew it sounded too good to pass up.
There are eight of us on a team to help teachers at a special needs school down here in Guatemala. Everybody has different professional backgrounds as physical therapists, occupational therapists, a speech therapist and some of us with teaching backgrounds.
We went to the school on our first morning here in Guatemala. There are 16 students if everyone shows up. Average daily attendance is closer to nine students. We were warmly greeted and given a tour of this small three room school.
It is a bit overwhelming to see all of the needs. It is heartbreaking to know how many of the challenges these children face could have been prevented if they had received help five to ten years ago.
The feelings of heartbreak and being overwhelmed are important and real, but we didn’t stop there. Each one of those children, their parents and the teachers bear the image of God. For that reason alone, the deserve to be treated with kindness, compassion, and dignity.
We knew we couldn’t fix everything, but were pretty sure we could do something. We started individual evaluations of the students and gave the teachers ideas of how to help them. You could see the relief and hope on the faces of the teachers.
There is no quick fix or easy solution, but there is hope. These children are capable. They are able to make progress. The teachers are caring, patient and gifted.
The school is given very few resources by the government. Many of the students have challenging home lives. The situation is challenging, but our prayer is that we were able to give them some activities and strategies to make progress and success a little bit easier.
If these women and children end this week with a better knowledge of the immense value of their own lives, then we have done our jobs.
We cannot do much in a week, but we can begin to restore dignity and give hope.