It’s such a normal thing for us to ask a kid what they would like to be when they grow up. It’s so natural to choose your path in school according to your goals and it’s a regular activity to dream about our future. Where will the future bring me? What will I be doing in the future? I never realized how dreaming is always influencing my life, how dreaming is always pushing me further in achieving my goals. Not until I realized that for the Guatemalan kids, dreaming is a privilege.
In Guatemala, over 50% of the population lives in poverty. Families rely on their children to bring in a part of the income. A way of living which has been a tradition in this country for many many years. Dads make sure their son’s learn to do the work they do, girls sell the goods moms make and learn cooking, handcrafts and weaving.
Niños de Guatemala is a Guatemalan nonprofit organization which helps break the cycle of poverty by providing education to those who need it most, in both Ciudad Vieja and San Lorenzo el Cubo.
I met with Carlota in the early morning at the office in Antigua and we walked to the bus together. During our walk around town, she described the way they work at NDG very well.
The bus brought us to the town of Ciudad Vieja where we walked up to the school. The two schools in Ciudad Vieja (Elementary school – Pre-Kindergarten until sixth grade. Middle School – Seventh until ninth grade) are very recognizable in their bright blue colors. Carlota gave me a tour around school. In school they have colorful walls, pretty doors and games everywhere. It’s really a happy environment to be in.
After the tour I was able to assist in class. I was able to assist in Kindergarden – the kids here are 5-6 years old. The kids were directly coming up to hug me. So sweet! They were scrapping a drawing and I helped them glueing and coloring. They were so proud of their creatures once they finished.
After scrapping the kids got a break. Break means having a snack (tea with milk, a sandwich with scrambled egg) which has been prepared by the moms. Before the snack, they collectively wash their hands to understand the importance of hygiene.
After finishing the snack it’s time to play outside. The kids were playing games, doing a soccer competition and they sang. During the soccer completion all boys and girls get the chance to play and the rest of the class supports them. It’s so cute to see how happy they are when they play.
After playing outside, we went back to class and continued with dancing. The teacher played traditional songs and paused multiple times for the kids to ‘freeze.’ The kids love dancing and music, it makes them so happy. It’s cute to see they hug each-other a lot during dancing.
After dancing the music got a bit less loud and the class continued with learning to write their name. Each of them came up to show me how well they did, which was so sweet. They are so proud of their achievements.
After writing class, it was time for the kids to get homework and be picked up by their moms. Each kid gets a kiss from the teacher before they leave and the teachers inform the moms very thoroughly when something is going on with their little one.
After the kids left, I spoke with Carlota a bit more about the organization and the volunteer program, we ate lunch together and walked around town to go back to the bus.
How ninõs de Guatemala works:
NDG offers education for the kids of Ciudad Vieja and San Lorenzo el Cubo living I poverty. Kids go to school starting in the age of 4 and will graduate when they are 17-18 years old. Because going to school is not a tradition in most of the Guatemalan families, NDG really asks families to support their kids to go to school their entire education system. The support of the family is needed, therefore the school screens families before their kids start school. Parents get really involved in the school life, as they help out with providing lunch and assisting school trips etc. Something which is common in our Western school system, but which isn’t common here. The school offers parents counseling and training in different topics to provide the best possible situation for the kids. Their trainings program offers both child social and financial guidance.
Next to the families, the kids get counseling as well. There is also the possibility to have physical guidance for kids. The kids in school come from different backgrounds, sometimes have to deal with difficult situations at home or have faced tragical occurrences. In order to give the kids the support they need, the school offers counseling and psychical help. There are two psychologists in school.
As the kids come from families that face poverty, at school the kids get trained in hygiene. They learn to was their hands often and they have the possibility to brush their teeth I school.
All kids get a proper snack provided each day which differs per day, but will be as much as a small lunch and is healthy.
The kids get multiple classes: math, writing, reading, English, Kaqchikel (local Mayan language), computer literacy, sports, arts and music (expresion artistica). If any of the kids face difficulties in keeping up in any of the classes, the school offers extra help to students. This is known as reinforcement.
How to get involved, help out and volunteer:
Carlota is such a heartwarming and helpful personality which told me everything about the different volunteer programs. At NDG, they offer multiple volunteer programs, such as short-term (1 to 3 months), long-term (half-year up to 1 year) and one day programs. they even offer programs for groups (school classes, employees) for one up to three weeks. None of the programs are for free – as they require a small donation to the schools. You will see where the money is spend and I can tell from my experience my money is spent very well. The standards in this school are much higher and of a professional level.
I loved to do this for a day because you get such a good impression within a day, the kids really love the newness of someone in their classes and they show you so much joy and love. The kids are so sweet! This experience will definitely add up to your trip and makes you understand the country and culture even better.
Next to volunteer work you can support a child directly which is a beautiful way to sponsor because you get matched with a kid which you can provide education, counsel, write emails to, Skype with him/her and really support in following education to perceive their dream. Dreaming about the future is something a kid should always be able to do. The support-program is called Padrino Program and costs just € 35,- per month. You will become a friend and role model throughout their educational journey. A really thankful position to be in.
NDG is also very active in the Netherlands, organizing fund raising activities such as Runs – Dam tot Damloop. It’s easy to join in any of these activities by just checking their website.
After volunteering with ninõs de Guatemala for a day, my heart exploded with love for these sweet children. I would like to advice anyone going to Antigua, Guatemala to have a look at NDG and do a day volunteer work. You will not regret this!
I am thinking of continuously staying involved by joining events in The Netherlands but also joining the Padrino Program when I can. To give a child the support and education I’ve had, would be a great addition to my journey.
If you got curious and like to stay updated on NDG, you can easily follow them on Instagram and Facebook. They are very active so you’ll love their feed and updates. They also have a up-to-date website and the possibility to join their newsletter.
I will continue dreaming of these lovely kids and how they will persuade their dreams!