Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Our Community Centers

In addition to the two community living homes we operate in Guatemala, Reason to Hope has become known as somewhere those with disabilities and their families can come for help in a number of areas.

Melanie, Jesus and Brayan study every Saturday
at Casa de Esperanza

A large emphasis at this time is our community outreach centers where we provide education and support to children and their families.  We began with one in San Pedro Las Huertas, at our men's home, Casa de Esperanza.

Petronila, one of our residents who has graduated high school.
working with Chepa on beginning math skills
and activities to build her fine motor skills

We expanded when we opened the women's home, Hijas del Rey (Daughters of the King) to serve those in the Antigua and Panorama area, as well as the women living in the home who continue to have special educational needs.

Two of our Santo Tomas students and their moms,
along with Gloria Donis,
the school psychologist with the vision to start this program
In February of this year I was contacted by the municipal psychologist for a neighboring village who asked if I would come and help her evaluate the needs of children she was serving.  We partnered with a team from Beeline Wheelchairs to provide communication support to a number of the children, but they needed more.  Would I come one afternoon every two weeks to work with them?

Teaching at the Women's Center in Santa Lucia
It became apparent we needed a permanent home
for our tutoring program
Soon, this grew to two afternoons a week, and it became clear we needed a permanent home for our center.  I was absolutely astounded when, through the social work program for the village, the mayor of the town offered me the use of a building, rent and utility-free. If you know anything about the social and political structure of Guatemala, can understand what a work of God this was.  This wasn't on my radar for 2019, but after consulting my "wise counsel" here and in the US, we accepted.  We trust if God opened a door so widely, He will provide to keep it open.

This is the entrance to our three room tutoring center,
the use of which is donated by
the city of Santa Lucia

We began negotiating a contract with the city council (are you beginning to see just how over my head I am?) and in June moved into a permanent facility, between the childcare center and the cemetery in the village of Santo Tomas.  (Read more about this here). 

We only have one classroom painted and pretty,
but it gets a lot of use.
We are currently serving about 12 children two days a week.  I have set the limit at 15 children until our budget permits us to hire a teacher for the center, so, like our homes, we are just about at capacity.  I continue to teach two mornings a week at the women's home, and Saturdays at the San Pedro location.  New Life School is still very important to me, but I have moved into a position of consultant rather than providing direct services to the children in Santa Maria.  This was a difficult decision, but I have learned there is only so much of me to go around!

While we don't present formal Bible lessons at the centers, our constant emphasis, through words and actions, is to help the children learn they are loved and valued, by us and more importantly by their Heavenly Father.  We talk about them using their God-given talents and abilities to fulfill His plan and purpose for their lives, and base all of our discipline and social skills instruction on Biblical principles using Bible verses and stories.

We do our best to support our parents.
Here, Estefany, a Peace Corp worker, volunteering with us,
talks with the mothers about school issues.
Many of our children and their families do not attend church and I love as I see their parents, who stay with them for they sessions to learn how to work with their children, listening as attentively as their children to what we are saying.  Since we are not a "church" even our Catholic families are open to what we teach.  It's an amazing privilege but also a heavy responsibility to be faithful to help them come to know Jesus personally, as more than a historic figure or religious icon.

The results we are seeing in this short time are overwhelming.  Mother after mother will tell me how the children do not like to go to school (where they are ignored, bullied or even abused) but ask almost daily when they get to see Seño Paty.  When a twelve year old boy on the autism spectrum cannot enter or leave the center without hugging me, I know they are experiencing love which comes not from my own heart, but straight from the Heart of the Father.  What an awesome place to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment