LHI Celebration Day

Day 5: Friday, August 3, 2012

We had 140 students for the library celebration at Chajul’s multi-use facility across the street from LHI. Frank and I oversaw a basketball clinic in which we broke up into two groups and lined up and shot baskets. We had about 20 students per group, hoops that did not face each other, and 15 minutes per session so we could not have a game or even multiple games. Even so the kids loved it and the girls turned out to be the stars of the show. In Chajul all of the boys play soccer and all of the girls play basketball. I’m not sure where they get their moves from, but they were impressive.

Other people on the trip had other breakout groups. Lindsay and Lisa had a face-painting station, while others had jump-rope and games. It was a lot of fun, and we got to play with 5 or 6 groups, so we saw most of the kids at the event. The purpose was to expose the students to many different activities and celebrate their use of the library. Frank and I would pick up the smaller kids so they could toss the ball in the hoops.
After the activity Joy read a book for the entire group and then students got prizes for attending the event. Overall, it was a success.

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After the event Katie shared more about Limitless Horizons Ixil. She started the organization in 2005 with 10 students. She provided scholarships and started looking for students the organization could help. LHI assisted 22 students in its 2nd year. Katie started the LHI with donations and her own money. She said that 70-80% of LHI students are the first to attend middle school in their families. They need scholarships to help defray costs of school, they need homework help, they need access to technology, and they need supplies. LHI offers Spanish tutoring and homework help. All LHI scholarship students must take intensive Spanish lessons for a month during a holiday break. Most kids are malnourished and there are many other issues affecting learning difficulties like lack of home support, language issues, learning disabilities, etc. In addition to educational support, LHI assists in providing safe stoves for houses, energy-saving lightbulbs, seeds for planting, eye glasses and water filters. There is also the Artison Program as a way to empower mothers and daughters with education so they don’t have to wait for fathers to give permission. All LHI scholarship payments are hand-delivered to the mothers as there is a fear that some fathers may use the money for alcohol. People can sponsor an LHI student and pay his or her tuition costs. Katie has built a strong organization of dedicated workers and motivated students, and it is clear that they are making a difference in the lives of the Chajulense.

Later in the day we had an opportunity to purchase items from local women weavers and I bought some items to bring home. Before that we walked around Chajul’s market as it was a market day. The variety of produce and items to buy was quite impressive.

For lunch we were blessed by the cooking of Elma, who lives behind the LHI office and is a master chef. When we returned to the posada some people played uno with the son of the caretaker of the posada and other kids who stayed there as well. I also played some soccer with them in the driveway of the posada. After dinner we voted to hike to the top of a steep hill overlooking Chajul at 6 a.m.

We also watched a documentary about the Civil War in Guatemala and how it tore the country apart. Chajul and the Ixil Triangle was perhaps the most affected area in the country. The national army would wipe out entire villages in a genocide of the indigenous people. We also talked about Guatemala’s struggle to have a solid economy. Much of the money comes from relatives working in the United States. There are not many viable industries in the country other than coffee and fruits and hydro-electric power. We learned about the atrocities of the army during the civil war and how this generation of men suffers post traumatic stress and often turns to alcohol to get through the day. We learned of horrific things the army did like bashing the heads of children against rocks and locking hundreds in churches and then burning them. We talked also about the rise of gangs in Guatemala City and how there is a city ordinance forbidding two people riding on a motorcycle because there were so many drive-by shootings with the shooter sitting on the back of the motorcycle. There is also a rise in gang activity along the border with Mexico as the drug trade has picked up over the years.

Tomorrow: the hike, LHI field day, talk from Civil War survivor and home stay

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About prcloth

I am a high school math teacher in Boston who spent two weeks on a volunteer program in a town of mostly indigenous people in the highlands of Guatemala. I worked closely with the sponsor NGO, Limitless Horizons Ixil, and the residents, students, teachers and librarians of Chajul to extend educational opportunities to the region. I have included some details from this rich, authentic cultural exchange.
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