Wendy, the oldest of six children growing up in Guatemala, became the first of her siblings to finish 6th grade and had plans to continue her education. But she was devastated when her parents told her they could no longer afford to send her to school.
At just 12 years old, Wendy got a job in a nearby city at a tortilla store, where she slept in a small bed in the kitchen. She worked from 5:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night, making tortillas. Her compensation? Less than three dollars a day.
It was a grueling schedule for a child, and Wendy longed to rejoin her family and go to school again.
Then Wendy found out that she would receive a scholarship from the global nonprofit School the World, ensuring that she could continue her education and sit at her desk with her fellow classmates again. “I was so very happy,” she exclaimed with a huge smile. “I left as soon as possible from the city because it was so hard being away from my parents.”
Education is such a heartbeat of mine, particularly for girls in developing countries who often don’t get the chance to stay in school. When families are desperately impoverished, it is usually the daughters who are taken out of school so that they can help mothers take care of the family and the home, or work to earn money.
Last year, I began to work with this incredible organization called School the World. School the World partners with communities in Honduras and Guatemala to build schools in rural communities, help train local teachers and provide libraries for these children – many of whom are usually the first in their families to learn to read and write!
What makes School the World unique is that it is not simply a “give-and-receive” relationship between nonprofit and poor community. Instead, its model is based on collaboration, empowerment and sustainability.
Communities and local governments agree to contribute land and help fund some of the costs toward building a school and paying a teacher. Families sign pledges to keep their children in school, provide support for them at home and attend parent education programs. (Many of the parents cannot even sign their own names on these pledges, so they use ink to “sign” their thumbprints.)
School the World offers several ways that we can join in to support global education – not only for us as adults, but also ways in which our kids can get involved … such as sponsoring library books in these schools!
School the World gave our family little stickers so that we could fill them out with our names and a message…
And then the stickers were sent to Guatemala and placed in the books that we sponsored for $5 each!
How incredible is the gift of literacy, of education? Education brings opportunity instead of oppression, potential instead of poverty. It is a given for us in the United States…but a truly monumental opportunity for these children who are ambitious and excited to learn.
These smiles turn my heart to mush every time I look at these pictures. Their excitement radiates out of their bright eyes.
And in our house, Connor and Brenna were so excited to see how their stickers traveled to Guatemala and showed up in new books for the kids there!! What a beautiful reminder for our family that we are provided endless opportunities in our country, and through our love and actions, we can help to give others the opportunity for education… the kind of opportunity that can change the trajectory of their lives, their family’s lives and the entire communities.
Through a simple sticker, we can send a message to our recipients: “we believe in you, we care about you, and you will do big things with your life as you pursue your education.”
This would be such a great project for a classroom, church group, MOPS gathering, or any other group. Brenna is going to ask her friends at her birthday party to support this initiative and fill out a sticker!
Just imagine how we can be difference makers in these Central America communities and easily get our own kids involved.
Sticker templates can be downloaded here or you can just email School the World to get involved.
And Wendy? She no longer works 16-hour days for pennies an hour.
When she graduates, Wendy wants to be a teacher. She loves teaching what she has learned, helping her siblings with their homework and seeing the joy when children learn something new. Education and literacy mean that she will have the chance to build a career and earn an income to lift her family out of extreme poverty.
Even in just a year, she is filled with hope and excitement for her future: “My life is so very different now.”
Want to learn more? Check out School the World and its empowering initiatives to bring quality and accessible education to rural, impoverished communities.