Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Guatemalan students paint little ‘yellow’ schoolhouse

by Jerry Monks, for the Inland Register

(From the Feb. 26, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

The Chwi Santa Cruz School is just a short walk outside of Ixtahuacán, Guatemala. The school had been abandoned for many years after Hurricane Mitch swept through the area in 1998. Contributions from readers of the IR helped purchase yellow paint that was used in the recent refurbishing of the school. (IR photo courtesy of the Guatemala Commission)

Elena Tzquin’s school in Guatemala is considerably brighter now, thanks to some generous donors from the Spokane area. The gift of glimmering yellow paint came from contributions in response to an article in the Inland Register (“A simple coat of paint is beyond the financial reach of Guatemala students,” IR 9/11/08).

The Chwi Santa Cruz School, in the mountainous village of Ixtahuacán, was in “pretty bad” condition. It had been abandoned much of the time since Hurricane Mitch ravaged the village in 1998. Runoff from the roof caused a mold that made the exterior walls look like they had been soaked in oil.

Elena Tzquin Guachiac (IR photo courtesy of Father David Baronti)

Now the village is struggling back to life, and the school has reopened with over 100 students. However, no one in that impoverished community could afford the $600 needed to buy paint for the deteriorating building.

The plea for help in the IR brought in enough money for a good grade of paint, plus some trim. For colorful people, the appropriate choice of color was sunshiny yellow. With paint on hand, the students, parents, and other villagers joined in helping to refurbish the building.

Residents of the area place an important value on education. Father David Baronti, the Spokane Diocese priest residing in Ixtahuacán, has observed that the village is one of only two or three sites in the country that has supported education without help from the national or regional government. The school has both basico (junior high) and normal (teacher training) levels. Most of the students come from nearby villages, but some walk as long as four hours to attend.

Chwi Santa Cruz has 11 teachers, all of whom have had some university training. However, due to some disputes involving the education ministry of the country, they are not receiving any pay at the current time. So they are donating their time in hopes that this situation will be remedied by next year.

Elena is currently studying to complete the requirements to become a teacher. Like many other students, she is struggling because no financial help is available from the government to cover the Q20 (about $2.60) per month tuition cost. A few dollars for tuition may not seem like much, but the families in her village are very poor. Many of the children must work in the fields, or collect firewood rather than attend school.

(Jerry Monks is a member of the Spokane Diocese’s Guatemala Commission.)

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