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Guatemala - School Program & More
Category: Education | By Steve, 28-Jan-2020 | Viewed 243  Comments 0 | Source Jan Townsend

Hearts & Hands Foundation news update and trip details

Guatemala School Program

Jan Townsend of Hearts and Hands Foundation says: Happy New Year everyone!

I sincerely hope you had wonderful holidays with happiness and health. It is exciting to be entering the new decade of 2020. It seems like yesterday that we were concerned about entering a new millennium! I recall all the fears about computer problems and our worries that the world would basically stand still for a moment. Well, we lived through that without any issue. Twenty years later, we are older and hopefully wiser, but I don't think we are any safer or much wiser with the world the way it is today. It is difficult to process the changes that have occurred in those 20 years - some good, some bad.

The Hearts & Hands Foundation has also seen lots of change. We have grown from a small organization that began as my dream to make a difference somewhere in the world. Guatemala and its people won my heart and there is no regret. Along the way I have found like-minded people who shared my passion and played an integral part in our growth and success. 

My goal was and always has been to help the Mayan people help themselves. My staff and I have tried to develop programs with the Mayan families that reflect their needs, with the ultimate goal that they will acquiring the skills and knowledge to solve their own problems. Sustainability comes through learning and ownership in solving their problems. It leads to independence, individual confidence and competence that assures a better future for the families and their community. 

We have seen the results of this in every one of our programs. Can I say I am proud of our 16 years? I can say I never believed we could accomplish all that we have. It is God's blessings as He/She has walked every step of the way with me. My prayers were heard and are still being heard as H&H continues on its path.

Our next volunteer stove-building trip is planned from March 21 to April 3. We will be working in San Andres Sajcabaja as we have for the last two years. I formed a partnership with the new mayor in September 2019. He takes office on January 15. In addition, we will also be holding a clinic for eye glasses as we did in March 2019. The clinic will be in cooperation with the Lions Club of Canmore and Santa Cruz del Quiche'.

Many Mayan families still cook on an open, wood-burning fire that produces smoke-filled homes. The result is respiratory and eye disease, serious burns and deforestation. Volunteers help clear the air by providing the funding and labour for the installation of fuel-efficient vented stoves. Hearts & Hands has installed more than 6000 stoves in 73 communities.

Guatemala Stoves

I am very excited because we are now building a different stove from a company called Chapina. Amilcar, the owner, is a Guatemalan with a big heart. The stove is more refined and nicely finished. We have been installing his commercial stove in the school kitchens we build. I look forward to my partnership with Amilcar as we share the same passion for the Mayan families with which we work.

Hearts & Hands began the Secondary Scholarship program in Solal? (Colegio Maya) in 2008 to help students extend their studies past the primary school level to high school and university. The program began with three students and has since grown to 65. The program includes the cost for each student for tuition, library fees, computer courses, uniforms, books, supplies, and a tutor. In 2010, in partnership with the Municipality of Uspant?n, the program expanded to the El Pinal area.

Hearts & Hands initiated the Comprehensive Education Committee to raise the quality of education in Uspantan and Solola'. A teacher training program called Escuela Ideal (Ideal School) was the result. Working with recognized educators in Guatemala as well as a team of professors from the University of Puerto Rico, six teacher training conferences have been held for the 24 schools with which Hearts & Hands is involved.

Our scholarship program is starting again January 15, when schools open after their summer break and the new year begins. The former mayor of Solala' who shared the scholarship with me was defeated in the election in September. His successor refused to continue Solala's participation this new school year. This meant H&H had to find donors for his 15 students. I am happy to say we did, so we are able to keep all the students in the program. However it did mean we could not take any new students this year. 
Guatemala School Supplies

Hearts & Hands builds basic education from the ground up. From building new schools with classrooms, kitchens and lavatories to providing scholarships and translating and publishing textbooks into the Mayan language, we are raising the bar on education in Guatemala. Hearts & Hands has built 65 classrooms in elementary schools in Uspantan & Chicaman, San Andres Sajcabaja as well as two junior/senior high schools in El Pinal and Quizachal, Uspantan

Our school construction at Chilil II and Chiminisiguan was completed in November 2019. I will attend an inauguration of the last one in March. 

Many thanks to Rotary International for their financial support.

In Guatemala, school playgrounds are community gathering places. With the support of Rotary Club International, Hearts & Hands has constructed playgrounds in Tulilche II, Tulilche IV, and San Francisco in the Municipality of Chiche'. More are planned in the Municipality of San Andres Sajcabaja.

The literacy project under the Ideal School program begins again this month. This is the third year of following the students from the first grade. The teachers love the program and we see the results of that in our supervision. We are still getting many requests for our materials from other school districts.

Other programs supported by Hearts and Hands include:

Once per year Hearts & Hands holds a dental clinic. Dental personnel pay their own expenses to volunteer and work long hours to bring much-needed care to the Mayan families. They treat and perform procedures on an average of 125 patients per trip. Over the years, Hearts & Hands has sponsored 12 dental clinics and Dr. Lloyd Evans has extracted 6000 teeth.

Volunteer groups always have the option of ending their trip at the beach. The March group has decided to go to Monterrico on the southern coast of Guatemala on the Pacific Ocean. The area is actually called Hawaiian Beach. The trip is for 13 days returning to Canada on the fourteenth day. We still have some spots available if anyone is so interested. Please contact me.

That's it for now. Looking ahead it promises to be another busy year. Thanks to every one of you for your support and hope to see some of you on a volunteer trip in the future.

Jan Townsend
Hearts & Hands Foundation
Box 8729
Canmore, AB T1W 0B9
Jan Townsend

In 2001, founder Janet Townsend, a retired social worker, decided she wanted to make a difference to the world in a meaningful way. Her love of the Mayan culture in Central and South America led her to work in Guatemala with the Mayan people in the areas of health and education.

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