By Kelly Shank –
For many of us August signals the end of summer vacation and beginning of a new school year. We’re busy scoping out back-to-school sales, shuttling kids to sports practices, and attending back-to-school nights as we ease back into our routines. We don’t question whether our children will attend school, just maybe which school is the best fit for them.
Education is a great equalizer but when children are born into generational poverty they lack access to this gift.
Often children entering Dorie’s Promise, and those in communities where we serve, lack opportunities for quality education. Education can be a luxury because survival is the priority.
Did your family ever move when you were a child? Do you remember walking into your new school on the first day, unsure about where to go and not yet having met your new group of friends?
Now imagine this same situation but you’re 7 years old and you’re entering school for the first time ever. No preschool, no kindergarten, no formal schooling. Earlier this year we welcomed Cristina into our home after the horrific fire at the Virgen de Ascunsion orphanage. Based on her age, she should be well into elementary school by our standards, but this bright young girl has never attended school before. The mix of an unstable home and eventual transfer to a large government orphanage caused her to miss out on her education. She wasn’t just behind in school, she had never been exposed to school before.
We are starting at the beginning to help her catch up on her studies and she is excited to experience school for the first time.
Cristina isn’t our first child who has needed special help with school. For some of the poorest in Guatemala, their childhood revolves around picking vegetables or selling trinkets on the streets of Guatemala City to help support their families. Many years ago we opened our home to a beautiful young woman who had been working to help care for her four younger siblings. We knew that she was full of potential and wanted to learn but school would not be easy for her. Instead of Spanish, her native language was one of the local dialects which made learning in a traditional school and communicating within our home difficult. Overcoming this obstacle was key to her future school success.
Both of these girls are bright and filled with promise, our job is to help them be successful. Thanks to our teacher at Dorie’s Promise and the efforts of the Special Mothers in our home, both of these young ladies have made huge strides. The young woman who came to us many years ago made tremendous gains during the years she lived with us.
After being homeschooled she was able to attend a local vocational school that offered her the chance for a good job. The girl who struggled to speak Spanish eventually went on to surprise us by learning conversational English. We are thankful for our dedicated teacher and Special Mothers who spent countless hours helping these girls so that they could make up for many lost school years.
These are just two examples of the difficulties our children face. Identifying the struggles and strengths of each child in our home is key to helping them succeed! We give our children opportunities to be adults who can break the cycle of generational poverty and become the next generation of leaders.