By Kelly Shank –
At the heart of our missions program is the belief that we can make big impacts through long-term partnerships with communities. Last year we partnered with the municipality of Palencia to build an elementary school in Santa Elena.
This year we have the opportunity to help build a new elementary school in el Paraiso (Paradise), another village within Palencia.
The rural village of Paradise is located about an hour and a half outside of Guatemala City. For the last four years we have worked with the local community and families, regularly visiting with much needed food and school donations while also helping with home improvement projects. Now, we’re meeting an even greater need in the community.
The local middle school currently doubles as an elementary school by morning and middle school by afternoon. Our new school will expand both the number of children served and the types of services provided in this community, opening doors to new possibilities for these families.
By partnering with the municipality of Palencia and the community of Paradise we are combining our shared interests and resources to provide a meaningful opportunity for the children of Paradise. The municipality has provided land adjacent to the existing school for the building site and skilled construction labor for the project. Families from the local community work alongside municipality employees and as additional labor. Through designated donations, FCI is funding the material costs for the project. Each group offers a critical component in the success of the project.
Beginning with January’s first meeting to discuss the community’s needs, the people of Paradise have shown up to champion the construction of a new school. During our weekly visits to Paradise since the groundbreaking in July we have witnessed the impact this project is having on the community. Mothers come during the day when their children are in school to help. Fathers come in the evenings once they are finished at their jobs. They are giving their time to help make the new school a reality for their children.
Along with local residents, several mission teams visited this summer and helped the workers reach a critical milestone. People of all ages, from kids to adults, wielded shovels and pickaxes to help the school become a reality. Sitting against a mountain, the site is rocky and each footer was dug by hand. We want to thank every person who has worked at the site of the new school. Your willingness to spend long days in the heat, doing hard work is appreciated by us and the community.
FCI’s partnership with Paradise and the municipality of Palencia is doing more than just building a school. By working together with the community we are proving our commitment to their future and inspiring local residents to seek opportunities to improve their lives. One local resident shared that “they [the team members] are coming from so far away to help us, giving us a good example of dedication and hard work, so we have to do the same for our own community.”
We are excited to work with local communities that are committed to bettering themselves.
We are happy to report that school construction is progressing well. With block work well underway the building is starting to take shape. Our goal is for construction to be substantially complete before school begins in January so the children of Paradise can begin the 2018 school year in their new building!