"Build it and they will come..."
The "Backyard School" was founded by Iris Santander and her family in San Bartolome, Guatemala. It has literally started as a simple classroom built in the families yard. Iris is a strong community leader, as is her whole family! Iris wanted a safe place for local children to gather after public school, after 1 PM during the school year as well as weekends, school breaks and for community events. Along with bible study, English and music classes, when volunteers are available the students also receive tutoring. Plans are in the works for other courses as well as a program for mothers on parenting and nutrition! Iris reaches out to the poorest of the poor in her small town. OUR Guatemala's connection and support began after hearing the story of how Iris's mother "Abuela" (a "grandmother" to all!) literally saved OUR Alexander/Chus's life by giving him a safe haven when he was kicked to the streets from his former orphanage at age 17. Abuela gave him shelter, a bed and food until he was on his feet. Alex promised to return and reconnected in January 2014. We were all welcomed with open arms and the family was so pleased to see that Alex was alive, healthy and loved! He found his new family but never forgot the kindness he had received in San Bartolome.
As OUR Guatemala got involved in the El Amor de Patricia Bunk Bed Project, Alex suggested we contact Iris to help identify families and children in the most need of a bed. Iris started a long waiting list! OUR Guatemala started delivering beds to the children of San Bartolome in March 2014...first recipient was Abuela's 28 year old son Marvin who suffers from Down's Syndrome. Marvin had been sharing a bed with his mother for years. Marvin ran up and down the streets of his town announcing he now had a bed!!!! We haven't stopped since!
We quickly learned about the school and decided to introduce the grassroots project to our teams. Everyone who enters is impressed. In July team leader of Families for Humanity came up with an idea to sponsor projects in the school in the future and came up with the name "SMART START" as a "twinning" with her local Smart Start school in California. In December of 2014 Valerie Edwards led a team to the school who immediately pledged $30,000 to complete construction! Support and encouragement continues to grow! Join us as we love and support the people that make San Bartolome feel like "home" to not just the residents but those of us who have the honor to welcomed into the community, the homes, school and town hall! Not to mention the soccer fields!
Here are pictures from our visit to the Backyard School. I am very impressed by Jefferson who is only 15 and has been teaching English to the kids since he was 11. He is an inspiration and a role model to the kids who attend.
As we were preparing to leave a beautiful rainbow appeared.
As we were leaving the last house we delivered beds to Nico nabbed a few large leaves off the tree thinking he would cover his head from the rain since we left our ponchos.
Instead he used them to catch water
Inside the original building used for the backyard school. It is about 16x20 (comparing it to our school house at home).
As you can see several kids sit inside. I am finding it hard to fit all of our school supplies and things we need in our building the same size for just 2 kids.
The new construction of the BackYard School.
The ceilings are beautiful!!!
Two beautiful girls.
Two beautiful kids.
Nico squeezing into a desk
Luca not wanting to hear about school. He did get into their presentation though and enjoyed hearing how it all came about.
This is Jefferson and Iris is to the left. What an inspiration
Alexander tells his story and how he met Abuela and Iris. Alex is another inspiration.
Jennifer Demar and her family raised a lot of money and donated the Marimba to the Backyard School. While Jefferson and others were telling us their stories and what they do, the men were setting it up. Jefferson was surprised when he walked out. He can now play and teach the kids.
Beauty in the yard
The kids liked climbing up the hill but the electrical wires were right at the level of their heads.
The view of the school and property from above
Driving home I tried to snap a few pictures. There is a lot of political unrest in Guatemala right now. Elections are coming up. This is a political presentation.
People selling wares. I wish I had bought more after I got home.
Crazy kids after a busy day. They wanted to swim, but dinner was next on the agenda.
Don't do it Luca!
Viewed from our balcony, the ruins of the cathedral.
Mini Nico size doors around the hotel. He was trying to convince me this is the sauna.
But, no this is it.
Nico and Matthew relaxing after an emotional and rewarding day.
The open laundry area.
Day 1 was our busiest day but one of the most rewarding days I have ever had. Honestly I was not tired at all by the end of it. A day at Disney is not near as rewarding and fun as this day was. My kids will also remember this day before they remember a Disney day.
If you want to donate to the Backyard School they are working to complete the new building and add additional classes. Valerie Edwards an adoptive mom in the US started For the Love of Mateo after spending 3.5 years struggling to get him home. When you place your donation specify for the Backyard School and Team Inspire.