Common Hope

Common Hope's mission is to promote hope and opportunity in Guatemala, partnering with children, families, and communities who want to participate in a process of development to improve their lives through programs in education, health care, and housing.
May 26, 2015

A daughter's legacy: The gift of education

Barb, Gary, and scholarship recipient Luis
Barb, Gary, and scholarship recipient Luis

Barb and Gary have a true love for Guatemala, and perhaps their deepest connection is through their daughters, Ana and Rosa, whom they adopted from there. Tragically and unexpectedly, their youngest daughter, Ana, passed away a couple years ago. Ana had recently graduated from college at the time of her passing; graduating was an achievement that she held very near to her heart and it was also a remarkable accomplishment given her chronic disease. Her love for education and opportunity is carried on through the Ana Strandemo Memorial Scholarship, which has been arranged by her parents Barb and Gary as a means to honor their daughter and to give Guatemalan youth the chance to study at the university.

The Ana Strandemo Memorial Scholarship provides one scholarship a year to a deserving Common Hope high school graduate who wants to pursue a university-level degree. The scholarship covers tuition for one academic year, and the plan is to increase the amount of scholarships in future years. Barb says that given that Ana was a college graduate, she and Gary felt that creating a scholarship in her honor was very fitting.

For Barb and Gary, it was very important to find a meaningful way to honor Ana. “I guess it all started with such an outpouring of love at the time of her death,” Barb explains, “We had money given in memory of her and we asked ourselves: Where would we like that to go? And Common Hope was of course one of the main places.”

Barb and Gary are very active Common Hope supporters. They have visited Guatemala numerous times, they recently hosted a very successful fundraiser, they have been a part of two Vision Teams and they sponsor a little girl named Jarlyn, who they met on their trip with their daughter Rosa last year. During their Vision Team stays, Barb and Gary had the chance to meet both students who have received scholarships in Ana’s memory. The first scholarship recipient is Luis, an ambitious student who is pursuing his business degree. Barb and Gary met him for the first time last year and visited him again this year. Barb describes him as “a delightful young man who is very motivated and who wants to help his father’s business become more successful.”

In March, Barb and Gary met the second scholarship recipient, Melissa, for the first time. Melissa is a teaching assistant at New Hope school. She works full time during the week and attends classes on Saturdays. Barb says that they had a very special connection with Melissa since she is pursuing her degree in psychology and Ana graduated with a degree in psychology.

Luis and Melissa are very appreciative of the scholarship they received. When meeting with Barb and Gary, both were eager to learn more about Ana and the story behind the scholarship. We know that, thanks to the Ana Strandemo Memorial Scholarship, there will be more students like Luis and Melissa who will continue their studies beyond high school—they will go forth with a diploma in their hand and Ana in their hearts.

Did you know that in Guatemala, only 17% of students graduate from high school and only 1% graduate from college? Does that surprise you? What are your thoughts about higher education in a country like Guatemala?

 

Barb, Gary, and scholarship recipient Melissa
Barb, Gary, and scholarship recipient Melissa
Mar 3, 2015

Preparing young ones for scholarly success

Hermalinda enjoying a picture book with her family
Hermalinda enjoying a picture book with her family

Every year, about one in three Guatemalan children fail first grade. Many of these students come from impoverished homes of parents with little education, most of whom are unable to provide their children with adequate stimulation—the lack of which delays their development and puts them at higher risk of failing once they do start school. This is especially true of San Rafael el Arado. But Lesbia, San Rafael Site Coordinator, and her social work team are working to change that by visiting children and parents in their homes and bringing them puzzles, toys, and books. The goals of these visits are to get the children accustomed to being around people who are outside of their family, so the transition into the classroom is easier; to develop their motor skills, communication skills and problem-solving skills; to instill good behavior and habits; and to get them excited about their accomplishments.

It’s not always easy. Lesbia says that sometimes the kids don’t want to participate, they cry, or they are sick but she never gives up. She knows that if she’s persistent, the kids will warm up. One such student is a girl named Hermelinda. Lesbia says that when she began visiting Hermelinda at her home, she only wanted to be by her mother and she didn’t participate when Lesbia tried to do activities with her. Now, Hermelinda gets excited and applauds when she makes towers out of blocks or when she successfully completes a puzzle. She is receptive to Lesbia, warmly greeting her when she arrives and waving goodbye when she leaves. She also loves to look at picture books, as seen in the included photo.

Lesbia states that the development of these skills takes a long time but that after seven years at San Rafael, she and her team can see small but important changes, just like Herminda’s accomplishments. “The willingness, enthusiasm, and faith that we put into each one of our activities will have an impact on the community.” We agree, Lesbia! We are proud of Hermelinda and all of the children who are discovering that learning is fun, and we’re very proud of the hard work carried out by the Common Hope staff in San Rafael. As Lesbia mentioned, we expect that these small changes will continue to lead to big successes, like Luis, for example, who was the first Common Hope student to graduate from high school in San Rafael this past November. You can read more about Luis's story in another report located here.

Thanks to supporters like you, we look forward to celebrating many more San Rafael graduations, including young Hermelinda’s. It is your generosity that allows us to help young students who may otherwise enter school unprepared, putting them at high risk for dropping out. Thank you for all you do!

Have you visited the community of San Rafael el Arado? What questions do you have about this indigious community or the work we do there? Please leave your questions in the comments section below and we will answer them as soon as possible! Once again, thanks for supporting Common Hope and education for impoverished guatemalan youth. 

Youth in the indigenous community of San Rafael
Youth in the indigenous community of San Rafael
Dec 9, 2014

First Common Hope graduate from San Rafael

Luis with his parents at graduation
Luis with his parents at graduation

This year’s graduation in Guatemala was a very special time for many, perhaps even more so for Luis and his family. Luis is from San Rafael, a predominantly indigenous community where completing junior high is uncommon let alone high school. He is the very first Common Hope student from this community to graduate high school. After overcoming obstacles and demonstrating that hard work and perseverance pay off, Luis serves as an inspiration not only to his five younger siblings, but also to his community and peers.

Beating the odds
Luis’s father Jose, came to Common Hope in 2012 and expressed his desire that Luis continue his education. Generally, it is harder for older children to be sponsored since the likelihood of them dropping out is higher than that of younger children. In spite of the risks involved, Luis was sponsored at the start of his high school career.

In March of 2012, Luis began high school in a community called Sumpango where he studied automotive mechanics. Though continuing his education was a step in the right direction, it presented new hardships for Luis and his family. Luis had to travel by bus every day as a means to attend his classes, which started early at 7:30 a.m. He also had to leave his comfort zone and become acclimated to a new group of people away from his community. Regardless of the obstacles, Luis always demonstrated a great respect for education and he even became one of the top students of his class. Luis received special recognition during the Independence Day parade that took place on September 15; he walked with honors and wore a banner to denote his scholarly success. “We were pleasantly surprised when we got the news that Luis would walk with honors,” said Lesbia, San Rafael coordinator, “this made us think that he could achieve graduation and much more by just believing in his family and in his hard work.”

Family support and serving as a role model
Luis’s parents have played a major role in his success from the very beginning; however, supporting their son’s education did not come without sacrifice. Luis’s degree required him to have hands on experience repairing vehicles, which required further monetary investment. Luis’s parents sold one of their cows to get extra money so that they could buy the materials needed for their son to complete his practicum. Since last year, Luis has been employing his skill sets and knowledge by helping his fellow community members fix their vehicles. As a result, his parents have been able to witness firsthand what Luis has learned and see the benefits of his education.

Currently, Luis’s brothers and sisters are following in his footsteps as they are all in school. One of his siblings is in his final year of high school studying computer programming, another is studying to be a bilingual secretary, and the three youngest are in 7th grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten. “It’s exciting because we didn’t expect to see the results we have seen so soon from this family," Lesbia mentioned, “I say family because Luis is a role model for his younger siblings.”

Kind words from Jose
In a community like San Rafael, where advocating for education is a challenge and where families often encourage their children to drop out early so they can start working, Jose says he wants his family to be different. Luis’ father made a speech at the graduation ceremony and mentioned that he can see changes in San Rafael ever since Common Hope started working in their community, and that he is appreciative of all the efforts that have been put forth. Later Jose stated “this organization has come to us like angels so that my family’s dreams can come true.”

Luis was one of 144 students who graduated this year, bringing the total number of Common Hope graduates to more than 1,500 since 1998. That's 1,500 young men and women who now posess the confidence, compassion, and organizational skills that will enable them to be agents of change in their communities. You help make that possible!

Luis at our graduation ceremony in Antigua
Luis at our graduation ceremony in Antigua

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