Jaime Obando and his wife Laura recently sponsored a student, Dennis, who is working hard in school to create a better future for himself. When corresponding with Jaime about his sponsorship, we discovered something extra special about him: he used to be sponsored by Common Hope himself. Jaime's story is a great example of the difference that your support can make for impoverished Guatemalan youth, and the way you can create ripple effects long into the future.
With the help of Common Hope and supporters like you, Jaime was able to stay in school and get the support he needed to be successful. Through his hard work, he graduated from university in 2010 with a degree in engineering, and now he is the first former sponsored student to sponsor a student of his own.
For a long time, Jaime has striven to give back for the help he received. “I have always had this feeling inside of me,” he says, “wondering how I can return the education that I received from Common Hope. I helped friends in other NGOs, I helped my community group in San Pedro las Huertas—always sharing ideas, finding ways to develop and giving tools to success.” In sponsoring, Jaime says, “My wife and I had this idea to help other kids like me.”
The difference his sponsors made is clear for Jaime: “They helped me get the education I needed to succeed, even if they didn’t know me.” I asked him about what has changed in his family’s circumstances since he was a child. “Everything has changed,” says Jaime. “We have a decent house with a big yard. My parents are retired. They don’t have to work as hard for us as they did in the past, when my mom worked as a housekeeper and my dad as a gardener. My parents can relax more and do what they enjoy doing—for my mom that’s quilting, and for my father that’s gardening. They are so proud of my success, but I know there were a lot of people involved in it, and for all my life, I’m going to remember where I came from, who I am, and how I achieved this.”
Jaime is an inspiration to so many students working hard on their goals, and to so many supporters like you helping students get there.
In 2012, thanks to your support, we celebrated 146 high school graduates. This despite the fact that high school graduation is still very uncommon in Guatemala; only 17% of Guatemalans graduate from high school, due to the many challenges stacked against them. This year, four pairs of siblings collected their high school diplomas together. We thought you would enjoy meeting each of them, as examples of the many youth who benefit from your support.
Siblings Rebeca and David Sajbin Gonzalez are the first in their family of seven to graduate from high school. Rebeca, age 19, earned a degree as an accountant, while David, age 18, graduated as a mechanic. The two finished at the same time because Rebeca repeated a grade in elementary school, so David was able to catch up.
Complications along the way Both acknowledge rough patches as they worked their way through school. One of the hardest was during high school, when their younger brother Jesus experienced complications while having his appendix removed. The seriousness of their brother’s condition was very hard on both of them, and their grades went down during that time.
The challenges have surely made their accomplishment even more sweet. “We feel so satisfied to have reached this point in our academic careers and know that we will have good job opportunities ahead of us,” says Rebeca. The two are grateful for the help of their parents and Common Hope that enabled them to continue studying and achieve their goal.
Guideposts for the trek
One such support from Common Hope was the youth program. At the start of junior high, Rebeca and David became active in the program, where they participated in interesting talks about adolescence and later became leaders in the group. Now as they approach graduation, Rebeca and David continue to be mindful of their role as leaders.
“We want to serve as good examples for other youth and for our brothers and sisters so that they also able to graduate like we have done. Our advice to other young kids is that they continue to fight to reach their goal and never give up no matter what obstacle is in their path. They can become agents of change in our country.”
Below, the other three sibling pairs share highlights of their path to graduation.
Esvin and Eva Morales Ozuna
Esvin and Eva say that it feels great to achieve something they’ve worked so hard for. Esvin just earned his degree in Computing, Eva in Medicine. They say they persisted with their education so they could be better off in their lives. Their family is very happy for them, too; they say their parents are so proud of their kids. As for advice to young kids, they say “Keep fighting for what you want. There will always be challenges, but you have to keep moving forward!”
Oliver and Jennifer Gudiel RamosSiblings Oliver and Jennifer are the first in their family to graduate from high school. They say it feels like a dream come true. “We have made another step forward, reaching a goal we set for ourselves.” They were motivated to stay in school because their parents only finished elementary school, and they wanted to break that cycle. Jennifer earned her degree in Elementary Education, Oliver in Accounting. When asked what they would tell younger students, Jennifer says, “Take advantage of the opportunity to study because everything we learn, we can use in our lives.” Says Oliver, “Keep studying. Education is the best tool to face life.”
Elmer and Marvin Guerra Rodas
Brothers Elmer and Marvin are also the first in their family to graduate from high school. When asked what motivated them to stay in school, Elmer says, “I saw the economic situation in my home and knew I couldn’t go to school without the financial support of Common Hope, so I made the most of it.” Elmer earned his degree in Construction, while Marvin studied Accounting. In high school, the two brothers were active in the Common Hope soccer program; they helped Common Hope coaches with the younger teams. When reflecting on their accomplishment, Elmer would give the following advice to younger students: “Take advantage of your studies, because you can’t reach the goals you have without them.”
Your support of Common Hope's project, Education for Impoverished Guatemalan Youth, makes it possible for students like Rebeca, David, Esvin, Eva, Oliver, Jennifer, Elmer, and Marvin to get the support they need to stay in school and be succcessful. With their degrees, these youth have double the lifetime earning potential, which greatly improves their chances of a better life. Thank you for providing this opportunity for them and so many more. Together, we are unwinding the cycle of poverty.
With your support, Common Hope is able to help at-risk students like Ingrid Maribel, age 18.
Ingrid, sponsored by Common Hope, was first referred to our clinic in 2007 because she was underweight. She consulted with our nutritionist Rita Lopez and soon began nutritional treatment, which included educational talks on how to prepare a healthy breakfast and how to improve her diet so she would have more energy. After her consults, education, and treatment, Ingrid reached a healthy weight.
In 2010, Ingrid visited the nutritionist again, this time because she was pregnant. She had frequent prenatal consults and regularly attended a pregnancy education group, where she learned about healthy practices and nutrition during pregnancy as well as breastfeeding and infant nutrition.
This June, Ingrid’s daughter Ruth was born, and she is healthy and beautiful. Ingrid is monitoring Ruth’s health through Common Hope’s Well Child Initiative and she has also attended our Nurturing Parenting workshops. Despite all the challenges that she has faced in the past few years, in 2012, Ingrid graduated from high school and has already secured a job as an elementary school teacher.
Your donations provide students like Ingrid with much-needed social services that allow them to focus on long-term goals and keeping them on track for high school graduation. Thank you for support!
Through our youth group, at-risk Guatemalan students have the opportunity to participate in many activities outside of school that are both educational and social. The idea is to provide youth with a well-rounded set of experiences that will help them to feel more connected at school and in their community and to develop the skills to be successful adults. A great example is a recent cooking class taught by Lia Huber, a well-respected chef from California who was volunteering in Guatemala on a Vision Team.
While the kids most often bake cakes and other desserts, Lia was interested in teaching ways to incorporate more vegetables into their diet. This was a great opportunity to expand on the group's knowledge and skills.
With all of her cooking, Lia strives to find recipes that are healthy and also delicious, so people eat vegetables because they enjoy them. Turns out that the barriers to eating nutritious foods in Guatemala don’t differ much from those Lia encounters in the U.S. These include limited time to cook, inability to afford fresh foods, and her personal favorite, the impression that kids don’t like vegetables. Still, Lia was determined to show that vegetables can be delicious and not too complicated to prepare.
During the class, the students listened to a mini lecture from Lia on being mindful of diet (“do you feel energized after you eat a bag of chips?”) and basic nutrition (“the micronutrients that make vegetables look so beautiful and smell so strong and taste so wonderful are exactly what make them so good for you too”). Then, they worked with Lia to make caramelized squash and onions and sautéed Swiss chard with toasted garlic.
The kids loved the food, to Lia's joy — they polished off every last bite. One teen said he didn’t like onions at the beginning of the class. By the end, he was eating the caramelized onions out of the pan.
The following day, it was even more clear the class had made an impression. At the Vision Team’s farewell ceremony, one of the boys who was clearly a leader gave a moving speech as he thanked Lia for teaching them. Another girl who was quite shy during the class approached her and proudly declared she used her new knife skills cutting potatoes that morning.
The class was a great opportunity for the youth we serve and demonstrates well the diversity of enriching experiences made possible by your support of our secondary education and youth program.
Below are profiles of two students who have benefitted greatly in the last year from your support of the secondary education program.
Sixteen-year old Daniela Chiroy lives in the village of San Gaspar with her mother and three sisters. Daniela´s mother recently separated from the girls’ father and supports the family with the meager wage she earns as a waitress at a restaurant in Antigua. Because of the long hours her mother works, Daniela is responsible for taking care of her younger sister. Shortly after the start of the 2011 school year, the director of Daniela’s school visited Common Hope’s Scholarship Administration Manager Nineth García to let her know that Daniela was having trouble with some of her classes. Nineth referred Daniela to Common Hope´s youth support programs, where she began to attend the study club to get help with her homework. A few months later, the school director visited Nineth again, this time with good news. Not only had Daniela´s grades improved significantly, but she had competed against students from other schools in a drawing competition in Antigua and won first place. Currently, her grades are still high and she has received many congratulations on her win.
María José Batres is 17 years old and lives with her mother, father, and two sisters in a village outside Antigua. The family has a fairly stable income that they bring in by serving as caretakers of the property where they live. María José is currently in high school, studying to be a mechanic. Her days are longer than most other high school students, because the career path for mechanics includes both morning and afternoon sessions. María José´s busy schedule doesn’t stop her from attending youth group activities all day on Saturday and helping Youth Support Coordinator Jovita Tay plan and facilitate activities. “She attends both the Saturday morning group and the Saturday afternoon group for leaders,” says Jovita. “She helps me coordinate activities and give talks … she is a great helper.” On top of all this, María José still manages to be one of the top students in her class.
For both Daniela and María José, Common Hope’s Secondary Education and Youth Support Programs provide the academic and social support and enrichment that they need to not only stay in school but excel.
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