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.
Nov 19, 2015

2015 Graduation Week Celebration

Dona Oli, her youngest son Kevin, and her husband
Dona Oli, her youngest son Kevin, and her husband

Graduation week was filled with fun activities, touching moments, and inspirational speeches. We had the honor of receiving 47 visitors who came to celebrate the graduation of 147 students and 3 university students.

The graduation ceremony was emceed by Mynor Lemus, Director of New Hope, and Lys Barrios, Sponsorship Coordinator in Guatemala. The program included participation from parents, sponsors, students, and staff. Juana Olinda, known to many of us as Doña Oli, spoke on behalf of the parents; her family has been affiliated with Common Hope for 16 years. Doña Oli’s youngest son, Kevin, was graduating and she expressed her deep gratitude to Common Hope for all their support:

“It is a dream come true to have all five of our children graduate with professional degrees, something that is difficult to achieve in these times, but that isn’t impossible. And that is where we see the support of Common Hope reflected; because alongside my support and that of my husband was Common Hope; alongside the effort of my children was Common Hope. Today, we can all say ‘Mission Accomplished!’ as we present a new group of professionals to the country.”

Dr. Steven Humbert spoke on behalf of the sponsors and shared his gratitude for the opportunity to be in relationship with his sponsored students and their families. With a lot of practice and preparation, Steve prepared his remarks in Spanish so that he could speak directly to the students and families. Steve and his wife Lynn have sponsored nine students over the years and are currently sponsoring five students, including Amanda, who graduated this year. In addition to being a sponsor, Steve has also visited Guatemala 28 times leading dental teams of graduating dentists from the University of Minnesota, providing dental services to families in San Rafael, New Hope and Antigua.

Graduation week in Guatemala is such an amazing time for the students, families, and also for the staff members. It's an opportunity to reflect on the hardships many students had to overcome and a time to celebrate their triumphs. In many ways, graduation signifies the culmination of all the work set in motion throughout the years. And as staff, visitors, and families members watched the 147 graduates walk in their caps and gowns, it was hard not to be moved by the immense sense of peace, pride, and happiness knowing these students are on the path to a brighter future.

Thank you to all of the donors who support Common Hope's work in Guatemala. Your gifts make education possible, which in turn makes HOPE possible. 

Sponsor & volunteer dentist Dr. Steve Humbert
Sponsor & volunteer dentist Dr. Steve Humbert
Emcees Lys and Mynor
Emcees Lys and Mynor
Graduates waiting for the ceremony to begin
Graduates waiting for the ceremony to begin
Graduates from the village of San Rafael
Graduates from the village of San Rafael
A shot of the graduation ceremony at Common Hope
A shot of the graduation ceremony at Common Hope
Aug 19, 2015

Youth put skills into action to help peers in need

Members of the youth group help pour cement blocks
Members of the youth group help pour cement blocks

The Youth Support Program in Antigua provides academic and emotional support for 796 youth, helping to ensure that they reach their goal of graduating from high school. The program also plays a crucial role in achieving Common Hope’s long-term goals that youth develop critical thinking skills and possess the confidence, compassion, and organizational skills that will enable them to be multipliers of our work and agents of change in their communities.

Katie, the Youth Leadership Program Facilitator, says, “The youth who participate in our programs learn to build trust and strong bonds and want to support each other.”

Recently, the youth in Antigua have demonstrated how they are putting the skills they’ve learned into action to help their peers who are in need.

Lending a helping hammer

Last month, a member of the youth group and her family had to suddenly move out of their home and they were left with nowhere to go. When the other kids in the program learned about the family’s situation, they decided to help the family build a new place to call home. As a group, they began working sweat equity hours that will count towards the construction of the family’s new home.

Ensuring a friend stays in school

In December, a group of Common Hope students found out that a friend, who is not affiliated with Common Hope but who participates in some of our youth activities, was not going to be able to continue studying. The young girl’s father had abandoned the family and her mother didn’t have enough money to continue paying her school fees.

The group decided to spend their December holiday doing fundraising activities in the community to help raise money for their friend. When they returned from vacation in January, the youth group invited the mother and daughter to come to Common Hope where they presented their friend’s mom with the funds they had raised.

It was a beautiful representation of how the youth at Common Hope understand the importance of education and want to ensure that their friends also continue studying.

What you make possible

Poor living conditions, domestic violence, and hunger are just a few of the tremendous obstacles that the youth of Guatemala face on a daily basis that can prevent them from receiving an education.

The Youth Support Program is there to help our students, along with youth from the broader community, overcome these obstacles standing in their way. Stories like these serve as great examples of how the confidence, compassion, and skills that the youth have built inside our walls are extending outward. Not only are they receiving support, but they are also multiplying this support in their own communities, helping to build hope for a better future.

Your generous gifts are what make critical programs like the Youth Support Program possible. Thank you for supporting nearly 800 students who participate in this program.

What similarities and/or differences do you see between the youth of Guatemala and young people around the world? Have you heard other stories of young people making a difference by helping their peers in need? Would you like to see us publish more stories about our youth group?  

 

Working hard to help build a new home for a friend
Working hard to help build a new home for a friend
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
 
   

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