She Is Transforming A School Into A Beacon Of Hope After Hurricane Maria

Meet Ana Yris Guzmán, a 2018 Disaster Feedback Fellow with the Disaster Recovery Network at GlobalGiving.


 

On a rainy March afternoon in Puerto Rico, Ana Yris Guzmán walked through an empty building with no electricity. As the sun streaked through the windows, she moved from room to room, telling guests how this massive building would be the future of Nuestra Escuela.

Nuestra Escuela is an alternative high school in Caguas with a Montessori-like approach to making its students’ professional dreams come true. Founded by Ana Yris and her husband, the school strives to address a sobering statistic: 19% of teens in Puerto Rico don’t make it passed ninth grade.

When Hurricane Maria struck, Nuestra Escuela students and staff were crammed into a small building. They barely had enough space for storage, yet alone interactive projects. Hurricane Maria damaged the school and compounded the already tough situation.

“For students, it was a sad situation. They lost many things, including family, houses, the basic necessities. But in the community and with the support of many people, we can recover,” Ana Yris said.

Nuestra Escuela opened its new headquarters—in that building that was empty in March—in August 2018. With support from the GlobalGiving community, the Caguas government, and other donors, Nuestra Escuela has eight equipped classrooms and open areas to offer educational services and biopsychosocial support. The reconstruction of the new building allowed the school to increase enrollment from 120 to 205 students.

Nuestra Escuela asks each of its new students to answer three questions and chart their own educational path: Who are you? Who do you want to be? And, what do you need to become the person you want to be? Ana Yris asks these same questions of Nuestra Escuela.

Since Hurricane Maria, the school has evolved into a resource and a beacon of hope for the entire community of Caguas—one that Ana Yris hopes will be able to mitigate the impact of future hurricanes.

She wants to build a solar-powered cafeteria and emergency response center inside Nuestra Escuela to provide 7,000+ Puerto Ricans with access to hot meals, satellite communication, and electricity during emergencies, as well as clean, sustainable energy for the school’s cafeteria year-round.

“Our mission is education, not managing disasters,” Ana Yris said. “We had the wish to help, but we didn’t know exactly how. Now, we’re in a much better position to help.”

Ana Yris is a 2018 Disaster Feedback Fellow of the Disaster Recovery Network at GlobalGiving. Learn more about the fellowship.

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