By Robbie Middleton & Rodolfo Toc - Sponsorship Department
As the closure of schools in Guatemala reaches and passes 18 months with no sign of opening any time soon, the children of Guatemala have suffered greatly due to COVID-19. There is light at the end of the tunnel, however, as the vaccination programme is beginning for children over 12 years old with the aim of getting children back to school. As the school year ends in October, though, it is likely that schools will not open until early 2022.
One of our students currently waiting for the schools to reopen is 13-year-old Otilia, a student in the Etapas Programme in 2020. Otilia did not have the chance to study when she was younger and so is now catching up with us. In 2021 she is in 6th grade having almost caught up to her age group.
Otilia lives with her sister and mother in Vista Hermosa, right next to the Scheel Center School. Her mother is originally from Joyabaj, Quiché. Their native language is Quiché and it is sometimes difficult for Otilia and her family to express themselves in Spanish. Otilia has another sister who lives in Ciudad Vieja with her partner. This is quite far away from Jocotenango and so Otilia does not get to see her sister very often. Otilia’s father abandoned the family when she was a baby and has never been a part of her life.
The family’s house is made up of two small buildings. One is made from sheet metal and the other is a ‘Casa Azul’, a house built by the Project. Some wooden parts of their house have been burnt, however. The family uses a latrine because they do not have a bathroom in the house. They use firewood to cook their food and Otilia shares a bed with her sister. The house is on a steep slope and during the rainy season is at risk of landslides and flooding.
Otilia’s mother makes tortillas and watches parked cars in the streets of Antigua at night. She earns around Q320 ($40) a month. Otilia and her family do not always have enough money to be able to eat three times a day. Their mother takes any work she can to earn money to feed her children.
The Project has worked hard to support Otilia and her family. In addition to building her a house, Otilia’s mother regularly receives vegetables from our distribution to make sure that the children do not go hungry. Otilia has also received clothes and school supplies which she and her family could not afford to buy. This year we provided Otilia and her family with a new woodburning stove. The stove uses 50% less firewood meaning that the family can save money and use it for their other necessities.
Otilia has ambitions for the future and would like to be either an actor or a teacher when she graduates university. She would like to be a teacher because she likes to teach children to read or an actor who stars on television. She also wants to help her mother with the household costs and to provide a better life for her family.
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