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Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home

by From Books to Brilliance
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home
Without Education We Cannot Save Our Home

Overloaded with textbooks and educational materials, our SUV pulled into the river village of Seacacar. Arriving in late October meant that school had ended. We found residents eagerly preparing for middle-school graduation. Young teens were decorating their one-room primary school inside and out with palms, natural gifts from their rainforest home. Teachers were supervising students; parents were cooking. In the morning, five graduates would proudly accept their diplomas. The venue was perfect. Just a few years before, in that same classroom, Sergio, Pedro, Iliana, Jorge and Edin had learned to read the Spanish and Q’eqchí words written on the blackboard. There were no books.

The Instituto Básico 2020 graduating class will be larger. With additional textbooks, Seacacar’s recently established middle school is now able to accommodate dozens more pupils from thirteen neighboring villages. They will live in modest, screened-in dormitories. Upon graduation many students will continue their studies at Ak’ Tenamit, a high school with coursework tailored to the needs of the local Mayan community. Students specialize in rural economic development or sustainable tourism. Last year 91 percent of Ak’ Tenamit graduates secured jobs quickly and earned an entry-level pay that was twice the national average.

The next morning, families crowded into the school to congratulate its five scholars. Head teacher Emanuel Carrera spoke eloquently in Spanish about a people who had never had a chance to study and how, with the help of many, the future was changing for their children. Mariano, a local resident, translated every word into Q’eqchí for the elders. It was a joyous ceremony filled with hope. But for us, the best was yet to come.

Over a lunch of tamales and chicken soup, conversation flowed. Graduates spoke enthusiastically of a recently awarded grant from Germany. With the expertise of Jairo, an agronomist, reforestation in all fourteen villages had already begun. Teachers discussed the upcoming school year, but worried about how they would feed additional students. Everyone’s eyes filled with tears when speaking of Edin, who graduated despite losing both parents. What would the future hold for him and his five brothers and sisters? And finally, I talked about you, our supporters, and your interest in their story…one we will continue to tell. Smiling, they asked me to thank you. Today our mission seems larger, more significant. It touches lives. Creating access to resources is just the beginning.

Before the graduation ceremony...your gifts!
Before the graduation ceremony...your gifts!
Four of the five graduates
Four of the five graduates
Girls dormitory
Girls dormitory
More textbooks for a growing number of students
More textbooks for a growing number of students

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In the Q’eqchí-speaking village of Seacacar, literacy is cloaked in reforestation, sustainable tourism and agriculture, and it is powerful. With tens of thousands of tropical saplings planted, the town’s well-prepared staff is already welcoming visitors to their beautiful lodge.  Recently the Guatemalan Tourism Institute chose the Seacacar Nature Reserve as a preferred tourist destination.  And now with a sizeable grant financed by a German association, all fourteen villages in the Rio Sauce watershed will begin extensive reforestation.

Thank you, GlobalGivers! In Seacacar your gifts keep giving. Now, armed with high quality Guatemalan textbooks, teen-aged students envision a world of possibilities. Though still living in wooden huts and cooking over wood, young people are speaking of their future. Some plan to guide tourists in the rainforest, others will teach, create local businesses, or become doctors and nurses. Literacy is the source of it all.

In October From Books to Brilliance volunteers will celebrate with middle school graduates. Several will continue their education at Ak Tenamit, a school accessible only by water, where they study rural economic development and sustainable tourism. These young leaders will return to their villages with the ideas and skills necessary to edify their communities.

Seacacar is now the seat of education for all fourteen villages in the Rio Sauce watershed. Our next report will tell of recruiting students "upriver." With your support we will purchase many more textbooks and serve additional students. For thousands of Mayans whose home is the Rio Sauce watershed, reading has become a skill necessary for survival. We value your support.

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We thank you, GlobalGivers! Now first-rate Guatemalan texts are available to all students at the Instituto Básico Comunitario Ak’ Tenamit, a Mayan middle school in the village of Seacacar. These books extend opportunities to their youth like never before. In this small community, where few adults can read and write, limited economic resources are available. Educational Director Emanuel Carrera Requeña explains that the town council is focused on creating opportunity, not dependency, with gender equality for all people that live on the banks of the Sauce River. Here, translated from Spanish, is a recent letter from Emanuel, updating us all.

Hi Friends:

I greet you from Guatemala City. Things have gone spectacularly well for each of the villages at this “Looking for Opportunities” conference. Our days are filled while we work towards completion. We know that all is possible when people have access to education. It is good that the essence of (Seacacar’s) sustainable tourism project is to finance education for the young men and women that live on the shores of the Rio Sauce watershed, so they are able to learn new things in our middle school. In comparison to prior years, income from tourism has been low due to (local) roadblocks…Nevertheless we are committed to elevate Seacacar through the promotion and publicity of our majestic Seacacar Canyon.

Our student population grows every year; our facilities already are inadequate. For that reason we have put together a temporary classroom on the river’s edge. It doesn’t meet basic requirements, but we think of the phrase “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” We are working on proposals for various non-governmental organizations, and also some for government, to see in what way a classroom construction project could evolve. The work is arduous, but our commitment to bring sustainable tourism to Seacacar is strong.

We hope to greet you this year with positive news for Seacacar. Personally I thank you endlessly for all your effort to raise funds and buy books, or for other projects (the solar-powered library, for example) that will strengthen our community. I send photographs of the boys and girls studying, together with their beloved teachers. I hope that they serve you well. All send hugs to Kim, Debbie and Luke.

Emanuel Carrera Requeña

With good teachers and quality textbooks, Seacacar now has the resources to provide a quality education to more young people in thirteen neighboring villages.Council members are very proud of these educational gains, and are venturing upriver to recruit next year’s students. Paul Heesaker, founder of the Rios Fund and the Seacacar Canyon Natural Reserve tells us, The community wants to extend the help that they have received to others. They are paying it forward!

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The tiny town of Seacacar has just put itself on the map! Only a few years ago, most Guatemalans had never even heard of this indigenous village, where seventy Q’eqchi’-speaking families still live-with no electricity or running water. Though its citizens became alarmed at the rate of deforestation in their forest home, neighboring communities continued cutting down trees to plant crops, and animals disappeared. Nevertheless, Seacacar parents continued working in the fields, aware that the young people needed opportunity and jobs. The town leaders knew that education was the way forward, but without any books or materials, that path seemed completely out of reach.

Now, after years of planning and back-breaking physical work, Seacacar’s future is changing dramatically. Residents young and old have planted trees, created nature trails, built a lodge, and learned to cook for tourists. The upshot: Reserva Natural Cañón Seacacar was recently declared a nature preserve.  It attracts eco-tourists as well as scientists. Educational Director Joaquín Emanuel Carrera Requeña reports that “the essence of this marvelous project is education.” And because of your generosity, GlobalGivers, all middle-school pupils at the Instituto Básico Comunitario Ak’ Tenamit learn from high-quality Guatemalan textbooks.   

Citizens have every reason to be proud of their accomplishments. Seacacar’s schools, with access to books and materials, are attracting youth from a dozen neighboring villages. According to Mr. Carrera the textbooks are helping to create “an atmosphere of better communication between the teacher and student.” The school board recently voted to double the number of students for next year. Enthusiasm is high; hope has returned.

Yesterday we received nineteen thank-you letters from Seacacar middle-school teens. All the letters are titled Mi Historia. The students write of illiterate parents who had no opportunity to study. They remember how, as young children, they gathered wood, worked in cornfields, and washed clothes by hand. They learned basic reading and writing skills in one-room schools with no books or materials. It wasn’t until third grade that teachers began to speak in Spanish. But in every one of their stories, a family member encouraged them to continue their studies in spite of all obstacles. Today those teens want to be doctors, teachers, and hotel managers. They want an education so they can help their families. They are so humble and very grateful. We thank you all.  

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Organization Information

From Books to Brilliance

Location: Albuquerque, NM - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @KimCovill1
Project Leader:
Kim Covill
Founder & President
Albuquerque, NM United States

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