For years I would receive family letters and see that my cousin Eve’s husband, Dwayne Matheson, was once again taking one or two of their daughters to Guatemala on a service trip. He’s in construction and has the time to do that sort of thing in the winters, and he has made it a point to bring his older girls along with him. Their oldest child, Aimee, a senior at Clearfield High School, has been there four times, most recently going alone over her last spring break and working in the only existing child care center in Quetzaltenango. I have been so impressed by that commitment to service, and have thought what a wonderful experience that must be for their girls.
Women simply have to work there, but their meager wages don’t allow for child care, so kids either wander the streets or are locked into their homes alone. One woman left her six-year old in the care of her nine-year old, and she came home to find that her home had burned down and both children had perished in the fire. As a result of this event, another woman in the neighborhood started a child care center with essentially no money. As bare bones as it was, it was still better than the alternative, and she did what she could to protect 30 neighborhood children during the day.
So now Aimee is going to lead a group of 44 of her high school classmates on a trip to Guatemala over Christmas break. They’ve been heavily involved in fundraising and collecting needed goods (they have already filled a 55-foot semitrailer, which will be shipped by boat from Los Angeles). They are going to supply that existing day care center started by the local woman, and also build a new one.
Dwayne went down there in early December to make preparations, including buying the land and pouring the foundation. The students would then build the structure, and Dwayne would remain behind to finish whatever the students couldn’t do. The villagers decided to give the property for the day care rather than sell it, so their donations are going to go even further. The kids’ trip will be from December 27th to January 9th. This means Dwayne will spend Christmas alone away from his family–something I can’t even fathom.
Part of the reason they are doing this project is to honor Eve’s mother (my Aunt Beth), who passed away not too long ago. Beth was PTA President when Clearfield High School raised funds to build a high school in Bolivia, which is called, naturally enough, Clearfield High School. Beth would be thrilled with this new project to provide day care facilities in Guatemala.
For the kids the most expensive part is the airplane ticket. Daily living expenses will only be about $30-35 all in.
They have created an ongoing project, called Project Guatemala, to develop day care centers down there. They estimate that a simple day care can be built for about $15,000, and can be operated for about $600/month, including hiring a certified teacher (at $1.40/hour!). The kids would not only have a safe place to go during the day, they would receive basic education in reading, writing and math, which could make all the difference for their future survival. And they would also receive at least one nutritious meal per day, something many of those kids can’t count on now.
Those high school kids who are going on the trip are going to be working hard over the break. They’ll come home with calluses and blisters. But can you think of a better way to spend the Christmas season, as we honor the birth of him who suffered the little children to come unto him? I suspect this is going to be a life changing experience for those young people.