Guatemala Missions – A Story of Hope
By Susan Shinn
In the 15 months since Paula Bohland became interim director of La Escuela Integrada — originally a 6-week assignment — she has helped the school balance its budget, while it continues to serve the children of Guatemala.
The school year just ended, with 300 children enrolled. Paula has shared a bold goal: that each child have a full scholarship. At present, some 85 students have sponsors.
The $600 gift includes two meals a day for a child, all supplies, health care, and assistance for their families. The school also gives lunches and food baskets to students during break in November and December. A new school year starts in January.
Offering all of these services, the school operates on a total budget of $260,000 a year.
“A little goes a long way there and provides a lot,” Paula noted.
On Nov. 2, Paula gave an update to St. John’s families who are sponsoring children, and noted that this year’s goal for St. John’s is to sponsor an additional 20 students, bringing the congregation’s total to 50. Other churches across the country also sponsor students, Paula said.
On Nov. 20, Evelyn Medina, a native of Guatemala who works closely with Paula at the school, made a presentation to St. John’s Wild Women, who are at present sponsoring two girls.
Paula and Evelyn, who gave temple talks on Nov. 30, said that everyone who sponsored a child in 2014 will continue that sponsorship in 2015. As was the case last year, there are wrapped Christmas packages in each of our three worship spaces for members to pick up that include information on each child to be sponsored. Paula has suggested that two families might sponsor a child together.
Any amount is appreciated, she said, and other donations go to buy desks and help provide a more varied diet for the children, with more fruits and vegetables.
At the Nov. 2 event, Paula reminded the sponsors that education in Guatemala is not free, and about two-thirds of the children in that country do not go to school.
“Your employment is based on the years of education you have obtained,” she explained. “Education helps eradicate the cycle of poverty. When we are educating children in Guatemala, every year makes them more employable.”
Paula is beginning to see a second generation of students coming for education. The school first opened in 2001. Evelyn told the Wild Women that it took four generations for her family to get an education, but the school has cut that time dramatically.
Paula’s long-term goal for the school is that it can be self-sustaining.
“There is a school where we have not just education going on, but hope going on,” she said.
An adult mission trip is set for April 2015, just before Easter. Paula travels to Guatemala about five times a year. She’s always asked by the children, “How is my sponsor? What do they look like?”
“It’s incredibly important that someone in the United States is thinking of them and praying for them,” she said.
Paula attended the graduation ceremonies on Nov. 11.
“It was a great joy to be there,” she said.
She told the St. John’s families in November, “I want you all to feel in relationship with these students. It’s not just about writing a check. These kids need our prayers.”
Mary Willis and Tommy Page have sponsored one girl in 2014 and will sponsor two girls next year.
“We’ve been to Guatemala and Belize for vacation,” Tommy said. “It was night and day at the border. Sponsorship is easy to do.”
“We believe in education for girls,” Mary Willis said. “This is something globally that we can do.”
Roger and Linda Hull have been sponsors for three years, and email photographs back and forth to their student.
Michael and B.J. Connor and their adult children sponsor a child instead of exchanging Christmas gifts.
The gift of hope can go a long way, even all the way to Guatemala.
For more information about providing scholarships for students at La Escuela Integrada, contact Paula Bohland at 704-640-6144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.