I fell in love in Guatemala.
I have many stories to be shared from my time in Guatemala, but this one was the most profound, the most personal, the one that really hit home for me. I spent a day in a school in a small town in Guatemala named San Cristobal. The school was for children with special needs. And I fell in love.
I fell in love with the children. There are close to 40 children in the school, with varying needs. Some have Cerebral Palsy. Some are deaf. Some have a Global Developmental Delay. And three of these precious children have Down syndrome (sorry you can see my bias coming out here…I really did love them all, but I had a special place in my heart for these kids in particular!). These children want only to be loved, to be respected, to be HEARD. In the midst of a culture that doesn’t pay any attention to them and that dismisses them as less-than-human, they are desperate for love, they are desperate for worth.
I fell in love with the teachers. There are 5 teachers in the school, plus a couple of students from the university who are doing their practicum placements there. These 5 teachers give everything to their students. The walls are decorated – they have purchased the supplies for decorations from their own salary. The students are working on crafts – they have paid for the craft supplies out of their own pockets. They are deviating from the government-sanctioned curriculum to try and teach their older students how to cook, how to bake, and how to do woodworking, so that they can be more independent and perhaps have a way to earn some income – they got some ingredients donated, and purchased others themselves. These teachers fight for their students. These teachers love their students. These teachers envision only the best for their students.
Me and the team I was a part of helped out with the school in the morning. We played games, we sang songs, we did crafts, and we interacted with the students. We learned their names, and a little bit of their personalities and stories. In the afternoon, I got to share some of my story with the teachers, and with the parents of the children with Down syndrome. I showed them pictures and videos of my precious Jake. I gave them some basics about Down syndrome, and some ideas of how best to teach little ones with Down syndrome. But what I wanted to impart to them the most was to encourage them for the job that they are doing. I don’t know whether or not I accomplished that, but I hope that my words of encouragement impacted them in even the smallest way.
I fell in love in Guatemala. And now I need to figure out what to do about it. How to give back to these teachers, to these students, to this school. How to bless them and allow their students to receive even a fraction of what we have been blessed with here in North America.