During a group discussion on our recent Learning Journey in Guatemala, I challenged my Guatemalan colleagues to recount for our travelers any tales of impact and inspiration from their work.
In that moment, my colleague Brenda, one of the Community Facilitators who mentors the youth leaders, offered an example from the community of Chaquijya, one of Reading Village’s newest partner communities. Brenda had told the school principal, Mr. Esteban Toc Tzay, at the beginning of the school year that she hoped they would have open communication about the work being done by the youth leaders. Such communication would hopefully ensure that Reading Village could have the most positive impact possible in this first year of work in the community – a rural farming community in which Brenda was raised and still resides.
After two months of training, eleven of our newest youth leaders started providing reading activities in the first week of March. By the last week of March, Principal Toc Tzay told Brenda that he wanted to speak with her. A bit nervous about the feedback she was about to receive after just three weeks of reading sessions, Brenda was more than pleased when the principal explained that the first and second grade students had already started to read and write as a result of the Leaders and Readers Program activities. Usually these younger students wouldn’t start to read and write until later in the year, but their teachers had already noticed some changes and improvements in the students since the youth leaders had started leading reading activities. They had explained to the principal how their students’ scholarly performances were notably improving, especially with reading. Principal Toc Tzay went on to observe that because the youth leaders, who were obviously very motivated to help their community by leading these literacy activities, were able to have such an impact in just three weeks’ time, he knew the impact they will have in the long term will be even greater.
Brenda further explained to the Learning Journey group that as the principal gave her this news, he not only appeared very satisfied by the work of the youth leaders, but also seemed truly convinced of the impact the Leaders and Readers Program is having at his school. Generally a very observant and critical administrator, Brenda was convinced that if Principal Toc Tzay has such a positive impression of the youth leaders and their work, that they truly are providing a great service to many students at this central school in her hometown.
It’s difficult to express how this story filled my heart as I interpreted it for the rest of the Learning Journey group. The impressions that our teens make in their classrooms are no less powerful than the impression that these stories and visits have on our donors and travelers. The impact of our investment in human capital hinges on the strength of the relationships we build, relationships that are formed between staff and communities and students and youth leaders and international travelers alike. Needless to say I’m proud to be a part of that web of relationships that is interrupting generational poverty in rural Guatemala.