Hi, I’m Kelsey Carlton, Director of Education at The School of Hope. On Saturday March 14th, we received the news that all schools in Guatemala would be closed the following Monday. We called in our teachers to quickly prepare packets filled with homework guides and school supplies for each student. But with restrictions soon extended and the packets were not enough. We had to be creative to keep our students learning from home.
We needed a low cost way strategy to give our families easy access to technology and the internet. We decided on Facebook’s learning platform and began by posting health information, weekly assignments and video lessons. We are now also posting videos of encouragement, dances, songs and jokes to keep our kids smiling and feeling connected to the school.
We were unsure of how effective the platform would be so we decided to give it a try for a week. To date we have 412 people connected. The power of the simple platform has been incredible. We are now tasked with ensuring that a hundred percent of our families are connected, as we know that there are families that have no means to access Facebook. Because of this, each teacher is calling every student in their class to ensure they are connected or to find other ways to connect with them. This will be quite an undertaking as we have 475 students to check-up on.
Last week we encountered a new challenge with many families contacting us saying that they had run out of paper, pencils and basic school supplies. Of course, taking all the necessary precautions, we went to the school and handed out these supplies to the families in need.
We will not stop with only one learning platform. In the coming days we will be creating new WhatsApp groups, handing out more school supplies and researching new teaching methods.
Thankfully due to our supporters’ continued dedication to the school, we have been able to keep all teachers on staff. Despite working from home, learning how to teach via video, teaching their own children and keeping up with their university studies, our teachers continue to be role models of what it truly means to be a lifelong learner.
We hope that our students, during this time, not only continue with their studies, but that they learn to be compassionate, help their parents, manage emotions in trying times and know just how much they are cared for.
I've been personally inspired by what I see teachers doing and I have the utmost confidence that as we all return to The School of Hope, we will fill in the educational gaps that have surely developed during this time. We will continue fighting to make sure that our students are prepared to face their academic lives ahead, as well as anything else this unpredictable world might throw at them.
From the bottom of our hearts here in Guatemala, thank you for your continued support, that is so vital now more than ever.