Our UK Development & Fundraising Manager, Mahalia Carroll has almost completed her first year with EFTC. At the end of 2019, she the reflects on her summer trip to Guatemala......
I started my role as Development & Fundraising Manager with EFTC back in January 2019 and by the end of July, I was given a fantastic opportunity to take my very first trip to visit The School of Hope. After months of writing grant applications, planning fundraising events and attempting to create new partnerships with businesses, it was extremely exciting to be able to see the project in person and witness the vital funds raised in action!
The community of Jocotenango is an underprivileged area with a complex social context including instances of extreme poverty, gang violence and parental alcoholism. Due to the challenging environment, one vital element of the The School of Hope's programme is the home visits undertaken by the foundation staff. These visits allow EFTC to monitor the current situation of every family we work with, provide support and intervene where necessary.
During my time at the school, I accompanied two of my colleagues on home visits in the nearby areas of San Isidro and Vista Hermosa. Something that stood out was the stark difference between the bright and airy school environment and the homes where our students live. The families take pride in their surroundings and the homes are clean, tidy and organised, yet there is only so much you can do with houses built of corrugated iron and dirt floors. The mother’s spoke of their frustration that their beds - often shared by multiple family members - are completely soaked every time the rain pours because of the rickety iron walls that are filled with gaps. They spoke of their fears that multiple gangs are now living in Vista Hermosa, sparking new wars over territory, which means that the families cannot go outside after dark for fear of violence.
It is difficult to hear these stories and not feel overwhelmed with the injustice of it all. To look at the faces of these children and their parents and not feel completely incensed with the postcode lottery society we currently live in. That in 2019, something as arbitrary as where you’re born still means you can be subject to a life of extreme poverty with little hope of escape.
To witness this reality first-hand emphasises why The School of Hope is the perfect name for the project in Jocotenango. If there was one thing I could bottle up and share with prospective donors, it would be the pure relief you feel when you realise that The School of Hope is truly a safe space for these children. A space where they can learn, play and simply be children, sheltered from the difficulties of their everyday realities. That this project genuinely gives these children hope that their lives can be entirely different from the generations before them. Safe in the knowledge that they will be supported to finish their education and train in whichever career they so choose, changing the trajectory of their own and their families lives forever.
It brings peace of mind to the parents that at the School of Hope their children will be provided with a quality education infused with care and empathy. Their tummies won’t rumble during the day thanks to the extensive nutrition programme, and any illness will be treated at the expense of the foundation. There is even a psychologist on-site to provide one-on-one support to any children whose mental health may have suffered due to growing up in such challenging, precarious circumstances..
Amongst all the stories of extreme difficulty there are so many stories of hope. There’s Celena, a former EFTC student who qualified in Nursing and then returned to the school to be our resident school nurse. Or Luis, who is now a qualified accountant working in Guatemala City. Or Marcos, who graduated with a BSc in Biological Sciences and has since been offered a scholarship to study in Canada. All of these students were born into extremely difficult circumstances, but with the support of EFTC, they have managed to completely change the narrative of their lives. These stories provide evidence that our approach is working and that we are doing our bit as an organisation to level the global playing field and ensure every child can thrive. These stories provide hope that EFTC could one day help the community of Jocotenango to break the cycle of poverty for good.