This February, over 60 volunteers traveled to Guatemala on a Cooperative for Education tour to deliver textbooks, inaugurate computer centers, visit Culture of Reading Program classrooms, and meet or reunite with their Scholarship Program students. It was a life-changing experience that opened everyone’s minds and hearts.
For the Jenkins family, one experience stands out among the rest.
Six weeks before staff member Leslie joined the CoEd team, her aunt Beth passed away from cancer at 45 years old. Beth was an incredibly kind, highly intellectual, sassy, and adventurous person who was dear to the entire family. At that time Leslie’s father Dale knew that he wanted to memorialize his sister in a special way, but he didn’t yet know how.
A few years later, Dale found the answer in rural Guatemala. Beth had specialized in pre-Colombian art for her graduate and post-graduate work, so she had a special place in her heart for indigenous peoples. In addition, she was passionate about the use of technology to solve the world’s problems: she had even started a project to capture electricity from roadways using solar technology and kinetic energy receptors. Sponsoring a CoEd Computer Center was the perfect memorial.
“It seemed entirely fitting that a project named in her honor would help bring technology to an indigenous community to help activate the natural-born intellectual curiosity among students there for years to come,” Leslie wrote of her dad’s decision. CoEd Computer Centers do just that by providing up-to-date computer technology, training for teachers, a project-based curriculum, and a sustainable project model that empowers the local community to take over the project and keep it operative for generations to come.
Last month, Leslie, Dale, and Cheri (Dale’s wife and Leslie’s mother) traveled on a CoEd tour and visited the Computer Center they had sponsored in honor of Beth in Cantel, Guatemala. Cantel is a small Mayan town in the mountains, where—before the arrival of the Computer Center memorializing Beth—very few people had access to a computer.
“The principal, Fredy, greeted us in the yard, introduced us to Señor Valentín (the president of the parents’ committee), and led us all to the teachers’ lounge. They had a table set out for us covered in a beautiful purple, green, and blue textile and adorned with braided whole wheat bread. We broke bread and talked. Fredy told us about the history of the school, including how they had been delighted to receive CoEd’s Textbook Program in 2015 and now the Computer Program in 2018,” Leslie writes.
In a letter to his family after the trip, Dale recounts: “We heard a lot of appreciation from them and a confidence that the Computer Center will not only change their teaching and their students’ prospects, but also their whole community. CoEd encourages schools with Computer Centers to make them available to the community outside of school hours, and that is the plan there. The principal told me that while their school will serve as a sort of Internet café in Cantel, nobody else would have a computer. It really will change the life of their whole town.”
After receiving Fredy and Señor Valentín’s thanks, Dale felt moved to explain that he and Cheri had decided to sponsor the Computer Center at Cantel in memory of his sister Beth.
“Then the principal made an extraordinary request and offer,” Dale says.
“Cantel was (and is) the home of the Quiche Mayan people, and it claims to be the place where the last Mayan king was killed by the Spanish. They do not celebrate the Guatemalan Independence Day because, rightly, they do not feel that independence made life any better for native people. Instead they celebrate a ‘Day of the Martyrs’ on September 4 each year, where they memorialize people who have been important in the history of their community.
The school principal asked our permission to include Beth as one of the people they honor on September 4 each year. My memory at that point gets hazy but I am pretty sure we said yes.”
“From there, drying tears from our eyes, we went over to the computer lab to observe a class in progress,” Leslie continues. “We were able to become flies on the wall for the lesson on Windows Movie Maker. It was impressive that school had only started some six weeks before – and each student only has a couple of hours on the computers each week – but they zipped around the computer following the narration of their teacher, Ovando.
We all left with a profound sense of being part of that community. We had had the incredible opportunity to share of our bounty and make a lasting memorial of a loved one, but we had received a friends’ welcome and a family members’ goodbye.”
Across borders, across languages, across economic and social and intellectual divides, we belong to each other.
July 24-29, 2018
A five-day tour offering a glimpse into CoEd’s projects and the beauty of the landscapes and culture of Guatemala.
Helping Hands Tour
July 15-21, 2018
A week-long service tour offering the opportunity to volunteer alongside students who benefit from CoEd’s projects.
July 9-15, 2018
A week-long tour offering individuals and families who are connected to Guatemala through adoption a unique opportunity to reconnect with the country.