The Education Centre is more than just a school that supports children and families in extreme poverty who work seven days a week on Chimaltenango’s rubbish dump. It is a place where 120 children and adolescents are provided with a source of spiritual, social, and educational support and are helped and encouraged to share their learning with their families in order that their world is changed.
2016 brings a new school year. A new start. Previously the Education Centre provided just pre-school and primary school education. At the beginning of this year they were given permission by the Ministry of Education in Guatemala to start teaching the first year of secondary school classes. This means the children who finished primary school at the Education Centre last year have been able to continue at the school this year.
“There was a girl called Cristina, who graduated from primary school from the Education Centre in 2014. She could not continue with us last year as we still did not have permission to give secondary school classes. Sadly, Cristina, who lived in desperate circumstances, committed suicide as she could no longer attended school. We wish we could have been there for her last year and done more as she faced up to the circumstances in which she lived.” – Vanessa Lopez, Director
Vanessa estimates there are about 250 children that fill the profile of children who attend the school that are living in the Chimaltenango rubbish dump area of which 120 go to the school. They would love to be able to do more. Cristina, a pupil at the school last year, ending her life, demonstrates the desperation under which families and children in the area live. Vanessa and the teachers at the Education Centre are more than just teachers. Cristina’s story motivates them to serve and do their best as they teach and guide the children to recognise they can change themselves and their communities.
“Last year a boy called Jeferrson graduated from primary school. When we offered him the opportunity to come back to study secondary school he said he had to work. His father had just died and he felt he had to make up for his loss. We visited Jeferrson and his family to discuss their situation and see how we could help. We are delighted that Jeferrson is studying his first year of secondary school with us this year. He comes to school Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and spends the rest of his time working.” – Luis Marroquin, Director and Administrator
Many of these children after leaving school at midday go to the rubbish dump to be with their families, rummaging amongst the wild dogs and vultures for anything of value to sell or recycle. It is an unimaginable and desperate way to make a living. Anyone would be well within their right to ask, “How did it ever get to this?”.
The Education Centre brings hope. Hope in many ways, that brings waves of impact into not just the children’s but the families’ lives too. Being more than just a school, at the Education Centre the children encounter the living God who created them. They discover who He is, they discover their identity in Him and they learn to lean on Him and draw strength and peace as they go about living their ‘normal’ day to day lives of suffering and worry.
“This year I feel very well and I want to learn more. I love it here at the Education Centre because I feel like here is my family that help me to continue going.” – William, 11
“I am very happy at the Education Centre because they teach me about God. If it wasn’t for the Education Centre I would not be able to study. I am grateful to God and I love Him with all my heart! mMy favourite class is Mathematics!” – Freddy, 13
It is common amongst the children to hear them asking their parents to take them to church and to pray together before meals in their homes. Morning devotionals take place at the Education Centre and a lot of singing! The children’s parents and families are invited to a medical clinic at the school once a month. Respiratory and heart problems are very common with cooking done in almost all houses every day on smoky wood fires without chimneys. The girls at the My Special Treasure Protection Home volunteer at these clinics organising the waiting lines, assisting the nurses and giving out medicine.
“I love teaching at the Education Centre. My biggest hope is that my students give their hearts to God and give their best as they learn each day.” – Jackeline, teacher
We would love to do more to support this incredible, ministry-based school that has captured the heart of the Chimaltenango rubbish dump community. Over the last few years in January as inscriptions have taken place, queues of parents and their children start to form outside the school at 5:00am, ready for when the teachers arrive at 9:00am – the teachers describe this as a humbling image. The teachers have the heart-breaking task of determining the strongest needs on an individual and family basis against the spaces they have available in the Education Centre.
Reaching 120 children out of an estimated 250, the need continues to be great. There is a real difference being made and there is potential for great generational change among the community as they learn values to equip them to change their community. The Education Centre has big dreams, and not only just for secondary school and sixth form. Would you take the time to consider if you would like to join with us and be a part of contributing to the success story of the Education Centre?
Lucia (above) was transformed in one year, she went from the rubbish to now being in school everyday.