Posted by Alison on May 16, 2014
From the city of Comitancillo, Guatemala, already at an impressive altitude of 2,200m, we head up. Reuben, the Director of project partner, AMMID (the Mayan Mam Association for Research and Development), is our host. We leave behind the paved road in favor of a gravel road, which inevitably turns into almost no road at all. My neck will later feel the whiplash of shifting gears to make it up the steep switchbacks that wind their way into the rural communities in the western highlands of Guatemala.
Reuben raises his hand often in a wave, gives a honk or a delivers a deliberate head nod as we pass through communities. Having founded and worked for AMMID for 17 years, he is easily recognized and welcomed here.
First stop is a school built by Change for Children in El Rio. This school was built as a result of the generosity of several of our donors, including proceeds from the Joffrey Lupul Charity Golf Classic in 2008, memorial donations in the name of Paul Toymn and memorial donations in the name of Linda Nycholat. The seventy children who attend the school, built in 2009, participate in the planting and harvesting of a school garden that provides food for the students who also learn about diet diversification and agriculture methods.
In contrast, our second visit is to an overcrowded school with classes held in aluminum-sided structures with dirt floors. It is here that AMMID seeks to improve the cramped, uncomfortable learning environment of dedicated students. This is an area vulnerable the advance of foreign mining companies who have caused irreparable environmental and social damage in nearby areas where they currently operate and who promise to build schools if granted access to the area. Providing schools without the aid of mining companies is a way to relieve the pressure felt by communities to allow them to enter the area.
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