Education holds the key.
My passion for this country goes way back to 2006, when my children and I started doing mission trips to the Mayan Highlands of Guatemala to dig water wells and teach villagers about basic hygiene. Year after year we returned to see proud, hardworking people not looking for hand-outs but a hand-up. They provided the land and worked side-by-side with us as we brought fresh water and sanitation to their communities.
The primarily agrarian communities were rich in heritage, culture and desire to better themselves, but bereft of any opportunity. Hopelessness ruled the day. Young men were noticeably absent as they had headed north to America to find a job or some way to help their families. Many were never heard from again. I saw small children at the well site all day. When I inquired why they weren’t in school, they just shrugged and indicated that the school had no supplies, books or materials. Teachers often didn’t show up. Most kids dropped out in 4th or 5th grade because they hadn’t learned the necessary reading and writing skills to do advanced work.
Literacy is a foundational skill. When young children don’t learn to read or write, it prevents advanced education, which translates to lower-paying jobs and smothers the opportunity to succeed. I knew that if this cycle continued, each successive generation would be left to struggle in abject poverty.
I’ve seen first-hand the results of children without hope, who were given the opportunity to learn and did magnificent things. When my wife Carole and I were first married, we lived close to San Diego and spent time in Baja Mexico working with an orphanage.
Colina de Luz orphanage has about 100 abandoned, medically and emotionally challenged kids that have nothing in their lives, except for a caring couple named Jim and Sue Drake.
They are trying to make life better for these forgotten children and were looking for outside volunteers to help. We met Bricia, a precocious eight-year-old girl, who Jim and Sue were trying to get into school. The only schools available required tuition; so my wife and I paid Bricia’s tuition and the tuition of a couple of her classmates. We would receive report cards and regular updates on their progress. When we visited, we would see all that they had learned and how much they enjoyed school. Bricia worked hard and excelled through high school and we continued to support her as she entered the University. Bricia was very sick as a child and had spent time in hospitals with various illnesses related to poverty.
She became inspired by the doctors and nurses who took care of her, and she vowed someday to be help other sick people. In March of 2013, we were so excited to see her graduate from Medical School to become a doctor. Bricia is now working in Social Services and finishing her residency and helps in the medical clinic at Colina de Luz.
This is what education can do and how it can change lives, communities and the world. We need more stories like Bricia and it is our mission now with Global Learning Exchange Initiative (GLXi) to start the process with early literacy and education; to give these kids the foundation they need to succeed.
Founder and Board President, GLXi