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Arrival to Familia de Esperanza or Common Hope

Juli & Julie at Common Hope
Jewles and I woke up early this morning packed up our bags and headed to Common Hope. We arrived about 9am. Things move at a very different pace here and our aid was on vacation, traditionally everyone takes a break this time of year, so when we arrived they weren't sure what do with us. 

Jennifer and Wendy were very gracious and helped us find a room and gave us a moment to settle in. Construction work for today was not looking to be high on the list so we relaxed and went with the flow. A short time later Wendy offered us a fantastic opportunity to take a mini tour of Familia de Esperanza as they call themselves in Spanish. 

Wendy introduced us to a beautiful young woman, Louisa. Louisa is from Minnesota and been working with Familia de Esperanza for the past year and a half. She took us out into San Pedro for a mini tour to see the area, a school that Common Hope works with and to meet a family affiliated with the organization.

Louisa & Julie
Driving out to San Pedro is a bit interesting, actually most rides anywhere I have been to in Guatemala are, the driving is just, so well, opposite of the states. You can't tell left from right, who's in what lane or how fast you are to be traveling. As a passenger you are always grabbing your seat and pressing your foot on the invisible break.

Once we arrived in San Pedro we were taken by the landscape; glorious volcanoes in the back drop, and beautiful cathedral. The cathedral is just lovely, it stands tall and proud overlooking the village, clearly sending the house of worship message in a strong way. Catholicism is a very rich part of the religious customs here.

Every village has a community center where everyone gathers this area also happened to contain an outdoor laundry spot. Since no one has running water in their homes this style of washing makes perfect sense. We stood back and watched the women washing their laundry in this enormous pool of water. Every day they gather here to clean the clothes, socialize and naturally a bit of gossip too.
Cathedral at San Pedro
Community Laundry Area
Louisa then took us across the street to the elementary school. Children from 1st-6th grade attend school here, she told us. They are lucky to keep children in school past grade six as the family often needs the child to work to earn money to help support the family. Education is a hot button issue throughout Guatemala. 

A lot of laws are written in place saying everyone is entitled to a free education and everyone must go to school but, there is not a lot of follow through ensuring that the students actually attend, and worse is there are many factors such as buying your own uniforms and school books that prevent many children from attending as their parents simply cannot afford them. 

When the average family is 5-6 children and the average income is $2,500 annually who can afford to send all of them or any of them, and if no one is enforcing the laws then who really is paying attention. Ahhh but someone is, as this is where Familias de Esperanza comes I, partnering with public education facilities, aiding needy families and providing the extra boost to the teachers, classrooms and schoolhouses that old adage together everyone achieves more really comes true.

For example families have to volunteer to receive the necessary items to send their children off to school. Typically the mom is the one at home and has the time to volunteer. This is absolutely a most win-win situation as she gets to get out of the house, volunteer her services to assist her children is getting an education, but she also is building a resume for herself granting her a little independence too.
School in San Pedro
 The schoolhouse we visited was just finishing for the day and teachers were having a meeting. Louisa went on to explain that Familias de Esperanza also provides continuing education to the teachers and volunteers to substitute in the event that a teacher is unable to work. In the past it was if a teacher didn't show up for class the students would all go home. That's changed now and with volunteers coming in from all over the world these Guatemalan elementary teachers are learning a whole new way to teach their students.

We learned on the ride back to the Common Hope site in Antigua that Common Hope believes in partnering with the public school system as a way of growing itself and networking into an already functioning program. They believe strongly in a Guatemalan taught education system and very much so desire for the people of Guatemala to be able to one day provide for themselves on their own with the proper tools.

Louisa informed us that they have several satellite locations one being Nuevo Esperanza (New Hope) where they actually built a school, provide the uniforms, teachers and books. The area was so poor and so needy that when they built it, it was only designed for a limited number of students but when the locals saw how lovely it was and how effective it was everyone wanted to be a part of it so Common Hope built a bigger school and provided for everyone in the area a quality and free education.
Family we visited affiliated with Common Hope
Later Louisa took us to visit a family affiliated with the organization where Julie and I simply fell in love with the children. The children were excited to have company and loved to have their picture taken and couldn't wait to have us hand over our camera's and let them have a shot.

It was a beautiful day here and we felt like we had a chance to absorb a little bit of Familias de Esperanzas mission and have an even greater appreciation for all those who volunteer here.

P.S. We found the grocery store today and stocked up -cooked up tortillas, black beans and rice with a little guacamole and chips on the side!

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