This morning we visited DESGUA, which is an organization dedicated to the sustainable development of a new Guatemala. Much of the conversation was focused on the issue of immigration, and what causes so many young people to leave Guatemala. Many points were made about the need to develop a Guatemala that provides opportunities for young people, which is not an easy task but something that many are working towards. Immigration is such a complex issue, and a heavily debated one in the US. It is easy to make assumptions about what motivates so many migrants come to the US, but it is critical to consider why these people would leave their own countries and families. Guatemala's history is full of complex and deep-rooted issues that have greatly affected its reality today, and there is much that I cannot even begin to understand about what these people have faced as a country. Seeing how so many citizens persevere and have so much hope for a prosperous future is so inspiring, and something I feel that we can all learn from.
After lunch, we continued today's ventures at CEIPA, the Eccumentical Center of Pastoral Integration. CEIPA was started in 1989 by Guatemalans to help working children receive education. The public education system in Guatemala is subpar and not very functional. Additionally, many children are unable to go to school because they are expected to work in order to support their families. As a result, only 17% of children go on to a university and only 2% of the university students at the national university actually graduate. CEIPA makes it possible for youth who had to drop out of school to receive an elementary level education even if they are older than the traditional elementary student. However, working in the street makes the children very vulnerable to things like drugs, violence and prostitution. Fortunately, CEIPA helps reduce this risk by taking the children off of the streets for three hours a school day, providing education,and teaching children values and how to speak up for themselves. Although they do not have textbooks and are currently in a difficult financial season, they teach the students to develop critical thinking skills by analyzing newspapers and the world around them. My favorite part about visiting CEIPA was meeting the children in one of the classrooms. These children were in seventh grade and ranged from 13 to 16 years old. They worked as mechanics, housekeepers or produce vendors. When we entered the classroom, they were very excited to meet us and bursting with questions like, what was our favorite fruit and what kids in the United States liked to do in their free time. The students were much like students in the United States; for instance, there was a clear class clown who tried to convince that he was a really big nine year old. Although I have alway known that people are people regardless of their skin color or ethnicity, seeing the students laugh and interact provided clear proof to that thought.
When we left CEIPA, we headed to a nearby restaurant where we had an absolutely wonderful dinner. We are all exhausted, but we will certainly stay up to play several rounds of cards!