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Antigua, Guatemala - helping at school

sunny 27 °C
View South and Central America - Sept 14 on Lifeis4living's travel map.

Leaving the beaches of Nicaragua we spent 3 days testing out the beaches of El Salvador at El Tunco. Same warm sea, same hot temperature, same lovely sunsets, black sand rather than white sand but vibes not as nice as Nicaragua as full of tourist/surfers (the get drunk every night kind), so we moved on to Antigua on Guatemala.

The city of Antigua
Antigua is situated in the central highlands of Guatemala famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque influenced architecture as well as a number of spectacular ruins of colonial churches. It served as the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Every street is cobbled (which makes the tuk tuk ride interesting) and there are some really lovely architecture. Hotels, restaurants and cafes have beautiful inside courtyards full of green plans and a lot of charm. You can walk by a very boring plain wall and suddenly there will be an open door and a completely different and striking scenery inside. It makes you want to peep into every doorway.

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The people are very friendly and greet you when you pass them on the street pavement which a little unexpected. There are security guards with guns everywhere. I even found a guard with a pretty scary gun guarding a takeaway pizza place! I had to laugh and photograph him. Also the 4 security guards were happy to be photographed but not with the ice cream they were eating when I saw them. Obviously scared their superior might see my picture somehow! :) However, even if all these guns around, the place doesn't feel scary. We went out at night to eat but always quite close to the hostel and were never very late back though.

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Volunteering at school
Louise, the girl I am travelling with volunteered at this particular school in the subburb of Antigua a couple of years ago and wanted to go back to see how much things had changed. La Escola de Esperanza is run by a British charity who aim to get children out of poverty through education and empowerment. They started with 80 kids and now have 480 ranging from about 5 to 16 yr olds and also help the older, brighter ones through university.

Most of these kids come from very poor families who live on the mountain side in shacks made of corrugated roof and walls. In the rainy season, not only is it very noisy and wet from the hard rain on leaky roofs but it is also dangerous as there are also sometimes land slides which can destroy the whole house. I heard that some are so poor, they try to sell a child. We all know this happens in the world, just to hear it so closeby is tough.

The kids love coming to school as it is their escape from home and their harsh and sometime abusive environment. They not only learn standard subjects but are also taught the importance of hygiene, they clean their teeth at school, wash their hands after going to the toilets and before eating. The school is a bilingual school and they have english lessons which will help them get a better job, perhaps taking advantage of the large tourism industry in Antigua and a chance to get out of their poor environment.

Despite their living condition they are smiling and love to learn but they also have low attention span, are very boisterous and play rough in their games which makes it quite a task for the teachers to calm them down and teach them. Some of them are sleepy as they do not get a good night sleep at home for various reasons. I helped out for a few days in a class of 7 and 8 years old. Every day I was exhausted by 2.30pm when they go home. I have the utmost respect for all the teachers and volunteers there.

Some of the children have a sponsor. This means that for 25 pounds a month, that child is given clothes, food and education. The charity also tries to educate the parents with the importance of hygiene as well as contraception education. If they commit to coming to the school, they are also given a free water filter and shown how to use it properly and look after it as they have water but it is not clean water.

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Posted by Lifeis4living 15:54 Archived in Guatemala Tagged buildings people english

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Gosh Catherine. What a disquieting experience, spending time in that admirable school. As you say, what admirable people are those teaching and giving time to those children - really humbling.

I also loved looking at this raft of photographs - really interesting city scenes.

E Salvador, El Tunco - definitely to be avoided!

by sally rieder

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