Teaching children is an adventure and each and every child is unique and precious in their own way. Discovering how to reach them in the way that they learn best can be a challenge.
While I’m not a trained teacher, over the years I’ve developed the skill of being able to manage a disparate group of children from just about any background and impart, to some extent, something of value.
Whether it’s Bible classes, carpentry, computer or life skills, there are always some children who pay rapt attention, and others who would rather be just about anywhere else. I think almost nothing makes a teacher happier than when they are able to inspire in a disinterested or inattentive child the desire and passion to learn.
While I don’t live for those moments, they certainly do make my day. That said, I would like to tell you about the children we work with at our VETC (Vocational Educational Training Center).
The goal of this program is to provide free computer training and IT skills to children living in Colonia Santa, a dangerous “red zone” of Guatemala City and its surrounding “barrancos” or ravines, while teaching them of God’s love through Bible classes, scripture memorization and Vacation Bible school.
I have almost never seen children with such an amazing desire to learn. The attendance of the children has been incredible, when we opened the classes at the beginning of the year we had 60 students sign up, with the addition of a Saturday class last month, we are up to 78.
Classes take place in the afternoons and on Saturday, students learn touch typing, MS windows / office applications and programming.
Most importantly, Eduard, our wonderful teacher, is faithful to share the Gospel with them and tell them of God’s love. Most of these children come from truly troubled backgrounds, many are from broken families and have lost relatives or loved ones to the gang violence that rules their neighborhoods. Their parents scrape by to make a living and children are often put to work so the families can meet their basic needs.
Perhaps because there is so little opportunity, the parents and children see the value in what we have to offer and value the chance to learn. Attendance has been amazing. Out of the 78 children in our classes, 38 have had perfect attendance and not missed a day of classes, of the remainder, 3 had dropped out because their families moved and the rest only missed less than 3 classes so far this year.
These children inspire me. They come, day in and day out, rain or shine, every afternoon for their classes. They understand that learning valuable skills will give them a chance to break the cycle of poverty from which they come. They and their parents also value the foundation of faith we are giving them through Gods word that will strengthen and fortify their spirits and give them the grace for any challenge they will face in life.
This program has been many years in the making. We have been through ups and down, operated with limited resources, tried many different approaches to teaching, dealt with shoddy, old, broken computers and limited space. There were times when we felt overwhelmed by the challenges before us and unsure if the impact we were having was worth the cost, yet as we look at how things are running now, we can’t help but marvel at what God had in store for us.
Thanks to all of you have funded this project and support us as missionaries, together we are having a powerful impact on the generation that can change Guatemala for the better.