Comunidad La Esperanza (Community of Hope) is a middle school that was founded in 2012 by a group of concerned mothers who didn’t want to send their children on the long commute to the nearest school in Chimaltenango, a dangerous area with a high prevalence of gang activity. The classrooms at Comunidad La Esperanza (CLE) have now been closed since March 2020 and with no end to the COVID-19 crisis in sight, CLE staff recently requested and received Rapid Response Funds for the support of an Emergency Response Project: to provide basic foods, hygiene essentials and support to students.

Last week the first delivery was completed by CLE staff, successfully delivering food and hygiene parcels to 42 students, while also offering health consultations, nutrition advice and medical support to one student who recently suffered a mild stroke due to high levels of stress – a result of experiencing the pandemic in a violent household.

According to the Inter-American Development Bank, “The prolonged closure of educational centers will have severely negative repercussions on learning and dropout rates, especially for disadvantaged and vulnerable middle class students, and even more so for indigenous, migrant and special needs students.”

During a conversation between Mae Ardón (GoPhil Guatemala Programs Assistant) and Hilda Vásquez (Comunidad La Esperanza Director), Hilda expressed feeling “incredibly worried about the number of students who have reported an increase in violence in their homes since the pandemic began.” CLE students normally live in households with limited economic resources and several reported experiencing violence long before the pandemic began. With family members losing jobs, the overall stress of the pandemic and a high prevalence of alcoholism, this situation has become much worse. An important focus of CLE’s Emergency Response Project was to offer in-person psychological support and attention to students and families that experience domestic violence in the home.

Two passionate CLE teachers participated in the Emergency Response Project and shared their thoughts.

CLE professor, Benjamin Coti, reflected:

“Participating in this initiative made us think about everything we have and that which we take for granted. The process made me more human, seeing the needs of so many people, who because of the pandemic were left without work and are struggling to get ahead. It was moving to see people’s gratitude for these bags of groceries, which I call ‘Bolsas de Esperanza’ (Bags of Hope), since for many families they represented a small spark of hope.”

Equity is a core and guiding principle at Comunidad La Esperanza, a school which believes all children deserve a chance (and a second chance where needed) to succeed.

CLE passionately believes that with sufficient investment, knowledge, encouragement and role models to look up to, the children of Chimaltenango can and will transform their community.

CLE teacher, Rosy Martinez, shared:

“The experience was very enriching. We are going through a new situation for everyone, which has not been easy. It filled me with joy to see the boys welcome us with a big smile. It was very difficult to not greet them as usual with a hug or a kiss on the cheek, but despite this we were able to share a smile and a nice moment together. I am grateful because we were able to see most of the young people we work with and we motivated them to stay strong and keep going.

When I was on the road returning home, I was reminded of a phrase that goes: ‘The hands that give with love never return empty’.

I thank all of the people who made these contributions to help our students.”

The Emergency Response Project at Comunidad La Esperanza has been integral not only in providing basic food supplies, but also in allowing CLE staff to check on the wellbeing of CLE students. We extend our immense gratitude to the GoPhil donors and community for providing resources and support to make this endeavor possible.