March 14, 2007

Child of the week

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name:
Jorge Choc
age:
15
grade:
4th
favorite subject:
natural sciences
favorite sport:
soccer
# of brothers and sisters:
4 brothers
future goal:
to be a teacher

I decided to feature Jorge this week because today is his 15th birthday. So as we are celebrating his birthday, we are also celebrating the fact that he is in school this year. At 15 and still in 4th grade, it's obvious that school has been a struggle for Jorge and his family. In Salacuim it is all too common for kids to take years off from going to school if there is work to do in the fields or if the family cannot come up with enough money to send them. Over and over we have heard...maybe next year, as a response to why the children aren't in school. We have a huge problem with teenagers still in elementary school here. More importantly, is the race against the clock to get them through before they become too embarrassed to be in elementary school at their age. Many of the kids are close to finishing 6th grade, but are now 17 and do not like the idea of being in a class of 12 year olds. Shame plays a large part in why kids may drop out of school. We are really pushing Jorge to finish this year and move forward instead being stuck in the same position year after year.
Jorge was one of the first kids that sought us out for help after hearing that we were doing a scholarship program. At the time we had several kids already enrolled and had an idea where the rest of the money was going to go. We weren't really looking to expand any further. After coming to our house a couple times and constantly asking for the chance to study, we decided that we couldn't say no to him. How many kids actually beg for a chance to go to school in the states? He really had no other way to study this year and I have a feeling if we wouldn't have helped him, he would have been lost to a 3rd grade education for the rest of his life.

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Jorge is the oldest of 5 boys in his family. His mother works hard as an employee of the NGO we work at. She cleans the office and washes the clothes for the employees. It's a couple hours of work a day. The rest of the time she is busy trying to find other ways to make ends meet. Her husband was killed a few years ago and since then, Jorge has assumed the role as the labor worker in the family. He's only 15, but is expected to work in the fields every day right after class. Because of the scholarship money he received, Jorge has discovered a passion for acting in school plays. Most recently he was Pedro Alvarado, the Spanish conquistador that led the conquest of the Guatemalan highlands in 1523.

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Jorge as Alvarado

Sometimes the smallest explorations of talent would not be possible without the monetary help of a sponsor. The money to sponsor a child in elementary school goes to school supplies, extra curricular activities, shoes, and uniform. We are fortunate enough to have acquired enough to support each child in the activities they desire to participate in throughout the year, which makes their experience much richer. For a while Jorge has a chance to be a 15 year old again without worrying about how the money he needs for school is taking away from his family.

1 comment:

Marisa said...

Kari- I've just been catching up on the blog and missing you! I don't know if you are checking your email these days, but I just wanted to say that your experiences truly amaze me and I couldn't be prouder of you two. The "child of the week" is such a nice way to personalize and humanize the work that you're doing. Kari, the social worker. Yay! God bless, Marisa