We arrived in Antigua late last night after a five-hour drive from Chiquimula. Antigua…what a beautiful city!
The city of Antigua is surrounded by several volcanoes. The architecture is beautiful – ornate doorways, gorgeous colors and cobblestone walkways. The city has more of a tourist feel to it. It is full of markets with textiles, jade and Guatemalan art. It is a beautiful destination!
Even though it is a huge tourist location, poverty is still here. We woke up and went a couple blocks to Pedro Bethancourt Elementary School, where we were greeted by the director of the school and one of their teachers. They beamed as we walked in, and the director of the school said through tears, “You are such a gift… Thank you for coming to help our children.” She had so much pride in her school, and we could tell she was a huge advocate for education and her students. The director showed us their computer lab, which had about 30 computers in it. Unfortunately, only 10 or so worked. You could tell their concern for not having the supplies they needed to teach their kids. It was eye-opening to see their passion for education and desire to provide for their students and the future of Guatemala, despite lacking what is common for some of us in the States.
We walked through their entrance door, which opened up to a courtyard and recess area. There were five classrooms – we could hear the hustle and bustle of the kids learning and lessons being taught. It was a tight-run ship but full of joy! We set our shoes up on their stage area, and one at a time a class would come out of their rooms, perfectly lined up, and we fit them with shoes. This time around I took a different position in our fitting process – I ended up working with them at the toy/gift area, giving the kids books and blow-up globes and other additional gifts.
Once all the kids were fit we had about an hour to hang out and get to know them – we sang to each other and laughed. They spoke English, and we spoke the little we know of Spanish. We were able to make connections here and learn from each other. These kids were grateful and full of love. It was a pleasure working with each and every one of the them!
Our trip to Guatemala was beyond amazing – we were able to see three different groups of children and sub-groups of the Guatemalan culture. Our eyes were opened to a beautiful country, very unlike our own and full of wonderful individuals. There’s a lot of love to give, and in the words of Tiffany Johnson, who works for Soles4Souls, “Everyone needs some lovin’ on.” We brought our Milwaukee hearts and gift of shoes with us on this journey. There is no doubt the need for food and other resources is present in our backyard of Milwaukee. The need is all over the world – my eyes were opened to the challenges our friends in Guatemala face, and we were able to bring joy with a pair of shoes to the kids of Guatemala.
Through this experience I realized that we all need to do what we can to give love and challenge ourselves to look beyond our daily routine to really affect someone else’s life. It’s beyond rewarding to give and experience this gift of humanity and the joy of life together. Thank you from my heart and the hearts of the Guatemalan people who thanked us for our generosity and gift of shoes! Let’s together continue to Share-a-Pair and join to help men, women and kids in our backyard and around the world.
Also, thank you for letting Ben and I be the eyes, ears and faces that represented every person who so graciously gives to our Share-a-Pair shoe drive! We carried each of you along on our journey.