Penny Harvest Capital Region of NY
Julie Coyne, Founder and Director
I first traveled to Guatemala thirteen years ago from Connecticut to study Spanish. I quickly fell in love with the people. I was welcomed into their communities as if I had always lived there. Working together with Guatemalan families, I began to learn about the difficulties many faced in their day-to-day lives. They had worries that were much different than my own: whether or not they would be able to feed their families, provide shoes or medicine for their children or be able to send their children to school.
The issue I felt most strongly about was education. I was shocked that there were children in my community that had to drop out of school to work at age 10 or age 12 and some that weren’t able to go to school at all. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if I had never been given the opportunity to attend school. One by one, I started helping a few children to attend school. I wrote letters to people I knew in the United States telling them about the children that I had met and how I wanted to help them go to school. As more people started helping, in 1997, Education and Hope was formed as a proper organization to allow more students in with a desire to be educated to have the chance to go to school.
WHERE WE WORK
Our program works with children in the rural areas in Quetzaltenango in Guatemala. Guatemala is small country in Central America about the size of Tennessee. At schools, students are taught in Spanish. In some villages, children don’t speak Spanish. They speak a local language called Maya Quiche.
WHO WE HELP
In Guatemala about 65 percent (over half) of the population cannot read and write. There are many reasons why so many children cannot attend school. First, public education is not free and many families cannot afford to pay the small school fees or for the school supplies needed. Often families can send their children for a few years of elementary school, but then they have to drop out to work to help their families earn money. Girls are often expected to stay home and care for younger brothers and sisters and help with the housework.
Many small villages do not have their own schools. Children that have to walk a few hours each day to get to school are very likely to drop out. There are villages that do have schools but do not have enough teachers. Some classes have up to 50 students per teacher. Schools usually don’t have enough teachers that speak both the local Mayan language and Spanish to be able to teach children that don’t speak Spanish.
Most parents want their children to have chances that they didn’t have, but some parents don’t believe in educating their children. Because they cannot read or write and have struggles just to get enough food every day, they cannot imagine the benefits of going to school. Sometimes children that are working to earn money for their family think of their siblings that are in school as lazy and encourage them to drop out so they can also work and support the family.
OUR UNIQUE SOLUTION
We have three aspects of our program to help children go to school and to meet their needs so they can be ready to learn.
• Complete scholarships. We provide students with enough money to attend private schools in the city where the school fee is low. Students are given a new backpack filled with school supplies and a pair of school shoes and sneakers, money to take the bus back and forth to school and money to cover medical costs. This year, we are giving scholarships to 171 children.
• After-school tutoring program. Doing well in school can be difficult and students need support. An after-school tutoring program is offered from 1:00 – 5:00 pm with a hot, nutritious lunch so students will be ready to learn. A treat for the students is a chance to take a hot shower in the afternoon. Right now, we have 60 students in the after-school program.
• Casa Esperanza. This means “House of Hope.” This is a home for a group of young people that do not have families at all. Once they have a safe home where they are cared for, these children are ready to take advantage of the chance to go to school.
HOW GOING TO SCHOOL HAS CHANGED SOMEONE’S LIFE
The first young girl who became like a daughter to me is Maria Chavez. When she was offered a scholarship, she was 12-years-old and had never been to school. She was left alone by her mother and stepfather to take care of herself and was living in a shelter when we met. During her first year at school, the people that worked at the shelter made sure that Maria learned to sew at the same time. They didn’t believe that she would do well in school, so they wanted her to learn a skill so she could still earn money without an education. However, Maria worked very hard and achieved good grades every year. Now Maria is 22 and has graduated with a degree in teaching even though few believed in her. She is working with the kindergarten students in the Education and Hope program in the after school program to help other students like herself who were given a chance to go to school.
HOW YOU CAN HELP WITH YOUR PENNY HARVEST FUNDS
• $10 can buy each piece of a school uniform (sweater, skirt, pants)
• $10 can fund one visit to the doctor
• $25 can fund one month of school fees for one student in elementary school
• $50 can fund 2 pairs of school shoes
• $50 can fund one month of school fees for one high school student
• $100 can fund one month of college fees for a student studying to become a doctor
• $250 can provide students with extra classes for their learning, such as art, English or computer classes
• $500 can fund 50 primary school text books
• $1000 can fund all the school fees for 171 children for one week
HOW YOU CAN PARTNER WITH US
• We want students that realize the value of their own education in the United States to reach out to students in Guatemala who don’t have the same opportunities.
• We want students to tell other people about it. The more we help you teach others about our program, the more other people can help and more children get to go to school.
• We have a wish-list of supplies that we need your help collecting and sending to Guatemala, such as new backpacks or reading books in Spanish
• We can help you set up a “Read-A-Thon.” This means that you read to raise money for kids that don’t have books to read.
Name: Julie Coyne
Address: P.O. Box 486
Norwalk, CT 06856
Phone: 011-502-7761-8033 (in Guatemala)
Cell Phone: 203-984-3926 (in Connecticut; please leave message with day and time)
Best time to contact: afternoon
Preferred method of contact: email