Thursday, June 9, 2016
Staff Spotlight: Gricelda - Teaching a New Generation in San Antonio
Written by Amy Porter, Education Program Manager
Gricelda del Rosario Pérez Pérez grew up in the small town of San Antonio Palopó on the edge of Lake Atitlán, home mainly to indigenous Maya Guatemalans, like Gricelda. Today, she teaches at the Mayan Families Preschool Nutrition Center in San Antonio.
San Antonio is one of the poorest towns in Guatemala. Government reports found that up to 87% of the town’s residents suffer from poverty. There is little work in San Antonio, and as the majority of those who live there speak only the local indigenous language of Kaq’chikel, they face severe discrimination and difficulties seeking work outside town. Gricelda was lucky enough to have a father who encouraged her education, including the vital skill of learning Spanish.
Yet growing up in San Antonio was still a struggle. By the time she was seven years old, Gricelda was working to support her family. She earned money any way she could: making and selling bracelets, working in a Coca-Cola warehouse, and using a labor-intensive backstrap loom to weave tipica (traditional indigenous clothing), which she sold at a local market. Her father contributed little to the family finances, but his desire for his children to be able to obtain skilled work in the future ensured that what he did have was used to fund Gricelda and her younger brother’s education. The long hours that Gricelda worked so her family could eat meant that she and her brother sometimes had to study late into the night. “Sometimes we didn’t sleep,” she said. “But that’s just life!”
San Antonio Palopó sits on the edge of Lake Atitlán. Photo by: Anna Watts
In 2010, tropical storm Agatha hit the lakeside town with devastating effects. Reminded of this tragedy, Gricelda’s distress is clear. “There were children who lost both their parents, parents who lost all their children,” she recounts, softly. “Many people lost their entire homes and were left with nothing. Afterwards, there was no food, people had no clothes, nothing at all.”
The situation in San Antonio remains desperate for the majority of families. In many homes, Gricelda explains, parents are unable to feed their children even a single nutritious meal a day. For this reason, she is grateful to our Preschool Nutrition Center in San Antonio for providing these children with not only the vital early education that will prepare them for primary school, but with a healthy, daily meal. For many of these children, this might be the only meal they receive all day.
Photo by: Anna Watts
Over past five years, Gricelda has seen our San Antonio Preschool Nutrition Center move through two other temporary buildings before we acquired the land to construct our own preschool. Funds so far have only provided for the first floor of the Preschool Nutrition Center. Though sturdy and well-made, the present building is too small for the 60 preschoolers attending school every day. With so many children filling in this cramped environment daily, the classrooms can get very hot. “Some of our children are very delicate, and get ill quickly,” Gricelda worries.
The Mayan Families Preschool Nutrition Center in San Antonio is new, but unfinished. The two-room school does not have enough space and is in urgent need of construction of a second floor. Photo by: Anna Watts
This small space also limits socialization and play activities: “They can’t play here even though we have toys, cars… they’d like to have a recess but it’s difficult. We have to give them their snack in their seats for recess… they’d like to run and jump, because they’re kids!”
Gricelda has great hopes for the students in her classroom: “My greatest wish is that they have professional careers, that they can become lawyers, doctors, engineers, architects, have college degrees, a car, a house with maybe two or three levels! That there will be more jobs created here in the town and there will no longer be poverty here in San Antonio.”
Photo by: Anna Watts
Gricelda is emphatic about the huge difference that donors can make to support our efforts to expand our Preschool Nutrition Center in San Antonio. ”I ask with all my heart, that people support us, that they lend us a hand with this project. And when it’s finished, that they come and visit us!”
How Can You Help?
If you feel motivated to support Gricelda, our 60 preschoolers, and the entire community of San Antonio Palopó, please click here to donate NOW on GlobalGiving!
Photo by: Anna Watts