This past June, our own Second Grade teacher Ms. Sara Hickman, participated in a Maryknoll immersion trip to Guatemala. The immersion experience provided eight Catholic school teachers from across the U.S. with the opportunity to encounter the Guatemalan people and the Church through missionary discipleship. The group traveled across Guatemala learning from lay and religious missioners who work with those marginalized by society.
Don Poncho, St. Madeleine Sophie’s sister school, was one encounter Ms. Hickman was fortunate to experience. The school is located just over an hour outside of the city of Antigua, in the rural town of Don Poncho; the schools namesake. There are four teachers who travel over an hour to educate the one hundred students (when all are present) from the village. Don Poncho serves two split classes for grades one and two, and another for third and fourth grade. It is typical of Guatemalan children who live in rural areas to attend school until Second Grade. Fifty-four percent of the country lives in extreme poverty, suffering from malnutrition, prejudice and environmental devastation. The country continues to suffer from the violent thirty-six year civil war that ended in 1996. Opportunities for work and accessibility to resources are extremely limited for most Guatemalans. Education is not accessible to the poor. Guatemalans who live in rural villages, like Don Poncho, continue to be marginalized.
St. Madeleine Sophie is partnered with Don Poncho through Avivara. This program provides rural poverty-impacted villages access to education. Don Poncho is one of thirty-two schools in Guatemala that Avivara serves. Ms. Sara Hickman was able to tour Don Poncho with Gary Teale, the director of Avivara. St. Madeleine Sophie’s relationship with Don Poncho is a fundamental pathway for Guatemalans to receive an education. This partnership is one example of how our Church lives in solidarity with Guatemala and serves those on the margins. “And all were filled with the spirit” (Acts 2:4).