I was drawn to Niños de Guatemala and international education for a number of reasons. I believe that every child should have the opportunity not just to attend school, but rather to have an education experience that engages, motivates and inspires her or him. I believe that teachers in every town and every region of all countries should be respected as professionals and supported in their work. I believe in Niños de Guatemala’s model of supporting the educational experience in a holistic way – that is, in a way that addresses all aspects of education from academics, learning styles, social-emotional needs, teacher support, nutrition and hygiene to parent education and community engagement as well. I was drawn to Niños for all of these reasons. Although I must admit, I enjoy my job at Niños for rather selfish reasons.
I enjoy my job at Niños de Guatemala because it affords me the opportunity to witness the incredible connections our Padrinos and their Ahijados make with each other. I get to see the smile that spreads across a girl’s face when I give her a letter from her Madrina, a former volunteer at our school. I get to see how special she clearly feels to learn that her Madrina thinks of her, and read the e-mail from the Madrina, who is touched that the girl remembers her so fondly. I get to listen to the seemingly shy boy in Parvulos—our pre-kindergarten program—light up, and list (almost without taking a breath!) all the things he’d like to tell his Padrino in the message I am helping him write. I get to watch a group of girls from Preparatoria, our Kindergarten class, whom I brought Padrino letters for grab each others’ hands, excitedly jumping and dancing over to the tables where we read them together. I share these stories and photos with our Padrinos, knowing that if they cannot be in Guatemala, they can only see the children through me. And when a Padrino tells me they read a recent update with tears in their eyes, I know they get it too.
For the children it is not about the money, and it’s not about any gifts. I know this because their reactions are just as profound whether they receive a present or simply a thoughtful note to say hello. For them, it is about that connection that is forged. I can see that the children are inspired and motivated knowing that someone new has taken an interest in their school experience.
We need and value our Padrinos tremendously. As the Padrino Program Coordinator and a part of NDG’s Fundraising and Development Department, I can tell you that our Padrinos’ monthly donations provide vital financial support for each child’s school expenses, teacher materials, salaries and school maintenance. As a former elementary teacher of five years, I can tell you that the children’s relationships with their Padrinos instill in them a broader perspective and sense of the interconnectedness within the world, and that these are vital elements to inspire curiosity and engagement.
It is my privilege to be the liaison between Padrinos and the children they sponsor. It is an honor to witness the bonds our Padrinos and children create with one another across countries, cultures, languages and ages, and how they inspire one another. And I am very aware, every day I visit our schools, that I am lucky for that.