She’s 15-years-old and wakes up to the alarm of her sisters cheap cellphone
What time do you get out of bed in the morning? Do you use an alarm clock? Do you hit the snooze?
Every year we give out 15 scholarships to kids from El Rosario to go to a private Christian middle school in nearby Chimaltenango. It’s an alternative school, which really just means kids have class one day a week and do the rest of their work at home. “Weekend school”, as it’s called in Guatemala, is from 7:30am to 2pm on Sundays. Kids turn in their homework, copy the following weeks work from a whiteboard, listen to a short lesson, take notes, ask questions and rush to their next class. Rinse and repeat until 2pm.
When we award scholarships we also provide summer school and tutoring. Six hours a week with a teacher, isn’t enough. Before the school year begins, new students come to the academy 3 days a week to prepare for middle school. We work with them for 2 ½ months. During the school year, we offer tutoring 2 days a week from 3:30-6pm. I say “we offer” but if they accept the scholarship, it’s required.
Why would anyone want to go to “Weekend school”?
Most of our kids on scholarship can’t afford middle school. Without it they would most likely stay at home, help mom around the house or help dad out in the fields until they’re old enough to get a full time job of their own. A full time job will be hard to find and will probably pay one third the legal minimum wage.
I want you to meet Meyra (pronounced May-duh). She was awarded one of our very first scholarships. Her older sister is in high school so she would have had to wait her turn to go to school. Most families can only afford to send one child at a time. Some kids wait until they’re 18 to begin the 7th grade. Last year we awarded a scholarship to a girl who was 20-years-old.
I noticed Meyra wasn’t coming to tutoring so I asked the other girls if they knew where she was. “She’s working at a factory.”
Ughhhh! My heart broke. “Is she still going to school?” I asked.
“Yes!” they sang in unison.
I stopped by her house later that day to talk with Meyra and her parents. Meyra was at work but her mom said I could meet with them on Sunday after school.
“Is she working every day?”
“Yes. She works every day but Sundays. She goes to school on Sundays.” Her smile said that she was proud of her.
Sunday came and I sat down with Meyra and her momma. She told me that she wakes up every morning at 5:30am and walks about a mile down a dirt road to catch a bus that takes her to a factory in a small town called Parramos.
She washes her hands, puts on a mask and at 7am she begins cutting broccoli that will be cleaned, packaged and shipped to the United States. She shows me little cuts all over her left hand.
“Do they hurt?”
“Not any more,” she says with a smile.
She cuts broccoli until 10am when she gets her first break. She has 15 minutes to stand in line to buy 8 tortillas and a cup of atol, a common Guatemalan porridge, all for about .45 cents. She continues to cut broccoli until her lunch break at 2pm. It’s a 30 minute break and it’s her last. After her lunch she’ll work until there’s no more “product”.
“What time do you finish?”
“I don’t know. It depends. Sometimes we finish at 6 or 7. Sometimes I don’t get home until 9 or 10 at night.”
I was speechless. I had no idea what to say. I literally had no words.
I leaned over and gave her a hug. I still had no words. In my mind I told her “I’m sorry.” All I could think about was my daughter Cecilia. I couldn’t imagine her working those hours.
She told me that she likes to work.
“Why?” I asked with crinkled eyebrows.
“Because there’s a lot of need in my family. I want to help my dad. My family has really suffered.” My frustration began to melt.
“How much do you earn?” I asked even though I didn’t want to know the answer.
“I earn Q940 a month. I give half to my parents and I keep the other half.” That’s $127.25 a month, divided by two. She works 11, 12, sometimes 13 hours a day. On her day off she goes to school, comes home for lunch and tries to do most of her homework that day. On days she gets home early, she takes a short rest and keeps working on her homework.
I’ve visited Meyra’s family many times over the years and this was the first time I took notice of the condition of their home. If you take another look at the photo you can see it’s made of wood planks. As you can imagine, wood isn’t the best material to build homes in such rainy climate. You can see the spaces between the planks that I’m sure the wind literally whistles through. You can see the dirt floors.
I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed before. That frustrates me. I LOVE this family. Meyra’s father is one of the good guys. He works hard but there’s never enough work. Her younger sister Crystal is super smart and will most likely receive a scholarship next year. Her younger brother Luis is in the 4th grade and he’s on track to receive a scholarship as well.
I’ve met many men who have left El Rosario for the United States and Canada to work. Only one of them got there legally, with a 1-year work visa. The rest paid a lot of money and risked their lives so they could save their families. Can I just be real with you? There’s no opportunity here. Full time jobs that pay minimum wage (about $400 a month) are almost impossible to find. And when you find one you’re usually worked into the ground. Your body wears down quicker. Your spirit wears down quicker.
Unfortunately, I don’t see the government or opportunities changing any time soon. So when men and women cross the border, I get it. Please don’t tell me they should do it legally. The people crossing the border have zero chance of getting there legally. I checked into taking one of our teachers, just to visit, and quickly found it’s impossible.
I don’t know a single Guatemalan in El Rosario who would rather live in the States. They want to stay here. They want watch their kids grow up. They love their country. But when your back’s up against a wall…what are you going to do?
Education is the key to ending poverty. I don’t see any other way out. With a good education, MAYBE they can get a full time job. And then maybe they won’t have to cross the border. It’s a slow process but each scholarship, each student is a seed.
I am forever humbled by your desire to change lives. How we love our neighbors is how we love Jesus. Thank you for loving Him so well.
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Such a moving update!!
Among your many gifts is writing and sharing the stories of those in El Rosario and making us feel as though we are there with you. THANK YOU!!!
Thank you bro. We’re blessed to partner with you to expand the Kingdom.
George, I love your updates! It breaks my heart to think of my own 15 year old daughter having to work like that.
May God continue to bless the work you do!
Thank you Angie. Thinking of our daughters working 10+ hour days, 6 days a week is sobering. ❤️
Tell Meyra that she is an inspiration
Cathy, I will. ❤️❤️❤️
I enjoy reading your blog posts & learning more about the beautiful people you love! I normally read them aloud to my husband and there hasn’t been one time when tears didn’t fill my eyes. Thanks for blessing us
Marissa, thank you for following our journey. A year before we came on the field my wife and I also read a missionaries blog.
When we moved to Guatemala 6 years ago we drove out to meet Brock and Kerrie. We told them how we read their blog every night and how we cried. They became some of our best friends and mentors.
They JUST moved back to Florida and will be relocating to Iraq!
George thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus in Guatemala. That story touches my heart so!
Cora, thank you for always encouraging us! ❤️
I love hearing the stories of the Families you work with such big hearts you and your Family have.May God continue blessing you each and everyday.
Eleanor Valdez (Splash)
My mom’s maiden name is Eleanor Valdez! Thank you for your kind words. ❤️
Thank you for your heart, George. I sponsor two kids in San Juan La Laguna. Dad went to the U.S. about 11 years ago and was here for about 7 years, working to make enough money to finish the home they had started building. It was hard on the family of 6 kids and a cousin living with them, but it paid off for them. You are right about the job situation there. Meyra is an inspiration, and there are so many more like her.
Garry, you are so right. There are so many more like her. She IS an inspiration! Thank you for everything you do!
Blessings… to Meyra and the work you are all doing there. 🙂
Thank you Tami! I’m praying for that girl! She’s a fighter!
I have no words, just grateful in many ways…surely we can put heads together and do a better job of helping in the meantime. Thanks for all you do!
Some days it can be so hard to be in the middle of it all. But. At the end of each day, we’re so grateful. 🙏🏾
I love reading your updates!! 💜💜
THANK YOU Jodi! ❤️ That means a lot.
I will be praying for transformation for Guatamala. This girl’s story is repeated throughout the world countless times. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Abundant life is His plan. Thanks for being a part of that plan. I have hope for the computer lab at the school opening doors of opportunity to your students.
Thank you for your prayers. The computer lab has been INCREDIBLE! We’re expanding next year! 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾
Love reading these stories. It makes me feel like I personally know them & it amazes me that they have everything going against them, yet try so hard to better themselves. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you Beverly! It is AMAZING to witness. Perseverance and HARD WORK. The will to survive and thrive. See you in October!
Always love reading your updates. So sad that a kid has to work that amount of hours, it’s heartbtreaking but you and your family are there!! And I praise God for your obedience to His call. May the Lord continue to strengthen you, bless you in every way and protect you.
Love you guys.
Byron, thank you so much. I’m looking forward to the day you’ll step off a plane to visit us in Guatemala. Until, keep on keepin’ on. Keep er lit!