Rotarians assist Guatemalan literacy program

Nine Rotarians traveled to Guatemala this month to provide textbooks to underprivileged schoolchildren and participate in reading programs. 

The group went to Guatemala on the 10-day trip with other Rotarians from the United Sates and Canada, and representatives of the Cooperative for Education to participate in the inauguration of a computer center and bring books to nine schools, according to a statement released by the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman. 

“When you see the level of poverty these children endure close up, it redefines your definition of hardship and it is an absolute no-brainer to want to help,” said Rotarian Chris Bailey. “It’s also so easy to help. Most of the group now sponsors a child to go to school for only $80 a month, which stops them working in the fields or working as child labor in the city.”  

He said Rotarians Lawrence Edwards and Trevor Neckles this year also committed in excess of $20,000 to assist the program to grow from 50 students to an anticipated 1,000 students or more over the next few years. 

For the past five years, a delegation from the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman has paid for their visits to Guatemala. Rotary Club president Brian Hurley and vice president Katherine Tathum, along with past presidents Chris Johnson, Alan Roffey, Stephanie Foster and Derek Haines, and Rotarians Mr. Neckles, Mr. Bailey and Mr. Edwards made the trip this year. 

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Mr. Hurley, on his second trip, said, “This project brings vital textbooks to secondary schools in Guatemala. Studies show that the use of books in the classroom improves grades by 30 percent and the amount of material covered by over 70 percent.” 

How the project works 

Candidate schools are matched with donors that include Rotary clubs, companies, churches, foundations and individuals. Donated funds from these groups or individuals are used to buy textbooks that cover such subjects as mathematics, science, Spanish language and social studies. 

Cooperative for Education, a nonprofit group based in Cincinnati, Ohio and Guatemala City, trains teachers and students in methods for effective use and care of books.  

According to the organization, this training is necessary because “Most teachers have never instructed using a book and most students have never owned a book, nor do they have books in their homes.” 

Cooperative for Education helps the school set up a program to rent books to students for a small fee. The fees are put into a revolving fund that the school uses to buy new books when the original ones wear out. 

Since the end of the Guatemalan civil war in 1996, some 200,000 textbooks have been provided by the program to almost 200 communities in Guatemala, according to the Cooperative for Education. 

“This project establishes computer centers within secondary schools, teaching the students Microsoft software basics and how to access the Internet. Eighty percent of mid-level jobs in Guatemala require computer skills; Cooperative for Education Computer Centers provide training necessary to obtain those positions,” said Mr. Neckles, who has made eight trips to Guatemala with Rotary. 

Ms. Foster, making her first trip, said when one considers that 75 percent of the rural community is illiterate, the program is vital to the educational needs of the communities.  

“I was delighted at the reception we received at all of the schools, and the children were extremely enthusiastic and welcoming,” she said, adding that it was obvious to all how eager the children were to learn. 


A delegation from the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman meets Guatemalans during a trip to promote education in the Central American country.
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