To view all the pictures from my week in Guatemala: https://www.jkennis.com/f821488306
Starting our day a little later today, we were able to sleep in a bit, but quickly headed to the community for our final day. Every day we are greeted with waves of kids and hugs, and since today many would be performing, they were all dressed their best.
Over the course of the week, you could really feel the kids starting to warm up and trust us. We started the week asking them for photos and by the end, they were sitting next to us asking for another photo.
Or they were yelling across the yard to get our attention or running up and just grabbing our hand to show us something.
The change is oh so heartwarming and bittersweet knowing today was our last day.
After our very heartwarming welcome, I walked up the hill to the school to have one more look at the mural... My emotions were completely overwhelming walking in seeing the desks set up ready for class. Having taught a class in their current classroom with dirt floors, I was instantly brought to tears thinking about them sitting at actual desks with a white board and cement floors. Completely overwhelming, humbling experience.
After my emotional breakdown, the crew began putting ribbon around the playground and the school doors ready for the dedication. Where most of our group sat down then waiting, I was running around playing - soaking up every beautiful smile I could trying not to think about the short time left.
danced with Rebecca and Alen.
snuggled with Zucely.
hugged all my host family and had many many pictures taken with them.
cheered the boys on doing the monkey bars
loved on Marta and Cecilia.
played with so many others.
Dedication ceremony started with many speeches and performances by the kids. So so sweet! After the pre-K kids performed, little Rebecca came to sit on my lap to watch the rest of the show. She kept playing with my hair and interlocking her fingers in mine. Oh my heart.
The dedication ended by presenting each of us a diploma which was hand carved wood with handwritten words. Each of us had a different member of the community who said a few words when presenting us the plaque. Senor Castro (Alen's dad) presented mine and while I didn't understand everything he said to me, he talked about how I visited his house and that he would always remember. Again, so many emotions.
More speeches and more performances rounded out the dedication ceremony with speeches from each of our groups as well. Most importantly, we talked about all the donations that we brought with us.
• All teams brought a bunch of school supplies for the new school.
• One group donated water filtration systems for the school.
• One group donated four teams worth of soccer jerseys, so they can play sport.
• Our team donated corn, beans and corn drink after learning that the school has still not received government funding which subsidizes lunch each day for the kids. We were able to purchase and deliver six months worth of food with the promise that we will continue to fund until government funding is received.
Official ribbon cutting and unveiling of the plaques.
After the ceremony ended, we then all sat down to eat together. The community made us all chicken tamales - rolled in banana leaves and steamed to perfection. So so good to eat traditional Guatemalan food made by the Quiche families. Such an honor and so delicious.
I had so many comments on my mural as the School the World staff kept directing them to me when they heard something. Even Carlos, our project manager came up and gave me a hug telling me how very beautiful it is and thanking me for my gift.
The most impactful comment came from someone who has been a part of School the World since the beginning... She shared that this mural is the best one they've ever had. The colours, the brightness and involving the kids makes it oh so special. (You guessed it, tears again). An artist is never happy with a final product, and I'm no exception, but after so many wonderful comments, I truly felt like Monet.
Even Kate, the founder, made a comment to me saying that one of the ladies told her all of the murals need to look like this. I joked with her saying that I would be happy to go on every trip with them to paint the murals. She laughed.. but I'm serious!
Our final farewell was the most emotional of all. Every community member lined up in two lines from our table to our van for us to walk through saying farewell. The kids were first and, oh, the hardest. Each one wanted a hug, so we could have spent hours trying to leave. Lots of hugs, lots of waves, lots of hasta luegos (see you laters) because I couldn't say adios (good bye).
All of the family members were next - seeing them react to our goodbyes to the kids was enough to make me cry, but also seeing the way they were looking at us...I can't describe the feeling.
As we were loading up the van, little Alen came running up to us to say goodbye.
Alen is the hardest working, most tenderhearted boy. And might possibly be the hardest hasta luego. The second he saw us jumping back out to hug him one more time, his tears started flowing. His father is a very important man in the community, and Alen is the only son living there still which means he is respected and is a leader. He tried so hard to be strong today, and only broke down away from all his friends.
As if I hadn't shed enough tears today, Alen about broke me. I was his final hug (which seemed real intentional on his part) - and I told him this was not goodbye, this was only see you later. Leaving him behind was so so hard - a piece of my heart will forever live in Guatemala.
Kate rode with us back to Antigua, and we asked her so many questions about how she started the company, what she sees next, how else can we help, etc. She is a pretty spectacular person doing exactly what I always dreamed of doing - helping the world become a better place, one community at a time.
In the grand scheme of things, for a small amount of money comparatively and one week of time, the connections we were able to make and the lasting impact of education in the community is 1000x worth it. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, 10x over.