have been visiting Guatemala for fifteen years, ever since my step daughter came here to work as an educational leader for a Mayan women’s weaving project.
Guatemala is a beautiful and peaceful country, a true contradiction to the reports we see in the U.S. media. Yet there are many struggles here: widespread poverty, drought brought on by climate change, and malnutrition. And yes, there is violence in parts of Guatemala City, but in the countryside, peace and cooperation define indigenous life.
There are various nonprofits here that attempt to soften the hardships. I have been connected to one of these groups,
Forjanda Mi Manana
Forging My Tomorrow
) that works with indigenous communities in nutrition and education. Last year, when visiting one of the rural communities of this project, I saw that there was a complete absence of educational materials in the math program. With the permission of the local program directors, I brought a suitcase full of math materials this year to offer to teachers and kids. I ran a math workshop for 20 indigenous teachers (In Spanish—I am not fluent!) who will use the materials in their classrooms in four separate rural communities. Right now they will have to share the materials, but I hope to bring enough next year for all four communities to have materials in each program.
The teachers were incredibly receptive to my hands-on, play-based approach to math learning, even though it was a departure from the more drill-based approach widely used in Central America. I brought with me
two-colored counting chips
Base 10 Blocks
, and planned lots of hands-on activities to accompany some words about how kids learn. We put the materials in a central location where teachers can borrow and return them weekly.
The director of the program told me that these 20 teachers will be working with a wide span of children from the four rural communities whose learning will be strengthened through this deeper approach to math learning. I feel really good about being able to give back to a country I love that has given me so much over the years.