Team Dayā just completed its first school groundbreaking in Guatemala, adding to schools in Nepal (2019) and Senegal (2022). Just back, Founding Member Jordan Mitchell reflects on our time in Caserío Sector Los Castro. Our next school groundbreaking in Malawi is just 90 days away. Want to get involved? Contact our Head of Recruiting Jaryd Knutsen.
By Team Dayā Founding Member Jordan Mitchell
I just returned back to the US after commencing the school build in Guatemala. It was such an incredible, heart-warming experience to be immersed in the village, living and working alongside the community. Not only am I grateful and honored to have had your support for this school build, I can’t even tell you how happy the village is to have a proper school for their children. Your donation has meant so much to all of these families!!
It took us 4-5 hours of travel from Guatemala City to reach the remote village (see the village in Google Maps here), where they had assembled to welcome us and celebrate our arrival. Children danced and showered us with flower petals, while the adults (with the help of a translator) expressed their deep gratitude — explaining that they’ve been trying to get a real school for a long time (to replace the wood shack they’ve been using). We conveyed our appreciation for the warm welcome, and explained to them that we were but three of a long list of generous people who were privileged to support them with a new school for their children.
After the opening celebration, we met the local family who had opened their home to us; where we would be staying for the week. The three of us — me, Jay Sears, and Mike Benedek — slept in the same room on cots with mosquito netting, though the cold temps kept the mosquitos at bay.
Our homestay family had many dogs, cats, ducks, geese, chickens, roosters, rabbits,, and one pig, all of whom — like everyone in the village — were very curious and interested to meet us! Mornings came early, and the days consisted of hard physical labor on the school build site followed by afternoon cultural activities, all with the community. We played games with the children, went for walks, learned how to make tortillas, laughed a lot, and tended to our sore muscles.
As is required by our non-profit partner buildOn of all school builds, each community member (adult men AND women) signs a covenant committing to support the school for their children, and their children’s children. Nearly half the adults were illiterate and unable to sign their name, so they signed with their thumb print.
Similar to Nepal, I especially noted and appreciated the inner strength of the women in the community, who do so much to hold their families and community together. In this village (much like many areas of the world), gender equity is still a large opportunity.
Throughout the week, we connected with the parents and children within the community — with the help of our translators (and also Google Translate). They all wanted to know more about us, where we live, what it’s like where we live, if we’re married and have children of our own, etc. It’s hard to comprehend how different their lives are compared to our own, yet how similar some things are — like how committed they are to making a better life for their children.
In impoverished Guatemala, subsistence unfortunately often takes priority over education, so children are usually unable to continue their education beyond 6th grade. So it is children and education that forms a common bond between all of us, and I want you to know that you’ve made an impact! I can’t begin to describe the emotions and experience of doing this, and if I could bottle those hugs from all the wonderful children and parents we connected with, and share those bottles with each of you, I most certainly would.
Thank you again so much for your support … you have truly made a difference in these kids’ lives!!
Also read Jordan Mitchell on Building a School on the Other Side of the World