There are a few changes/additions I'd like to make for the 2015 school year. First of all, I'd like to start the Saturday children's program. This will be a time for the kids to come together and learn about health, educational, and spiritual topics. It is the largest change/addition to the program in terms of number of kids affected. The program always had this planned in, but it didn't happen this year due to a number of reasons--not being sure if the other community was going to join back in or not, not having a list of pertinent topics, general unpreparedness, and a lack of good material transportation--which have mostly been resolved for the next year and others of which which shall be resolved before the kids go back to school. These programs would provide the families more opportunities to earn points which is important to keep some of these kids in school, and they will provide the kids with more information. My only problem with them is that they will primarily be in Spanish for the time being, a language that some of the younger children don't know very well.
Second of all, we'll start looking forward to 2016. (I know, you're all like "What? It's not even 2015 yet and you're already talking about 2016?!" Hear me out.) In one month, two of my girls are going to be starting 9th grade. After 9th grade there is no education available for them in their community. They are either done or they go somewhere else to keep studying.
Where they live, the nearest town to continue their education is in the city of Solola. This would be a 2-hour round-trip and cost them about Q20 each...each day. On bus fare alone, they would pay more than I pay in rent on my house each month.
Additionally, according to Manuel (my community contact for that area), the education in the city is much more advanced than the education in the village. He actually moves his entire family to the city each school year so that his younger children start their schooling in the city and aren't as affected by this as his older ones were. That means that, when Wendy and Mercedes do get to [the Guatemalan equivalent of] 10th grade, they will be behind. And considering that they are already two of the most educated people in their village, help is something not very available to them.
That's why, in 2016, with agreement from the girls and their parents, I'd like to bring them to live with me, just outside of Antigua. It is still a Kaqchikel town even if many people their age no longer speak the language. They will be able to continue to participate in a lot of their practices such as weaving and habits of dress. They will have a lot more educational resources available to them as well as many people with higher levels of education who will be able to tutor and mentor them. They will be able to learn English and will hopefully teach me Kaqchikel (giving back to the program). I will be able to better pay for their school costs rather than the families waiting a month or two to be able to get back the money that they need for so many other things. The girls will be able to accompany me for the Saturday meetings and see their families every month, potentially picking up or dropping off weaving work to help with the family's income. They can help me plan the Saturday lessons and help present them. However, if I look forward to 2016 and these two girls, I must also look forward to 2017.
I currently have one spare room in my house. I can't even call it spare; I sleep in it when it is too cold to sleep upstairs. (Okay, so I'd probably make a condition that the girls need to make two blankets each for the downstairs bed so that I could use ALL of the blankets on the upstairs bed for those cold nights.) This is fine because it's two girls. In fact, I wouldn't want them to have their own rooms because they'd probably get lonely. (Right now both girls each share one room with their entire family.) However, like I said, I must also look forward to 2017. In 2017, Ronaldo--if his family agrees with it--would also come to live with me. So, the girls could move upstairs with me, but I still don't have any more extra beds. At the end of 2017, Efraim, Estuardo, and Luis will graduate. The house that I live in cannot accommodate that set-up.
Basically, in the next two years, I need to find somewhere new to live. Now, the great news is that there is an excellent house here in the center of town that would be absolutely perfect for the growing needs of the program. (It doesn't all just end after those three boys graduate. Somewhere in here we start adding new families and new villages.) However, from what we've heard, the house--which is a mansion--costs about $120,000. We haven't yet been able to get a hold of the owner to find out what his real selling price is and what financing options might be available. This is not an affordable price for me as I've been working for only board and minimal food for the last 4 years, nor is it an affordable price for my fiance who makes about $500/month. This is 120 people donating $1,000. This is 1,200 people donating $100. This is one person who really wants a vacation home in Guatemala donating the whole $120,000. (Believe me, if you buy a house for myself and these kids, you will have your own special room or two cleaned for whenever you want to come and visit with meals prepared for you free-of-charge. You'd be our best friend, and there's more than enough room for you. Remember, Holy Week in Antigua is one of the biggest celebrations of its type you can find in the world; hotel rates are doubled and require a 3-5 day reservation...made at least 3 months in advance.)
Another a house just down the street from where I live now which costs $15,000 and is literally just walls with no roof, floors, electrical work, or plumbing. The first floor has supposedly been built out of reinforced block which would allow for the building of a second floor. It currently has 4 rooms (one of which would be my kitchen). While it's 1/10th of the cost, it would require a lot of work to be livable. Fortunately, unlike the other house, that's the maximum selling price...not the assumed minimum. (A neighbor of mine thinks that we could get it for $9,000...and then all that work that would cost who knows how much.) The piece of land is quite small.
The final option--which the fiance does not like--is a piece of land on the edge of town. It's roughly the size of the first house and costs about $7,250. It has no house on it. The land would need to be cleared. My fiance doesn't like it because he doesn't feel it's safe for me to be living in such a secluded area.
Anyway, I'm not looking for a solution today. It's just something that's on my mind for the future that I wanted to share with you. If you're a praying person, please pray about our future living situation. If you're a fundraising person and want to share the work I'm doing with others in order to raise money for a house, please do and let me know if you have any questions or need any information. I don't know what God has planned for us, but it's exciting all the same; I'm just glad He has allowed me to serve during these last 4+ years and am looking forward to 40 more (at least...or however long He gives me life for).