“I want to give a chance to children who have none!“
About 11 years ago, I visited the town of San Pedro, near Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.
There, my Spanish teacher took me to the school for the coffee pickers children in
Bella Vista. This was in the middle of a coffee plantation on the slopes of the San
Pedro volcano. Some sixty families lived there in very poor circumstances. This was
especially so in the school which turned out to be a single-roomed loam clay hut
where 25 children sat on simple wooden benches. They had a teacher but there were
neither books nor other teaching materials such as a blackboard or chalk. Just a few
pencils and some paper.
Outside, in the forecourt, some stray dogs wandered around while we could find no
water, electricity or toilets.
We then went back down a dusty path to San Pedro feeling absolutely dreadful. I
had never before seen such poor children and I just had to help. I told everybody I
knew about these children and started to build up a network of helpers.
By the following year, the parents had found a larger building to rent and my husband and I had delivered the first books to the school by backpack. There was still no proper street. Nevertheless we provided a blackboard and other school materials, installed two windows and doors and built the first toilet. It was the beginning of a working school!
To find sponsors, we used photographs we had taken of intelligent and especially needy orphans (their mothers were widows).
Maria Fritz soon became a very ardent supporter.
The school grew and we were able to employ a teacher.
We also asked the San Pedro local authorities for support.
The Bella Vista School is a primary school recognized by the government. Currently, there is one nursery class and six basic level classes.
The school now has water and electricity. There are three more classrooms built with wooden planks and tin roofs.
Now about 85 to 100 children attend the school every year!
They come from the 75% of the population of Guatemala which are Maya. The parents are the poorest, working as coffee bean pickers. During the long rainy season they have not employment.