In December 2013, Alta Vista School (AVS) launched Schools Helping Schools Project in collaboration with Project Nuevo Mundo and JUSTA. Alta Vista School is located in San Francisco and focuses on science, technology, and service learning. Marissa Weitzman, a Sustainability and Garden Education Teacher at AVS, coordinated a school-wide community service project to improve the education at Chacaya School, in rural Guatemala. Alta Vista School students became aware of the learning conditions and challenges in Guatemala and were inspired to make a difference by collecting used school supplies and materials that they could donate to Chacaya School. As a community, AVS contributed over one hundred English and Spanish books, sports equipment, eight computers, and two guitars.

In January 2014, Marissa and the PNM and JUSTA team boarded a crowded commuter boat carrying four large suitcases and two guitars. They traversed beautiful Lake Atitlan on the way to a sizeable, indigenous town called Santiago. The sun’s eyelashes kissed their cheeks as they carried the donations up a hill through town. At the top of the ridge, they jumped into the back of a pick-up truck and held on tight as they made their way around the picturesque lakeside, enjoying the cool, refreshing wind in their faces. The uneven path beneath the truck fluctuated between a dirt road and a paved road and, to complete the journey, they drove up an extremely steep hill to reach their final destination: Chacaya School. It was a wild ride!

Maria, the Director of Chacaya School, greeted them warmly and invited them into the classroom. Once inside, children and teachers dressed in traditional Mayan clothing sat at their desks eagerly awaiting their arrival. The Chacaya school is housed in an old brick building and consists of a classroom containing old desks, a concrete floor, and one small whiteboard. Maria introduced Marissa to everyone in the school community.

Teachers and students expressed their excitement and gratitude, giving many hugs as they excitedly unpacked the suitcases. They browsed through each book, admired the sports equipment, and played chords on the guitars. Their appreciation was overflowing—they applauded and thanked AVS many times. Maria and the faculty seemed quite inspired by AVS’s teaching style and expressed that they want to stay connected, build a relationship, and learn more about there education model.

The faculty of Chacaya School said that AVS’s contributions will greatly improve the quality of education at their school and they are excited for what the future holds.

By: Marissa Weitzman