Advancing Life Foundation Recap: 2023 Guatemala Service Expedition

Education is one of the most powerful tools used to change lives for the better and break cycles of poverty. And there was no greater example of this concept than when volunteers with the Advancing Life Foundation recently visited the Spark Reading program in Aldea Vista Hermosa. Read about the latest service expedition trip to Guatemala and how volunteers made an impact.

Greeted by happy, smiling faces

When volunteers arrived at the school in Aldea Vista Hermosa, they were greeted by more than 100 children, all of whom were excited to welcome their newest visitors. The children know that recent donations by the foundation have sponsored their access to a school computer lab and a comprehensive reading program, both resources which are crucial to their advancement in life.

After witnessing a lovely program put on by the students, expeditioners viewed a demonstration in the ways of indigenous blanket weaving by a local weaving cooperative. Guatemala is known for its vibrant textile traditions, and many cooperatives exist to preserve these traditions and provide sustainable income for local weavers.

Honored and blessed by local families

As part of their welcome, volunteers were honored by a Mayan blessing at the Iximche Mayan ruins, an important historical and cultural site in the area. The Kaqchikel language is just one of many Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala, with blessings that involve calling upon the natural world and the ancestors for protection and guidance. Afterward, expeditioners were able to visit some of student’s homes and meet their families.

Providing resources that make an impact

The ribbon cutting of the computer center at Colegio Evangelio Filadelfia in Santa Cruz Balanya was a significant event for the school and local community. The introduction of a new computer center funded by the foundation has provided students with access to technology and new opportunities for learning and skill-building.

Students were eager to show volunteers a new educational computer game and use Google Earth to learn exactly how far away their new friends live. Education and computer skills are their hope for prosperity and improving their community.

“The youth of Guatemala are so open to connection,” said service volunteer Hugh Jenings, “They reach out to each of us in different ways, but all of them were so full of love and gratitude.”

Helping students read

Expeditioners started the day by giving the school and the library bookshelves a fresh coat of quality paint alongside the students. Next, volunteers participated in the training for the Spark Reading Program which gave them a chance to more fully understand their role in promoting literacy and education. The training covered the program’s goals and methodology as well as teaching techniques for reading and strategies for engaging with students. The reading program is a valuable initiative that helps promote literacy and education opportunities for underserved communities. It also gave expeditioners an opportunity to connect with the staff and children and understand their needs.

“This week people from around the world sacrificed their time and money to go serve in Guatemala,” said ASEA Founder Tyler Norton, “The children and their families opened their hearts and allowed us into their lives. We will never forget the profound impact they have had on us. Humanity is meant to be a shared experience and we are meant to serve each other.”