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On a Hands™ trip to Guatemala in 2008, I met Dulce Belen, a sparkling five-year old who would come each day to the school where our team was serving. She would wander into the school courtyard seeking companionship and safety. Dulce had been left alone in the village streets to fend for herself while her mother sold fruits and vegetables on a street corner. She would wait patiently for the students to come out for recess. Month after month, the school staff asked Dulce’s mother to let her attend. Knowing that her mother could not afford tuition or the cost of a school uniform, the staff offered Dulce a scholarship to make that possible. Still Dulce’s mother would not allow it.
Dulce’s story is not an unusual one in Guatemala. For many girls, education is seen as optional even though school attendance through the 6th grade is mandated by the government. Many girls never begin their primary education. Of those who do begin 1st grade, less than 40% will complete the 6th grade. Some parents who themselves cannot read or write see little reason for their child to attend school. Other parents need their young daughter to help with siblings, housework and chores. It is not unusual for a mother to expect a girl as young as five to care for younger siblings, sometimes even feeding, dressing and tending to the needs of a baby while the mother is off at work.
I recently had the joy of seeing a video of Dulce. After a year of continuing to ask her mother, she was eventually allowed to attend school and is now a thriving 6th grader who studies hard to earn good grades. Dulce feels safe and happy because of those who have shown her the love of Christ. She is also able to have dreams – she desires to become a teacher so she can help other children, as well as teach her own mother to read and write. Dulce is grateful to God for the opportunity to go to school!
I am grateful for all who support Worldwide Christian Schools and provide hope for children in similar situations.