Friday, August 6, 2010


Mary being welcomed at a grade school in the Highlands.

Mary and I had the pleasure and honor of traveling as tour participants with Cooperative for Education- an organization working hard to break the cycle of poverty in Guatemala. The founders, brothers Jeff and Joe Berninger have developed innovative and sustainable strategies for reaching out to the children of Guatemala and have hired the most committed an energetic staff ever to help them do so. Co-Ed bases their programs on community based revolving funds which have proven to be effective, but even so- they continue to examine every new development, get more efficient, and reach more kids each year.

Their basic mechanism is a simple one. For example, if a single textbook costs $5.00... Co-Ed will help the school fund the initial cost of that book. The students then pay 1$ to the school each year to rent the book and after 5 years the school has the money to purchase new books. Most of the teachers in rural Guatemala are expected to teach without books. Imagine that... a school without books! When this is the case, the students spend their class time copying text into notebooks. Completely boring for the students and a really not so effective way to teach.

One of the really great parts about Co-Ed is that they make it possible for anyone to travel with them and see firsthand how the children benefit. The schools begin their programs through an inauguration, a kind of school party with ceremonial dances, speeches and a whole lot of grins and hugs from the kids. Karl has gone on these "Snapshot Tours" many times, but this was a first time for both Mary and I, and we loved every minute.

One of our welcoming committees.

A student demonstrating her backstrap weaving skills to Mary during a school visit.

It was pretty cool to be welcomed so warmly.

The excitement that the kids felt about their new opportunities was completely inspiring. To see them giddy with the thrill of receiving new textbooks and supplies was quite uplifting. In fact I would highly recommend a Snapshot Tour to Guatemala with CoEd as good for both the heart and soul of anyone with an interest in education, kids, Guatemala or all three.

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