Vale UMC Raising Funds for Trip to Guatemala
Congregants plan annual trip to help Guatemalans build an additional schoolroom
For years Lily Cohen has listened to her mother's stories of joining fellow congregants on an annual mission trip to Guatemala, and every year Cohen has begged her mother to let her go along.
Her mother would regale stories about getting to know the people — so well that they once gave her a handmade skirt as a gift, which is "just so cool," Lily said — and show pictures of what they learned, saw and built. Lily wanted to be a part of it all.
"Every year that she's gone, I've asked her if I could go," said Lily, a sixth grade Flint Hill School student. "I wanted to go because it looked really cool. She brought back pictures and all the people seem so nice and respectful. I just really want to go and check it out."
At the end of July, the 11-year-old will be one of 15 Vale United Methodist Church congregants who will travel to the highlands of Guatemala to add a schoolroom onto an overcrowded elementary school.
To help raise the approximately $15,000 necessary for the project, the church is hosting a dinner at 6 p.m. today at $10/person, open to the public. The fundraiser is the group's first since asking fellow church members for donations during service.
"I think our help will mean a lot. Right now they have a sheet running down the middle of the room so they can have two separate classes," Lily said. "We actually tried it during our church service, and the noise on the other side was so distracting. I don't know how anyone can learn because I couldn't hear anything anyone was saying."
Lily will also bring a jewelry-making project, wet felting, to teach Guatemalan kids for them to sell in hopes of making some extra money for their families.
Vale Church has sent members to Guatemala for the past seven years, lending a hand on various projects throughout the years, including the building of a house, a playground and stoves. Each year, they stay in a retreat center near Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela, and work in villages near the center.
"We've made relationships with the people down there. Last year they had a local protest going on between the city people and the indigenous people and made a blockade and weren't letting people pass through, but they negotiated letting us pass through," said Jane Wonnell, president of United Methodist Women. "They're just so grateful and there's so much to continue to do that I guess we haven't said 'We're done with that project.' It'll be a never-ending project, for sure. And the gratitude that they have is so rewarding."
Each year the church partners with Highland Support Project, a nonprofit that "promotes ongoing and lasting transformational development of Mayan communities in the Western Highlands of Guatemala," to make the trip.