The Project Somos Children’s Village is being constructed within the tiny mountain community of Chivarabal. Located just 8 kilometers from Tecpán, Chivarabal has a population of 900, four churches and a school with 250 children in attendance. Agriculturally rich, the area is known for its broccoli, snow peas and cauliflower. Most of the community survive working on commercial plots or in local factories for minimal salaries. Most live well below the poverty level.
The Chivarabal children in primary grades attend school between 8am and 12:30pm. Those between grades six and nine attend in the same building, between 1pm-6pm. The school is bilingual; Spanish and K’aqchikal. There are no school uniforms except for physical education classes where the children wear the school t-shirt. The girls all dress in the typical Mayan “traje” which includes the brightly coloured huipil (embroidered top) and hand woven skirt.
Chivarabal officially starts at the big cross at the crest of the hill and our land is located within the first kilometer of the community. On the days when we are on the land when primary school is let out, we are often visited by the children who pass us on their way home. Slowly, we are getting to know this beautiful group of young people. They are very curious about our work and very excited to check things out or help where they can.
There is one boy who has stood out from the rest right from the beginning. Jorge* is 12 years old. When he started school at the age of six, he spoke only K’aqchikal. He now is fluent in Spanish, is really grasping English and is a beautiful recorder player. We also discovered that Jorge is the president of the school! This is Jorge’s last year in school. His Dad has said that once he has completed this year, he will begin to work in the fields. For Jorge, this is fine, it is a fact of life.
For us? It brings up many questions and concerns. Is this the next Einstein losing out on an opportunity to do great work in the world? Is this the next Pavarotti, never to share his musical talents beyond his village? Could he be the next great leader of our times? Or is this a young Mayan boy, living out his life contributing to the survival of his family? Would things be different if his family was in a different financial situation? Would they prioritize further education or is this life as they know it?
With our work we need to respect the culture while at the same time providing opportunities for children to receive a healthy and happy childhood. Does it include opportunities they would not otherwise have had the chance to partake in? I believe it does. Does our work start and stop with those that we accept into the Children’s Village? I don’t believe it does. We have always stated that our children will grow up engaged in the local community and that we would open our doors to those children within that community. And so the work begins. Along with many questions, of course!
*out of respect for this boy, I have changed his name for the blog