When children are brought to Casa Angelina, they are not just provided for but are also rescued from a destructive path that would lead to the cycle of poverty, abuse, and brokenness continually repeating itself through the generations. Our goal is not to simply provide them with a safe place but to go beyond that and provide them with a fertile field to plant their dreams and, in many cases, to dream for the first time. We firmly believe that education is the most powerful way we can equip and prepare our children in order for their rich destinies to come to pass. Many of our children have never attended school, and because of the abuse they have suffered, they have behavioral problems that create challenges for them to simply sit in class and be under their teachers' authority.
For example, it is not an easy thing to take a child who may be a "runner" and keep him or her in a classroom. It is not easy to take a boy who has fought to simply survive and retrain him into a cooperative classmate. It is not easy to take a girl who cuts herself and give her the motivation to study for the great future we know can be hers. It is not easy to take a girl who has been trafficked and is a shell of who she once was and give her dreams back to her. Knowing this, we are very aware that we cannot rely solely on a wonderful curriculum. We must reach deep into the heart and mind of each child and form strategies to impact them as individuals.
We Start with Practicalities
We are currently building a high-quality school. We are approximately two thirds of the way finished; however, we are raising more funding to finish the library, computer labs, gymnasium, and opposite wing. We hope the contrasting quality of life and education that the children experience will be the first step in helping them aspire to be more. In addition, since our school is on site, we also have our children wear uniforms. We want to create a unified and distinguished school experience that creates a culture promoting hopes and dreams.
Rewards / Discipline
We use a reward system in which each child receives a gold star every day. If they do something out of the ordinary or an act of kindness, they receive another star. But if they misbehave, they receive no star, and in its place, a fault. Faults are the disciplinary system for misbehaving. When they receive three faults, they are given a detention. On the other hand, the stars the children accumulate daily from behaving well are saved up to "buy" items from the reward cabinet. Each item in the cabinet, such as games, stuffed animals, toy cars, and jump ropes, has a different cost, and every Monday the children are given an opportunity to make a purchase using their stars. They can even buy a meal from a favorite nearby restaurant, Pollo Campero. The older children also have options such as blow dryers, belts, or makeup. This system has had great results. Also, at the end of the year, the children who have the best results from each grade are rewarded with an even bigger prize, which is chosen by the leaders of the orphanage. This is often an exciting outing like ziplining or going to a theme park.
Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Through Education
Intecap is a technical school in Guatemala City that offers technical classes and diplomas. It is aimed at training students to be successful in several practical and business trades. The course starts at the beginning of every semester. They offer two-and-a-half-month-long courses with classes every Tuesday and Thursday. We have started with bread baking and sewing for those 14 years old and up. The students get to choose one of the two options, and there are 15 youth in each class. When they complete the course, they will receive a diploma acknowledging their learned skill. Their diplomas in baking and sewing are recognized by local businesses and can even be used by the youth to help them secure apprenticeship opportunities with businesses in the future. These diplomas are not affiliated with a university, but if the child chooses not to attend college, the diplomas will assist them in getting a job. We will add more of these trade-focused classes from a variety of options, some of which include electricity, cosmetology, and art.
In the science classes, the children are able to perform experiments, such as dissecting rats and/or small lizards, creating and simulating the eruption of a volcano, and observing plants placed in water with food coloring. Twice a week this class spends time outside exploring Casa Angelina, collecting and observing insects, feathers, animals, plants, and trees. The forest area is especially useful for their studies. The students also occasionally watch educational videos on the systems of the body. Note: Our goal is to have a fully operational science lab in the future. We currently have magnifying glasses but not microscopes or much other science equipment.
Hebron is the institution in Guatemala City that provides our school curriculum. They prepare books and daily study guides and also grade our exams. We follow their calendar, which is based on three weeks of classes with the fourth week being an exam week covering the material taught in the previous weeks. We send the tests to Hebron, and they, in turn, send us the grades for the students. The subjects we cover include math, languages, history, art, science, social studies, spelling, and reading.
Our school has 7 computers. They are mainly used in the classes to research, and they are also used in specific subjects such as studying other cultures and the world in social studies. Hebron provides CDs for each subject that cover the material and also include learning games. Occasionally the students are given extra time to use these extra CDs to enhance their learning.
The students in grade 7 are required to attend five hours per week of typing classes in a school in the nearby city of Patzicia.
We have an accounting class in which some of the focus points are learning to take inventory and counting how much money comes in and goes out of a business.
Our English courses are mandatory. Most children speak very little to no English when we receive them. However, English-speaking adults in Guatemala have much more options for employment and are paid much higher salaries.
Education is Powerful
We firmly believe in preparing and equipping our children to reach their destinies.
Productivity and Development
This class is three times a month and involves the children cooking sweets or cakes in their homes. They take photos of themselves baking and of their finished products and then send the photos to Hebron for grading.
Dance and Theater
Only grades 7, 8, and 9 receive this elective, and at the end of every month, the students perform a short play for the entire school.
Art class is twice a week and includes painting, crafts, and working with clay, tissue paper, aluminum, and all kinds of materials. Many of the crafts that the students have made have been given to team members, who in turn give a monetary donation to be used to raise money to purchase food for our Widow Project.
This class varies according to the musical skills of our teachers. We have taught the children drums, the guitar, and the recorder. This class is also twice a week.