Our school is just about to open its gates for the new school year that starts in the middle of April (running till January). And it is with a fair bit of excitement that 500 pupils – up again on last year – will pile into the schoolyard to find that three new classrooms have been built during the holidays. And on top of that, a rather grand looking Chapel had been added at the top of the school area. All of this building has been due, in large part, to a major donor that the Archbishop of Guayaquil found for us – Father Sereno from the U.S.A. Of course, Scottish money has found its way in there too: it bought the land where the new classrooms sit (finding new houses for the previous occupiers in the process), paid for the septic tank and the water system, and also the furnishings for the Chapel. In the end, therefore, it has been a joint effort to get this far. And were do we go from here? Well with 500 pupils now in the school, it looks likely that we will need at least six more brick-built classrooms. And, at the moment, it is pretty clear that Father Sereno will not be providing any more money. He has done a lot for us, we will be forever grateful for his help and we will move to other sources of help. Of course, a school is nothing without the pupils who make up its numbers. And the kids that we have are superb. The face of each child tells a different story. Let me tell you some of the stories of our pupils: Leonel is 12 years old and lives at home in a straw house that is lifted up from the mud by tree trunks; he has two younger brothers and a wee sister. His mother stays at home to keep House while his father has a job as a car mechanic in the city centre. What has struck me about Leonel, apart from his charm, is his enthusiasm to get involved in any project that is going, whether it is in the school or at the Parish Church where he is one of our new altar servers. Another face is that of Angelita who along with her elder brothers is looked after by their grannie. You see their mother and father are not untypical of the parents in this area; despairing for the poverty in which they lived they fled as illegal immigrants to the bright lights of the U.S.A. and now keep infrequent contact from the district of Queens in New York from where they send regular cash for the upkeep of their kids. And a final face is that of six-year old Washington who, along with younger brother, Jesus, is looked after by his mother, Gladys. Several years ago the father abandoned them when they still lived in the region of Esmeraldas, in the north of the country. Gladys brought her children to Guayaquil and found a friend who was able to offer them some shelter for a home. She has no income and I found her the other day tearing up what looked like rags. When I asked her what she was doing, she told me that she had ‘managed’ to acquire these rags (goodness knows from where) and was ripping them up so that they could be used as small cloths for wiping windows or dishes. These stories could be repeated time and time again – I could fill a whole newsletter with them. Yet what amazes me is that the kids who come into our school are desperate to learn. If you came into the school at playtime you would see the usual antics of kids at play and with the usual teasing of one another. They are not angry or bitter about their family situation. They never say ‘Hey, Father, we are desperately poor’; they just get on with life and are keen to learn and make a go of their lives.
Read the full March 2006 Newsletter here:
A4 Newsletter (March 2006)