Classes have begun again! Monday 31st January was a huge ray of hope after two long years that have been hugely turbulent for The School of Hope. Our role and purpose has been majorly disrupted by the pandemic. Thanks to 2021 fundraising and a herculean effort by our staff in Guatemala we are now welcoming every student back to class every day.
The final day of preparations were complete on Friday 28th. We have filled all the vacancies and start the year with a complete staff. We’ve made a huge amount of semi-permanent changes to make the school Covid compliant - outdoor covered classrooms, isolation cubicles for anyone that shows symptoms, registration desk complete with temperature checking and lots of extra cleaning stations and equipment.
Since March 2020, the school has also been 100% repainted, woodwork re-stained, a new disabled toilet built, and a freshwater project installed that gives us almost unlimited clean water.
To enable our scholarship students to study remotely, we have installed two more computer labs, courtesy of monetary donations and several multi-unit donations of technology.
Don Edwin, one of our longest serving members of staff, has project managed all of these changes to the building. He has blossomed in the role from starting as a volunteer only a few years ago.
On Friday afternoon, there was a whole team meeting in preparation for Monday’s opening. Covid restrictions now allowing, Dave McKee, our CEO, is visiting Guatemala for the first time in two years. It was an emotional reunion with long serving staff and a warm welcome for new starters. Dave spoke about the founding values of EFTC and our history as we look towards our 20th year in 2023. Two colleagues were honored for 10 years’ service, Aracely Chajon (Head of Social Services) and Anita Pamal (Cook).
Finally after such a long wait, reopening day was upon us. A fresh, bright Monday morning. The students were due in at 8am but there was already a long line outside the school at 7.30am. 215 students attended in the morning and 215 in the afternoon to ensure compliance with social distancing – amazing to see classes with a maximum of 12.
Getting all the children in with temperature checks, sanitizing and distancing was a learning process– we were 10 minutes late in starting classes. By the afternoon the intake was admitted with 4 minutes to spare – a 14-minute improvement 😊.
The team in Guatemala has been preparing for this day for months. In the kitchen, we’ve increased staff to four and for opening day they delighted the students with a meal of Pepian, a traditional Guatemalan chicken stew. All of the teachers had also planned fun activities and treats to help the students get to know them, each other and adapt to coming back to class.
As Guatemala is about 6 weeks behind Europe/USA with the Omicron variant’s grip, we expect to have an impact in future weeks. We have many contingency plans for teachers and students testing positive. We cross our fingers that we won't be too badly affected and rejoice in the present moment to have our school feeling alive again.
We are so thankful for all the donations received in the last few months of 2021. Without our supporters’ help we would not have been able to reopen the School of Hope this year. We are just so thrilled to have each and every student back every day. Seeing a sea of determined, delighted, nervous and inquisitive faces was a joy. Our team is proud that now our students can learn, eat healthily, have their physical and mental health cared for and, most importantly, be ordinary kids, sharing school life together.