Learning about the Guatemala Partnership: Can we be part of it?
By Kay Taylor, Published on April 27, 2017
Sunday, June 4, from 12 to 1, leaders of the Guatemala Partnership, which Kay and Clark Taylor started in 1987, will make a presentation at First Parish. This partnership has continued for the past 30 years with the village of Santa Maria Tzeja in northern Guatemala. The young people, who are now the leaders of the village, are asking us to help shape a vision for the next 30 years. We are inviting First Parish to be part of that vision.
Santa Maria is a rural village of Mayan people. It was one of 400 small villages in northern Guatemala that were totally destroyed by the Guatemalan army in 1982. When the army came into the village, families fled, some being separated from other family members, staying in the fields nearby as the army killed all their animals, and burned their homes and all their belongings. More than half of the villagers eventually fled to refugee camps in Mexico, where they were forced to live for 12 years. Some families were captured and taken to the nearby army base where the men endured months of torture. After 12 years in exile, most of the families returned in 1994 through an an agreement negotiated by the Guatemalan and Mexican governments, the UN, and village leaders. Some had died as a result of the trauma, and others were too afraid to return.
We have visited this village twice each year for the past 30 years. We have raised lots of money for infrastructure, education supplies and teacher training, and health. Because we have the ability to provide money, we have continued to do that over the years, responding to needs that village leaders have identified. All the decisions about how the money is spent are made by their elected leaders.
This is a solidarity partnership, not an opportunity to teach religion. We have been there for them through their fears and sense of hopelessness. We have sat in their homes and heard their stories with tears running down all of our faces. We have eaten their food, played with their children, enjoyed their animals, and heard their hopes for the future. We have found that the values that are important to them are the same as the ones important to us
When we first went to Santa Maria, there was no health care and only one school with grades from 1 to 6. The children had no books, and the teachers had no teaching materials, using a single blackboard. Now all the children are in school, there is a middle school from grades 7 through 9, and each grade has its own classroom and teacher. Many have graduated from high school, and more are at the university or have graduated. The village is ready for a new vision for the next 30 years.
Come on Sunday June 4 to listen, to learn about a vibrant international partnership, and to think about how First Parish might become involved.