School Builds Reach Completion in Guatemala
In summer 2019 we launched a special Convention campaign in honor of the Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation's 50th Anniversary. We raised funds to construct two schools in Guatemala through the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation. This special project supports our philanthropic focus of school and college readiness while perfectly aligning with Phi Sigma Sigma’s twin ideals: the brotherhood of man and the alleviation of the world’s pain.
The construction of the two schools was originally slated to break ground in summer 2020, coinciding with two treks for Phi Sigma Sigma collegians and alumnae ambassadors. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic we had to delay the school build and trek, prioritizing the health, safety and wellbeing of our trek participants as well as the communities we would be serving in Guatemala.
Understanding the significant impact access to education would provide to these communities, it was important for the school build to break ground and move forward as soon as possible. We are excited to share the construction of both schools, funded by Phi Sigma Sigma, have reached completion.
Groundbreaking in Tojzunel, Guatemala
Building a school is truly a team effort that often begins weeks or even months before the new school breaks ground. The community members, local government and on-the-ground buildOn staff, the Circle of Sisterhood's building partner, all play an important role in the school building process.
Both communities contributed the land and natural resources such as sand, water, and gravel to the project. A Project Leadership Committee consisting of six men and six women from each village were selected to oversee the school build. These incredible leaders not only helped to collect supplies, they also organized crews to volunteer on the worksite each day. By the end of the project, the men and women of Canton Ojo de Agua had proudly contributed 768 volunteer work days and the Caserio Tojzunel community proudly contributed 641 volunteer work days to the building of their respective schools!
Additionally, community leaders and buildOn staff members will be working together closely to identify any out-of-school children so they can be enrolled in classes. These children will be part of over 159,000 out-of-school-children that buildOn and the Education Above All Foundation will be partnering to enroll over the next six years.
Working out of of two temporary classrooms, made of wooden slats and metal sheets, the teachers and students of Caserío Tojzunel have struggled to create an environment which would nourish the naturally curious and motivated minds of Tojzunel’s youth. With the next nearest proper school a 6 km walk over mountainous terrain, the community members of Tojzunel were left with few options for their children.
Left: Old School in Caserío Tojzunel; Right: New School funded by Phi Sigma Sigma
Children in Caserio Tojzunel are no longer struggling to learn in dark, wet classrooms that left them exposed to the elements. Thanks to the generous support of Phi Sigma Sigma sisters, 73 students now have an adequate school structure that will allow them to learn and grow.
"I'm so happy that I will be able to study at this buildOn school in the coming years," says Leida Yanira Lopez, a seven-year-old first grader. "I want to learn to read and write well so that I can help my little sister with her homework."
For students like Leida (left) and Hector Isaac Lopez Perez (right) this new school in Caserio Tojzunel has meant a drastic improvement in their learning conditions.
CANTON OJO DE AGUA , GUATEMALA
Over the years, the community of Canton Ojo de Agua has strived to improve learning conditions for its primary school students. While working to educate seven grade levels, this school only has three classrooms to operate out of, with two of them being temporary shelters. The next nearest proper school is a 4 km walk over mountainous terrain.
Left: Old School in Canton Ojo de Agua; Right: New School funded by Phi Sigma Sigma
Thanks to the generous support of Phi Sigma Sigma sisters, children in Canton Ojo de Agua are no longer struggling to learn in dark, wet classrooms that left them exposed to the wind and rain. In addition to better physical learning conditions, these new classrooms also help to reduce overcrowding and make it possible for the students to socially distance while learning.
"I feel happy about my new school," says Cristian Emiliano Cano Velasquex, an 11-year-old, fifth-grade student . "The old school was very cold because the wind would come under the boards."
Thanks to the partnership of Phi Sigma Sigma and the Circle of Sisterhood, 50 students like Cristian (left) and Basilia Rosmery Cano Cifuentes (right) now have quality classrooms that will help them to receive an education and achieve their dreams.