Guatemala Scholarship Program Update

One Sunday afternoon in April, members of the First Pres Guatemala Project Leadership Team united over a zoom session with the ten members of Executive Committee (EC) for our church’s partner presbytery, the Union Maya Quiché Boca Costa Presbytery, to receive updates on the scholarship (becado) program we’ve conducted jointly since 2005. We have much to share over the next few months! This is Part One of a summer series. This month’s article focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the scholarship program.

None of the 90 scholarship students have caught COVID-19. There have been five known cases of COVID-19 within the Boca Costa presbytery, all among adults. The EC thanks you all for the prayers offered on their behalf and asks that the church continue to pray for the health of everyone in Guatemala, where vaccines aren’t yet available to most people.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, education has continued. Virtual learning and exams have become the norm. Many students pick up booklets at their school or a central location, complete the work at home and drop off their homework once a week. Some also have a platform to upload their work online.

The EC told us that the inability to gather in groups was very challenging. They were used to bringing the students and their families together for various activities, including orientations, distribution of school supplies and celebrations at the end of the school year. This we can identify with, right?

We asked if there were any monetary impacts. They shared that schools’ monthly fees have gone up. Along with the cost of equipment for providing virtual education, additional teachers have been hired to supplement the virtual lessons.

Despite the challenges of finding public transportation during the pandemic, the EC continues to go, in person, to each of 20+ schools every four months because schools require cash payments. The EC members also check on the students’ grades. They are very faithful in working to keep these students in school. Check out next month’s Tidings for a detailed explanation of the logistics of managing this complex project.

In 2020, 11 scholarship students dropped out without completing the school year. We looked back at the detailed records provided by the EC and determined this is consistent with previous years. When a scholarship student drops out of school the scholarship is transferred to another eligible church member. Typically, this new student will be someone already in school whose family has been paying for their education but struggles to keep up with the costs. This level of fiscal responsibility on behalf of the EC assures that none of the scholarship money is wasted. Details on this topic will be included in upcoming Tidings articles.

The EC shared their gratitude for all the lives changed as a result of the scholarship program. We, the First Pres family have given generously and continue to surround our sisters and brothers in Guatemala with our love and support. We are living out Matthew 25.

Pastor Morton once spoke about good deeds – comparing them to the pebble that you throw into the pond forming ripples that extend beyond our human sight. Your prayers, participation in fundraisers, and financial gifts are those very pebbles. We cannot see where these gifts go in the future, but we know God is present and that is more than enough.

La paz sea contigo. Peace be with you.

Yours in Christ,
Joanna Rollins and Mandy Foust, on behalf of the Guatemala Project Leadership Team