The Children of Guatemala

This week for lab we extracted DNA, an enriching experiment, but what came out of it was even deeper. As the students were waiting in between steps, I encouraged the students to talk. The conversation that unfolded was one I wasn’t expecting… one boy was asked what happened to his parents as he mentioned his sister was coming to get his grade sheet that day. His quick response of, “My dad died before I was born and my mother left” was followed by another students response of not having parents either. And another and another. They spoke nonchalantly about it, but I knew the deeper wounds. Many of them have expressed to me the difficulty in their lives without parents. In fact, I believe not having parents has driven many of them to pursue education. I knew the reality of the situation earlier, but to hear the students talking with one another about their lack of parents, who they lived with, and what happened to their parents made the reality even more real.

This week much has been said concerning Guatemalan children and adults in the US along with deportation. And many from the states have asked me what it is like here. The reality is that many here believe it is the only option, to risk their lives to live illegally in the states. It is estimated that 90% of the men in this area have at one point in time gone to the states to work. Most of them are still there and many have never returned. Their kids are not true orphans, but many of them are living without parents, and have been since birth. It is heart breaking on both ends. To see the poverty and desperation, and to hear the stories of the dangerous travel to the states and what they risked to even get there, and to be a citizen of the states knowing the rules and regulations…… for me it is a mix of emotions. I would never, ever, ever encourage anyone to go to the states illegally. Yet years back Leslie was talking to a father in clinic about going to the states and he said to her, “You will never know what it’s like to have starving children that you cannot provide for.” And it is so true. For girls in this area, if they leave to go to the states illegally, they start on birth control shots three months before they leave because they are expecting to get raped as part of the journey, that is if they make it. Many of the boys tell stories about being forced to carry drugs, fight companions in chicken fights to the death, crocodiles in rivers, starvation, extreme heat and dying of dehydration… the stories are endless. Yet the stories of desperation and poverty here are endless as well.

These stories are yet another motivation to provide an education for these students. So that they don’t feel helpless. So that they have a hope and a future and don’t feel like they have to leave illegally for the states in order to provide for their families. We always encourage fathers to take care of their wives and children and stress the importance of not leaving for the states, but finding a means to support their family here. And we continue to feed hope into a generation…. the hope of a life here full of provision.

Here are a few pictures of these students enjoying the joy of learning as they extracted DNA. These are the students in which I place my hope that they can lead a new generation…

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