by short-term volunteer Debra Des Vignes
A couple of weeks ago, I was glad to be heading to the Santa Catarina school along with my husband to meet some children who go to the school. We left behind Antigua’s candlelit restaurants and beautiful courtyards for the winding path into the small town. We drove past cornstalk and aluminum walls of family homes—a scene very different from where I was from. It was eye-opening to be in this corner of the world.
A child, whose name I would later learn is Jesus Alex (pronounced hey-soos ah-lex), approached me inside the school. He was pint-sized and dusty, and his smile melted my heart. Jesus Alex seemed eager to join with the other students in an after-school art project I was leading. Ten students were already painting a butterfly when Jesus Alex shuffled alongside them and dipped his fingers in paint; the dirt on his hands made for an even darker shade on top of stark white paper.
Standing next to Jesus Alex I realized how small all these kids appeared. ¿Cuántos años tiene? I asked. Jesus Alex told me he was five years old, but he looked much younger. I gave him a high five.
When we finished the art project, Jesus Alex waved good-bye. His mother didn’t come to greet him like many of the others. Instead, he walked outside and hopped on an old bike. That day I realized there are many simple things that I take for granted back home. My heart sank. I wanted more for Jesus Alex, at least the certainty of basic needs, like food, water, and a roof over his head. Then I smiled. Jesus Alex is a part of a new generation. There’s great hope and opportunity for kids of his generation and the future of the people in Guatemala.
Last year, the 1000th Common Hope affiliate graduated from high school. And in 2010, Common Hope families worked 5,532 sweat-equity hours to earn homes that are clean, dry and safe. I wondered where five-year-old Jesus Alex fit into the equation. I hope he knows that his future is not already carved out for him.
Correction: An earlier version of this story identified the town as San Rafael and Jesus Alex as Jorge.