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Persevering Through the Pandemic – Update from Shari Blindt, Executive Director

Update 4.26.2021

Happy 35th anniversary to each of you who have made Common Hope’s mission possible since our humble beginnings in 1986, when the Huebsch family made the decision to move to Guatemala to serve. This past year has certainly been different than any we’ve experienced before, but with your generosity hope continues to be a source of strength for us, and for those we serve.

First, I want to thank you for walking alongside us during this time. Your generosity and support refuels us each day as we continue our efforts to have meaningful impact in supporting our families through the pandemic. Secondly, I’d like to share an update on what’s new in Guatemala and let you know that our work continues to serve our students and families.

It has been a year of pivoting and we’ve termed a new phrase for ourselves – ‘covid-keepers’ – those pivots that will continue going forward. I’ll share a few of our keepers and other noteworthy updates below.

Access to health care continues to be a critical need for our families – our first covid-keeper is our telemedicine line, which has provided access to health care for families throughout the entirety of this pandemic, and is still in use as a first connection. Now that the Antigua Clinic has re-opened to in-person visits by appointment, telemedicine continues to help families access the doctor even before they travel to the site.

We are closely monitoring opportunities for our families to be vaccinated against Covid-19, and look forward to a time (in the hopefully near future) where it is available to everyone in Guatemala. Because of Common Hope’s medical programs, we had the good fortune to receive vaccinations for all of our Guatemalan staff this month, so now most have been vaccinated. Guatemala has a similar system of phases for vaccination as the US and the second phase of vaccination has just begun – allowing availability for people over the age of 70. Social workers have been busy contacting all Common Hope families with older family members who qualify for the vaccines to ensure they have information and access to these resources if they want it.

The school year is underway, although it was a slow start this year. Classes began several weeks later than normal, and we had great hopes that students would have hybrid classes this year. To date, however, schools have been operating with distance learning, just as they did all of last year. We had several Covid-keepers last year in our education programs – ultimately allowing us to support more students in 2020 than ever before! By providing connectivity to students and forming a variety of support networks, we again have a network of homework groups for varied subjects, schools, and age groups. In addition – we have a homework help-line where any student can call in for 1:1 support if they need it. Our primary goals during distance learning are to support students in their homework and to reinforce important skill development for their progress in school, as we still are unable to gather in groups.  We were thrilled that 96% of our students were promoted to their next year – and we celebrated 174 graduates last November!

As a result of the pandemic, we have also learned from some of the high schools we work with that there are students with one year of high school left who are unable to complete their education due to financial hardship. This year we are providing Scholarships for 35 students with one year left until graduation who wouldn’t otherwise be able to graduate – ensuring that they will reach their graduation despite financial hardship for their families. These are in addition to more than 100 new families and their children that begin their own education journey towards graduation this year.

Our social workers are in regular contact with our families, and are resuming in person visits. Another covid-keeper – our families and social workers both report that they feel closer than they have in the past because of the more frequent contact that phone visits have allowed them over the past year – we will continue to do these going forward!

We learned through a series of conversations with families that we have nearly 400 families that have ongoing food insecurity issues as a result of the pandemic. For these families we have established a plan for the balance of this year to support their needs on a regular basis. We will also be providing health and hygiene baskets to all of our families in the coming weeks because until vaccinations have been provided for everyone eligible, hygiene and masks will remain critically important.

There is no one untouched by the impact of Covid-19, and that continues in 2021 for the families we serve. We are grateful to have sustained our programs despite the economic impact in 2020, but still need your help.

Please consider a gift to offset the food insecurity faced by our families, and to ensure that they all have necessary masks and hygiene supplies so they are able to stay safe and healthy. To do so, please click here. However you can help, we are grateful. Together we will continue to make hope a source of strength.

Mil gracias, Shari

P.S. Please also consider joining us for our 35th anniversary celebration in Guatemala in November – we look forward to celebrating the achievements of our 2020 and 2021 graduates, the 20th anniversary of our work at New Hope, and the 15th school year at New Hope School!   More information is available! Click here.


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