Colegio Susanna Wesley educates and prepares indigenous Mayan children to enter and excel in the Spanish-speaking public school system. Inspired and informed by Salud y Paz’s nutrition and hygiene program which began in 2007 to combat chronic child malnutrition among vulnerable indigenous Mayan children, Colegio Susanna Wesley has been offering a comprehensive early childhood educational program to the children of Camanchaj since 2009. In an effort to not only meet the very present need of vulnerable children for good nutrition during the critical childhood development years, but to also offer hope for a better future, the school was formed to ignite their passion for learning and to offer them the tools that can create pathways leading out of poverty.
Our comprehensive pre-kindergarten to first grade program seeks to address the whole child through a focus on three core areas: Language and Education, Nutrition and Hygiene, and Medical and Dental Care. Through our Language and Education component, the school teaches indigenous Mayan children who speak the K’iche language at home to speak, read, and write Spanish—preparing them to enter and excel in the Spanish-speaking public school system. Each school day students receive two nutritional meals and a healthy snack which represents more than 70% of a child’s weekly nutrition requirements as well as hygiene training and supplies that reinforce healthy habits through our Nutrition and Hygiene component. Also, the Salud y Paz clinic provides the Medical and Dental Care component that offers our children regular medical, dental, and vision screenings; doctor visits; labs; and medication at no charge to their families.
The school is able to offer compassionate care and exceptional education through its approach to early childhood development as a partnership with parents and a service to the community. Operated by a bi-lingual Guatemalan staff who speak both K’iche and Spanish, the school has an average annual enrollment of about 50 students and an average class size of 15-18 students. Staff members include three full-time teachers, one part-time physical education teacher, one full-time school director, one full-time cook, two kitchen apprentices, one maintenance staff person, and two teaching interns. Staff members, however, recognize the important role that parents play in their child’s education and development, and the school has been intentional about creating and empowering a very active and engaged parent organization. In addition to their presence and participation in meetings, trainings, and event planning, parents of about 78% of our children who have some means, pay a tuition of 50 Quetzales per month, which is a little less than $7. The remaining 22% of our students come from very poor families and are on scholarship; their parents contribute by volunteering at the school each month.
The life-changing impact of a Colegio Susanna Wesley education is not limited to the individual student but touches their families, reaches into their communities, and is made possible by generous sponsors who partner with us to provide education, nutrition, and healthcare to some of the most vulnerable children. When a child is educated at Colegio Susanna Wesley, the student develops a proficiency in Spanish that gives them an advantage when they enter the public school system to start the second grade. They also share what they learn with their families, which in some instances has resulted in students teaching or enhancing their parents’ command of the Spanish language. The community is also impacted, because with a firm CSW foundation, our students have a much better chance of going way beyond the usual two years of schooling that their parents attained (on average).