Although there is a public school near the Getsemaní community, it is too small to accommodate the demand in the entire area. At the start of each school year, parents must line up outside the school the night before enrollment begins, if they want their children to be in school that year. Furthermore, preschool education opportunities are very limited in the area and are too expensive for low-income families like those who live in Getsemaní.
Martha and other community leaders have therefore decided to take a very proactive approach to solving this problem. During Easter week, they started a small neighborhood school under the thatched structure that provides shade in the community park. They set up tables and chairs and then brought out crayons and coloring books that other volunteers had donated previously. Within the half hour, dozens of children were happily coloring alongside community members and volunteers.
This first week—while children currently enrolled in public school were on Easter vacation—served as a pilot project of sorts, with a very successful outcome. One international volunteer from Myers Park Presbyterian Church, Natalie Beckett, found her niche working with the school children all week. According to the MPPC blog, “The children followed her, surrounded her, clung to her and wanted to practice their new English words all the time. Yet the joy they express when given just a few days of attention and education from Natalie would overwhelm you. The kids hugged her like we hug our own children before they leave for an extended trip.”
Now that some of the children have gone back to school, those who are not as fortunate are continuing to attend the “Getsemaní school.” As many as 18 boys and girls between the ages of three and eight are arriving each day. Community leaders met with their parents recently to explain that—despite the limited resources—the hope was that this school would be a formal educational initiative. The ADESCO board of directors has raised some funds through a community-wide excursion to the beach and plans to continue raising funds in order to make wooden tables for the students. They are asking each participating family to provide chairs for their own children. Though they do not yet have formal text books, they are making copies of the books that some of the other community children have.
–Habitat El Salvador Team