Guatemala Stove Project.
Four Tay Valley Township students were presented with Global Changemakers Awards by the Ontario Council for Intarnational Cooperation prior to International Development Week. Pictured are Kimberly Gibbons, Executive Director of the Ontario Council for International Cooperation, Emelia Bowie-Buffam, Kate Thornton, Lilli Strong, Kara Cameron and Keith Walker, mentor of the "Students Helping Students" group, member of the Board of Directors of the Guatemala Stove Project.
PERTH - Four Glen Tay Public School students have returned from Toronto, armed with Global Changemaker Awards which they won on Thursday, Jan. 10.
The four girls, Emilia Bowie-Buffam, Kate Thornton, Kara Cameron, and Lilli Strong, all aged 13, were honoured by the Ontario Council for International Cooperation prior to International Development Week, which runs until this weekend (Saturday, Feb. 9).
“I am very excited about it,” said Keith Walker, mentor of the “Students Helping Students” group, and member of the board of directors of the Guatemala Stove Project.
Three of the four students are intending to travel to Guatemala next year to visit the 11 students they are helping to get through school.
“They have developed a sense of connectedness to the 11 students they are providing money to for education,” said Walker. “We are hoping to grow this project.”
The girls have helped raise about $100 per year for each of the Grade 7 students in a Mayan village in Guatemala.
“Their commitment is to support them as long as they remain in school,” said Walker, through “becas” or scholarships.
Two of the Glen Tay students are headed to St. John’s Catholic High School in Perth in September, one to Perth and District Collegiate Institute, and the fourth to a private school in the United States.
The private school incorporates a foreign aid trip as part of its curriculum, and she has expressed her interest to make Guatemala her final destination.
“If they can make that connection, it will change them forever,” said Walker, who added that the girls will soon be able to email their students in Guatemala.
The girls are hoping to make presentations at St. John’s high school and at the Upper Canada District School board in the coming months.
The Guatemalan students live in three remote villages that, last year, were ravaged by drought, but over the winter, the situation has gotten better.
“That has improved,” said Walker. “They have had a good year agriculturally. The people are not hungry.”
While the crops and weather has improved, the social conditions of the Mayan people remain dire. In a country in which they make up 60 per cent of the population, or, about eight million people in a country of 14 million, they have been herded on to only six per cent of the country’s land – and not even good land at that, but rather, mountainous, poor terrain, where it is difficult to grow sufficient crops, in a country just bigger than New Brunswick.
“This is why they are having a hard time feeding themselves and it will only get worse,” said Walker, as the Mayan population continues to grow. “The only one certainty is education,” to lift their people.