In impoverished communities, children face many barriers to receiving a quality education. A lack of funds for school uniforms or basic school supplies can prevent children from attending school, and poor health or lack of sufficient food can keep children sick at home, or leave them focusing on rumbling bellies rather than schoolwork. Children whose parents have never had access to education may not be able to help with homework, and children who contribute to household income may struggle to balance school with the responsibilities of work.
Many excellent charities focus on removing one barrier at a time, providing school supplies, tutoring programs, or school feeding schemes. Safe Passage, Foundation Beyond Belief’s Q1 2014 Education beneficiary, is remarkable in its broad focus, recognizing that only when all of these barriers are removed will education be genuinely accessible. Its programs address educational access at all levels for children living in and around Guatemala City’s garbage dump. Financial support for school supplies, adult literacy programs, sponsorship for promising students, and lessons at unconventional school times to assist working children all contribute to making education accessible to everyone in the community.
In addition to helping children and their parents with classes and financial sponsorship, Safe Passage’s Educational Reinforcement Center provides holistic care to address other difficulties that may cause a child to struggle at school. Medical care, a hot meal, extra-curricular programming, a safe place to play and socialize, a place to do homework, and after-school tutoring are available to all students who live in the community around the garbage dump, helping to combat all the outside stressors that may inhibit a child’s educational attainment.
Silvia, 17 years old, is studying tourism and hotel management at a school in another region of Guatemala City. She comes to Safe Passage every day to use the computers and do her homework, before heading home to the two-room stone house she shares with her parents and nine siblings. “Without Safe Passage I would never have had the possibility to go to a school like this. I would work in the dump and have children already,” she says. “Now I’m more educated and don’t have to have children at an early age, because without education there is no money and more poverty. I’m very lucky. Safe Passage pays all my school fees, the uniform, the school material. Furthermore, my family gets a monthly food bag.”
Luis was one of the first students at Safe Passage in 1999, graduating from high school ten years later. After his father was killed by a bulldozer at the garbage dump, Luis, his mother, and his four siblings eked out a living scavenging for scrap materials at the dump, until Luis joined Safe Passage. While studying, he was able to earn a living by working in the kitchen at Safe Passage. “Without [Safe Passage], I wouldn’t be here where I am today,” says Luis. “Before, I couldn’t read and write. [Now], I love writing and will have my own book someday.”