Amigos de Atitlan is a project created to support and assist the school of IIK-Luna that cares for approx. 60 homeless and orphaned children living in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala.
A few months ago I asked a group of 6th graders if they would be interested in writing pen pal letters to the kids in my project. Something simple that would connect children here in Arizona to the homeless children in Atitlan. I called it the "Aimgos de Atilan" pen pal project and the kids from both countries loved and embraced it!
The presentation given to the kids in AZ showed them the town of Santiago Atitlan and the faces of the children they would be connecting with. It briefly touched on the circumstances the kids of Santiago faced everyday but mostly focused on the positives of thinking beyond borders and how having FRIENDS throughout the world creates a sense of oneness. It also benefited the children in Guatemala by showing them other kids cared about them and how much they could have in common. I created a similar presentation for the AA kids and introduced them to Arizona and the children of Maricopa.
As the project moved along I began talking about it to a coworker that runs an educational program about hunger issues at St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance. Hunger 101 offers a great insight on how hunger effects us all and how to make healthier choices when eating on a budget. Upon hearing about my children in Guatemala, the Hunger 101 program manager was eager to offer some gifts in hopes of making the pen pal project a success.
Once all the pen pal letters were completed, packages were put together that also included Hunger 101 backpacks, water bottles, pencils and stickers. I was also happy to receive 60 boxes of crayons from a local church that were included in each package. Once all the boxes arrived in Guatemala, each child from "Amigos de Atitlan" received not only a great letter from a child in Phoenix but also a Hunger 101 stuffed backpack of fun school supplies.
A special THANKS and lots of love to Hunger 101, my friend Frances from the church and to my dear friend Birgit in Guatemala (for delivering and presenting everything to the kids of AA).
In November 2008 I made my first trip to Guatemala on a mission to discover what I called a "bigger and badder" meaning to cause related work. Having spent 4 years in the non-profit world working to better my local community, I was ready for something on a more grand scale and thanks to a beautiful and special friend I found what I was looking for within the walls of a small makeshift school.
IIK-Luna is a small organization that promotes and supports the growth of indigenous women and children within Santigo Atitlan. The town is situated amongst grand volcanoes and the majestic Lake Atitlan. Local Mayan culture runs deep within the community that is not only seen amongst the people but also through their rich colorful art. Unfortunately, this town has seen many sad occurrences over the years that has left a large part of the community living in severe poverty.
The founder of IIK-Luna is a strong Mayan women who felt compelled to turn her home into a two part organization: One side promotes and teaches women to overcome difficult circumstances the other side takes in children ages 2-15 that are living without homes and sometimes without parents. The school had only been opened for a year when I met Elena and the children in a small desolate classroom. To my amazement Elena had taken 60 children within that year that suffered from malnutrition, little education, severe social skills and barely spoke into a classroom of smiling and singing children.
After meeting with them for less than an hour, I knew this is what I had been searching for and that I had to be part of this...I would dedicate myself to helping them anyway I could. And that's how I came to create the "Amigos de Atitlan" (Friends of Atitlan), a project that connects these children to those in the USA through various activities and donations. These children can have and should have the same opportunities that every child in world deserves, so through Pen Pal projects - connecting them with kids here in the US through art letters, school supply donations, new shoe donations and fund donations, it brings those dreams a little closer to the class of IIk-Luna.
Thank you for taking the time to read about my project....if you would like to help, please feel free to make a donation through PayPal or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.