The group heading to Rabinal, Guatemala, this month has created this banner and taking it to New Hope Foundation as part of a cultural presentation. The banner will be left as a gift, along with a blank canvas for students to work on and bring back to Tatamagouche upon their next visit. Submitted photo

For 10 days, students and adults from the Tatamagouche area will immerse themselves in the everyday living in Guatemala.

It was two years ago when Hannah Martin volunteered at the New Hope Foundation school in Rabinal, Guatemala. While there, Hannah’s parents, Anne and Paul, visited their daughter.

“They were so inspired that when they returned, they asked the local Breaking the Silence group of they were willing to initiate a project between the schools,” said Kathryn Anderson, who is one of 18 people – seven students, nine adults, and two interpreters – leaving Aug. 21 for the excursion. Along with the Breaking the Silence Network (BTS), the project is being co-sponsored by the North Shore Guatemala-Tatamagouche Schools Project.

Sadie MacDonald is one of those seven students, and is excited for the opportunity.

“Being in Tatamagouche, there’s often not a lot of opportunities like this to expand on cross-cultural learning,” said the 16-year-old, who heard about the relationship project when it was first discussed two years ago. “I’m really excited about the new people I will meet, and to see where this goes.”

She said she’s happy to be along for the ride, and for everything she will experience over the 10 days.

At the end of the school year last year, three people from the New Hope Foundation – the director and two students – visited Tatamagouche and shared their own experiences.

“They were so interested in taking in Tatamagouche and the North Shore, so I’m excited to see where they came from,” said MacDonald.

The New Hope Foundation is an indigenous high school with a visionary approach focusing on human rights, Maya Achi culture and language, community development, and agricultural projects.

“I think I will gain the most from interacting with the people at the school,” said MacDonald. “From learning their culture, and it will be great to bring it back to others in Tatamagouche.”

Terri Lynne Reid, an elementary teacher in Tatamagouche, is also part of the relationship between the two schools. During a service learning program at St. Francis Xavier University in 2012, Reid visited New Hope Foundation and said it was a life changing experience.

“It transformed the way I thought and saw many things, such as understanding solidarity as opposed to charity, social justice, environmental racism, human rights, and fair trade – simply the importance of buying fair trade products such as Breaking the Silence Just Us Coffee,” she said, adding she visited the facility in Guatemala where the beans come from.

“After coming back in 2012, it was difficult because there were only a handful of people around me who truly understood the impact of a delegation. That’s why it was important for me to stay involved with BTS. Now with the opportunity to have this experience with local teachers, students, and parents, and expand the support system and learning, it was something I couldn’t pass up,” she said.

When in Guatemala, the group will participate in the classroom studies at New Hope.

“Interestingly, their classes are done in round-tables,” said Anderson. “And the students there are required to participate in work projects. We will participate with them, most likely clearing land for agricultural projects right on their property.”

Reid only spent one day at New Hope Foundation six years ago, but can’t wait to spend more time immersed in the classes.

“I am also very interested in seeing how the school functions, curriculum, community projects, boarding, funding, traditions, and languages. I am looking forward to meeting and chatting with teachers and students from the school. I hope I can bring something back to use in a meaningful way in my classroom at Tatamagouche Regional Academy,” said Reid.

She said students at the soon-to-be-opened school in Tatamagouche will now have friends, peers, and teachers to ask questions to, tell stories, and have deeper conversations with.

“I think the students participating will be thinking more critically and be more aware of social justice which will enrich classroom discussions,” she said.

Having taught a split Primary/Grade 1 class last year, and Primary this past year, Reid said they are the most important grades for introducing ideas of social justice, mostly in the form of reading aloud.

“There are some cute stories about social justice and Guatemalan culture geared for that age group,” she said. “Next year I am teaching Grade 4 and am looking forward to the possibilities of incorporating more in terms of Guatemalan culture.”

The group will also spend a weekend and travel to the Rio Negro Historical and Educational Centre, where they’ll learn the history of genocide in Guatemala.

“The community was ravaged by this genocide, and 16 families returned to this site and created this centre. We’ll be hiking to the site where about 170 women and children died in 1983. It will be a powerful experience of history not often told to Canadians,” said Anderson.

Names of participants heading to Rabinal, Guatemala, this month:

Students:

  • Rye Coombs
  • Megan Flanagan
  • Sadie MacDonald
  • Paige Matheson
  • Klane Murray
  • Morgan Rees
  • Daniel Smith

Adults:

  • Kathryn Anderson
  • Wilf Bean
  • Bobbi-Lee Bigney
  • Anne Martin MacDonald
  • Paul Martin
  • Hannah Martin
  • Julie Porteous
  • Morgan Rees
  • Terri Lynne Reid