PWNC Guatemala Partnership

The Presbytery has had a twenty-year partnership with two presbyteries in Guatemala: Sur Occidente and Suchitepequez. More than thirty of our churches have a church-to-church relationship. We have learned from our brothers and sisters in Guatemala. Building relationships in Christ, sharing our faith, praying for each other, supporting education of children and health needs have been priorities of the partnership. Church-to-church partnerships have primarily focused on education by providing scholarships in the elementary, middle, and high schools. Improving education is a way to eradicate one of the root causes of poverty and a way to help the members of our partner churches, especially children. Last year, partnership churches in PWNC sent a total of more than one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000+), providing scholarships for more than 800 students in the elementary, middle and high schools. Some of our larger churches supported a few university scholarships.

Because of the importance of education, the partnership leadership, through the Education Committee, decided to study how best to support students. In 2013, a fact-finding trip to study education in Guatemala was conducted by eight educators (four from the US and four from our partners in Guatemala). They identified university scholarships as a critical need. The Education Committee also identified libraries, pre-schools to prepare children for school, better teacher and parent education, and after-school programs as important ways to improve education and to prepare students for success.

In addition, our Guatemalan partners have identified the need for seminary/pastoral education to provide new leadership in the churches and communities. Some churches do not have pastors and many have them only one day a month. There are exciting new leaders seeking theological education. Having well educated and strong pastoral leadership is key to church growth and will have a significant impact on communities.

Description of Project:

Adding college scholarships, now gives the opportunity to some of our promising scholarship students to pursue higher education and improve their future. It compliments our continued focus on education scholarships for primary and secondary students. A new higher education endowment fund will provide annual revenue initially for six scholarships and includes funds needed for preliminary psychosocial educational testing of candidates. Scholarships would fund half of the annual cost and the student’s family would provide the remaining half. At a later date, we hope to be able to provide financial support for students who have additional expenses for housing, travel, and other expenses at the university or vocational training level.

Education of seminarians, especially women, has also been identified as a Partnership priority by the leadership team/committees in Guatemala. Seminary education is supported by each presbytery. We want to respond to the needs in the presbyteries and to students who are working, attending seminary, and supporting themselves and families at the same time. They also often need to travel for their education. Support will be provided to each seminary program to cover books, teachers, transportation and other expenses connected with study. A group of wonderful new leaders/seminarians is emerging. Support for the seminary programs will provide pastors for churches currently without pastors and new leadership in all the churches and communities.

A pilot project for one library in a centralized school setting has already begun. A second pilot in a community setting is planned. In addition to the library itself, there will be workshops for teachers and parents on encouraging children to read well. Books are precious and are not always available, even in the classrooms. This is an important way to supplement classrooms. A person who works with NGOs and establishes library and reading programs has been working with the Education Committee.

After studying the education system, the Education Committee identified teacher and parent education, preschool programs, and after-school programs as critical needs. Pilot programs in several church communities will be started. Evaluations will be done to learn from them and to ensure that projects in ensuing communities have the best opportunity to improve educational goals.

Essential Goal and Planned Expenditures:

Higher Education Endowment (Six scholarships at $1000 each including testing) $154,000
Support of theological education (Up to $5,000/year/presbytery until spent out) $64,000
Teacher/Parent Formation
Begin pilot programs in the following areas:

  1. Create libraries with a teacher/parent training programs for love of reading
  2. Fund Pre-School programs for children and parents, including school readiness
  3. After School programs for children and parents, including homework/projects
  4. Evaluation of pilot programs
Total Essential Goal $240,000

Dream Goal Planned Expenditures:

Teacher/Parent Formation - Continue additional programs in the following areas:

  1. Create libraries with a teacher/parent training programs for love of reading
  2. Fund Pre-School programs for children and parents, including school readiness
  3. After School programs for children and parents, including homework/projects
Three Education Coordinators to coordinate the scholarship program $27,500
Add two scholarships to endowment for total of eight students at one time. $44,000
Support housing and expenses for students attending vocational training and/or universities. $45,000
Total Dream Goal Planned Expenditures $250,700

Rationales and Impact for Project:

The Partnership has successfully offered scholarships for primary and secondary students for many years. Encouraging deserving, qualified, and prepared students to reach for university education provides hope and a pathway for serious students and their families toward this dream. Providing one half the cost is a great incentive for interested students and families while insuring that the student is making a personal investment in their own education. These students are likely to become future leaders. Insufficient education continues to be identified as a root cause of poverty and this new aspect of offering university scholarships to qualified students in our presbytery provides more young Guatemalans a proven opportunity to escape poverty.

Additional trained pastors are necessary if the Presbyterian Church is to continue its growth and development in Guatemala. This collaborative partnership provides education opportunities for Guatemalans to study at institutions of higher education located in their home country and increases the likelihood that they will remain in their home country after their education is complete.

It has been a helpful practice to try out a program by doing pilots in several places. If the pilot program is successful, then ways to incorporate these programs into the partnership programs can be examined and, in some cases, the communities and committee of the partnership can support them. Each project and pilot will be carefully monitored to make certain of the greatest opportunity for its success.

Essential Goal Sustainability and Accountability:

Endowment funds provide sustainable funding for scholarships. All funds will be housed in the US and released according to an approved process. Student participation in the annual cost of education increases sustainability. A joint Education Committee representing PWNC and the two Guatemalan presbyteries is now in place. Multiple teams from PWNC visit Guatemala annually. The Guatemalan Partnership Leadership Team will review the project and report to PWNC

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