Dynamic relationship to be celebrated December 3 in services and reception.
Sixteen years ago, in 2002, based on a need identified by members of Princeton’s Latin American Task Force, we at Nassau Presbyterian Church and others from the Princeton community initiated a partnership with a school in Parramos, Guatemala. The small town of Parramos is surrounded by mountains, several of them active volcanoes, and by villages still lived in by indigenous Mayan people. It’s a poor area, recovering from a devastating 7.4 earthquake and from the civil war that, for 35 years, tore Guatemala apart.
The school—the New Dawn Trilingual Education Center (in Spanish, Centro Educativo Trilingue Nuevo Amanecer) with its 550 students and 28 teachers—is a bright spot in the center of town. Fully-accredited, it offers primary, middle school, and high school programs with a curriculum ranging from art to computers and language to geography. Its name, New Dawn Trilingual Education Center, reflects the three languages taught as part of the curriculum: Spanish, English, and Kaqchikel, the regional Mayan language.
This partnership will be coming to a programmed end during the next two years.
On Sunday, December 3, Nassau is honoring this partnership which, for 16 years, has made a huge difference to the New Dawn Trilingual Education Center and to residents of the town of Parramos. Nassau’s congregation, including the partnership’s hundreds of supporters here and beyond, are invited to join us for a celebratory reception in the Assembly Room immediately following the 11:00 service.
Each year of the partnership, Nassau members and others have stepped up to provide tuition for some 100 primary and middle school students. These sponsors are matched with particular students, and the pairs often form strong “pen-pal” relationships which last for years.
Without this support, many of these youngsters would be forced to drop out of school to join their parents in the fields. With this help, however, many scholarship students have continued their schooling to become teachers, accountants, farmers, business people and other professionals who can advocate for their villages and their local region.
Each year, Nassau members and others also provide funds at New Dawn for daily breakfast for the 250 youngsters in primary school—which their teachers say is probably the most nutritious meal of the day. In addition, special efforts have been made over the years to supply such items as textbooks, library books, and computers and to improve the kitchen facility and classroom lighting.
Most summers since 2002, members of the Nassau congregation and the broader community have flown to Guatemala for a week of service at New Dawn. Participants have ranged widely in age, skills, and interests, so activities with the school have been lively and varied each year. Hands-on work, such as painting the walls, repairing windows and roofs, and constructing blackboards and whiteboards, has been paired with classroom interaction in such areas as music, art, English, math, and photography. Some years have seen a large medical component, with pediatric, gynecological, and dental clinics set up at the school for the neighboring community. Lodging for the service group has been in a small inn near the school.
The Princeton-Parramos Partnership has also supported town services such as the Parramos Older Adult Program and the public library.
Each summer, the work in Parramos has been supplemented by sightseeing and educational visits to indigenous communities, historic cities, and Mayan archaeological sites throughout Guatemala. A final trip will take place this coming July.
The Princeton-Parramos Partnership has been rewarding and meaningful for the Nassau congregation. Sponsors and students have formed strong relationships, the school has seen significant improvements, and the dynamic intercultural friendship has inspired both Americans and Guatemalans.
The Princeton-Parramos Partnership in numbers
- 16 years of operation
- 1600 scholarships
- 500 scholarship students (many students have multiple-year aid)
- 16 years of full, nutritional breakfast for primary school
- 200 church and community sponsors and donors, many in repeated years
- 13 summer service trips
- 180 service trip participants, including whole families
- innumerable computers donated
- innumerable buckets of paint used
- innumerable classroom and library books provided
Join the Partnership Celebrations
Celebration and Reception. Join us on Sunday, December 3, for our celebratory reception in the Assembly Room immediately following the 11:00 a.m. service.
Guatemala Bistro in January. In 2018 and 2019, we will continue to support the school, primary school breakfast, and students. To raise funds for the breakfast, we invite you to save the date for a “Guatemalan Bistro” with Guatemalan pizza, pastries, coffee, and tropical fruit juices on Sunday, January 28, at 12:15 p.m. in the Assembly Room.
July Service Trip. In addition, on July 13 to 22, a service trip is scheduled for New Dawn, with five days of work at the school, book-ended by weekends at the magnificent Lake Atitlan and at the astonishing Mayan ruins in Tikal.