Escuelita Comunitaria David LaMotte
Program Description: Preschool, kindergarten and first grade school, serving 80 children with a quality education free of charge in a small Maya village. All school supplies and a daily meal are also provided.
Location: Tzanchaj, Atítlan, Guatemala
History: In 2004, when David and Deanna LaMotte first visited Guatemala on their honeymoon, they stayed in a hotel about 15 minutes from the current school and met the school’s founder, a local Maya man, Nino Tecun, who later took David to visit it. At the time, the preschool was in a rented room with fourteen children and their small desks crammed into the space. Nino explained that there were many other students in the village who would like to have been in the preschool as well, but there was no room.
Though he only had a third grade education himself, Mr. Tecun had the vision to build a larger school building to accommodate the needs of the village and he had a bit of land where the school could be built, so Senderos (then PEG Partners) provided the funds to build a one-room school. That school opened in January 2006, and Nino surprised David by naming it “Escuela Comunitaria David LaMotte.”
In the early days of the school, there were 30-35 students, but the number of students and the school building both grew steadily over time. In 2018, Senderos bought land for a new school and donated it, so that the school itself owns their own property. The school then received a generous grant from Rotary International to build a new school building that accommodate the current enrollment with room for expansion as the school continues to grow. Now there
are approximately 80 students and the school goes through 1st grade. The teachers and parents have a dream that the school will one day grow to serve children through sixth grade. This dream is already on its way to becoming reality, but will depend on growing financial support to provide salaries for new teachers.
Highlight: The David LaMotte school is unique in two ways: first, it provides a completely free education, allowing families with many school-aged children the ability to send their kids to school and not have to choose some children’s education over others. In Guatemala, public schools are free by law, but not by practice. Materials fees, uniforms, and other expenses often prove to be an insurmountable obstacle for poor Guatemalan families, so it is significant that this school has no fees whatsoever. Second, the school provides a healthy meal at school, which is particularly significant given that many students come from families that are not able to provide adequate nutrition at home. Food is also a significant motivator for parents to send their children to school rather than working, in a culture where child labor is the norm rather than the exception.
Because the Escuela Comunitaria David LaMotte exists, other organizations have also been able to intersect with these children in meaningful and impactful ways. The children have great support with hygiene, keeping toothbrushes at school and using them at regular intervals, getting free health checkups at least once a year, and access to other services.
The school is also committed to bilingual education in the local Maya language, Tz’utujil, and Spanish. Instruction in the local language, celebration of traditional clothing and education in traditional crafts are essential for cultural preservation; some children in the village who only speak Spanish are literally unable to commuicate verbally with their grandparents. And Spanish literacy provides access to further education, professional opportunities, and the wider world.
Teachers at this school have all been trained on classroom management and encouraging critical thought through a educator training program Senderos funded with a nearby library/school/resource center called Puerta Abierta.
Annual Budget: Total $48,000. Senderos provides about 95% of the annual budget for the school with support from the Rotary Club of Asheville and many individual donations. This budget provides for the salaries of 7 teachers, the director, a cook, a janitor, and a nightwatchman. It does not include school supplies and cleaning/maintenance which are donated in kind.