Paso Por Paso raising the roof

 GARRY FELL (submitted)

Paso Por Paso is starting its second decade with a major investment at the Tierra Linda Elementary School in Guatemala.

The Orillia-based non-governmental organization plans to have a roof built over the play area at the school in the rural highland area near Lake Atitlan.

Paso Por Paso has assisted with the addition of seven classrooms, a retaining wall, canteen, washroom upgrades, water filtration system and new windows and doors since it started to provide assistance to the school in 2006. These upgrades have resulted in a dramatic rise in the number of students attending the school.

In February, a number of Paso Por Paso directors and guests had a meeting with teachers and community leaders at the school. The many needs of the school were discussed and the teachers felt a roof over the play area was their greatest need.

The project will be co-ordinated by Mayan Families. Paso Por Paso has worked closely with Mayan Families since 2006. It has provided drawings and cost estimates and will supervise the construction of the roof. Local workers will be used in the construction whenever possible. Construction is scheduled to begin once classes are finished for the year in late October.

Sharon Smart, a founding director of Mayan Families, outlined the benefits of a new roof:

“The school in Tierra Linda does not have an assembly hall or any place where the parents and the students can meet. The outside area is a large asphalt playground, which is what is currently used. It is very hot during the day and, when there are activities, the children are standing in the hot sun and the parents are usually clinging to the edges of the perimeter, trying to find shade.

During the wet season, which is from June till October, most of the time the playground area cannot be used as it is raining.

“Thanks to Paso Por Paso, this large area is now going to have a roof put over it that will provide shade and shelter. Now the children, the teachers and the parents will be able to hold meetings, have plays and have activities that will be in a covered area. This is going to make such a huge difference to the school. No more will they be burned by the sun or drenched by the rain.

“This area will now also be able to be used as an extra classroom. There is now space to do a lot of activities that before were unable to happen.

“Now, when there is the school graduation, the parents will be able to sit in comfort, the students will have a wonderful area to hold their graduations and it is going to make it such a wonderful day of celebration.

“This covered area will also be used for the whole community as the school is the place that community meetings are held. This is the first time that the community will have access to a sheltered place to be able to hold their meetings.”

Paso Por Paso will start a major fundraising project to raise the necessary money for the new roof. Organizers would be pleased to speak with any local organization interested in learning more about Paso Por Paso. Contact Fred Fallis at 705-326-6039 for more information.

For more information about Paso Por Paso, visit Information about Mayan Families can be found at 

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