I hope that all of you in the United States enjoyed a great Fathers Day weekend with your families and are off to a good start to the week! Here in Guatemala, Fathers Day comes a little bit earlier, being celebrated last Friday. Today, in honor of all the fathers of Guatemala and at Safe Passage, I would like to focus on one in particular who greets me with a smile every day that I come to work in Guatemala City; his name is Andres.
Andres is the father of two boys, ages 6 and 9. Growing up in Guatemala, he was unable to receive an education. His father wanted him to be able to study to work towards a brighter future, but his family did not have enough money to pay for school uniforms, supplies, and other items needed to go to school. After spending some time working in a garment factory just down the block from Safe Passage, he realized his dream of receiving studies by enrolling in the Adult Literacy program here. Says Andres, “When I received the opportunity to study, I was very excited and jumped at the chance!”
Studying in the literacy program that first started for the mothers of children at Safe Passage, five years ago, Andres became the very first adult male to graduate from it and only about a year after he completed his studies, he received a new job working for Safe Passage. Now he works as a guard and doorman for the project’s building which houses the Adult Literacy program from which he graduated. He can be found greeting all with a distinctive smile and joking around with visitors, all while ensuring that the individuals working and studying inside remain safe! But Andres, as the first father-graduate, was only the beginning of something great.
Today, the fathers of Safe Passage have their very own Men’s Literacy program, within which they can study. Working hard and making sacrifices to pursue their dreams, they often wake up before dawn to get to work, spend all day under the tropical sun breathing toxic fumes, and then arrive home in the late afternoon, exhausted and aching. Instead of spending the evening attempting to relax at home, they go to school. They have a variety of educational levels and interests, but they share a commitment to the belief that, despite all the challenges that confront them and their families on a daily basis, there is hope for a better future — it could be a Tercero Básico (9th grade) degree, a technical school diploma and well-paid job, their own business, or a house for their family — and a positive and successful legacy to pass on to their children.
We all want something better for our children, and these fathers are overcoming many obstacles to make that dream a reality. Four fathers graduated from 6th grade last year, and five are studying this year in Primero Básico (7th grade). In 2010, two fathers took part in the pilot program for Safe Passage's Family Nurturing Program, learning to improve their parenting skills. These are men who believe in a better future, and in fighting to achieve it become incredible role models for their children.
Happy Father’s Day to all in both Guatemala and the United States!
–Gabriel Tobias and Owen Griffith