The 2019 school year (running January – October) was an exceptionally challenging one for our Los Verdes, Guatemala learning center/school team. Now please note that it is normal for several of the teachers to drive one and a half to two hours one-way just to be on site, with every staff member willingly working very long hours that go well beyond the regular school day.  It is also usual for each staff member to willingly commit 100%– to pour their whole selves into everything they do as they work to teach and spread the love of Jesus. All of this, coupled with the daily ups & downs of working closely with multitudes of children, can be exhausting; however, just in the last few weeks, the already-small numbered staff dropped very unexpectedly from 12 to only 9 people. Along with the sudden increase in workload for the remaining staff, everyone’s stress levels peaked dramatically, there were serious health issues to contend with, and a particularly heartbreaking situation happened amongst some of the older students that really dragged spirits low.  When the Connection Pointe team arrived, the Los Verdes staff was trying hard to crawl to the finish line to complete their year!

We, the Connection Pointe team, wanted very much to lift up this beleaguered staff and show them all that they are highly supported and deeply loved. We fully believe in the vision of the Esquilita de Bambu, and we wanted everyone to know just how special and important our Guatemalan friends are!

We decided to host the first ever Teacher Appreciation Week, and it seems to have been a great success! Each day, for 4 consecutive days, the teachers were honored and celebrated in front of all the students. In our mind, it was very important for the children to see their hardworking teachers and staff esteemed in this way, as educators in Guatemala—especially in the more economically challenged areas—are not usually as highly regarded as they ought to be.

On Day 1 the staff received personalized bags with each educator’s name and a specially selected Bible verse. The bags were filled with Connection Pointe swag, including a t-shirt & water bottle. There were also sweet treats, a notebook, post its, and pens.  Each teacher then received a carefully crafted “supply cake”, with pencils, glue, crayons, etc. displayed in a creative fashion. The team even fashioned a very unique version made of tools for Edwin –the gate keeper/grounds keeper and general jack-of-all-trades!

For Day 2, the staff was regaled with a customized beverage tub of goodies, including a hot/cold cup, mug, and various drink packets.  This day included the caption: Thanks A Latte For Being A TEA-riffic Staff!

Day 3 expressed the message—Thanks For Helping Us Grow!  Everyone received a garden-themed basket complete with hand decorated terra cotta pots, flower pens, seed packets, gardening gloves, candy flowers, and more.

And then, on the final day, the staff was treated to a Red-Carpet Extravaganza, complete with “Academy Awards” being handed out as teachers were individually recognized for their talents and contributions.

The staff seemed to have fun posing for the “Paparazzi” and listening to the emotional testimonies from several of the students who wanted to share how their teachers had touched their lives. Throughout the week the Connection Pointe team encouraged the 200 or so students at the school to write letters of appreciation  (in secret!) to each of the staff members. These were collected and handed out during the Red Carpet Ceremony.  Staff members also received a handcrafted framed picture with the initial of their first names fashioned out of crayons and a message stating that teachers color the lives of others.

The culminating point of our ceremony was the presentation of gifts that Connection Pointe donated through the Project Classroom drive at the end of summer.  The package included such items as a set of walkie talkies, a Kindle Fire, coffee maker, and work desk station, as well as a microscope, a weed-whacker, a plethora of school supplies, and a membership to a professional organization.

I think every member of the Connection Pointe Team felt the awesome joy of being able to shower others with an outpouring of love like this.  We received the following text message from our Neely, first year English teacher at Esquilita de Bambu and Connection Pointe family member:

After talking with Andrea and Rut and the teachers … I can’t express how much this week has meant to them… Just know that this week has been so, so, SO special for them and has been a reminder of God’s love and faithfulness. They were left without words…. We’re all so, so grateful to you all and to CP for your details and love and care.”