Today some of the Iowa MOST team members did outreach while the final surgeries were done at Hospital de Especialdades. The journey requires a couple of 4-wheel drive pickup trucks, supplies of fluoride treatment and deworming medication, the Rotary spirit of “Service Above Self”, and a little taste for adventure.
A few years ago, the “cloud school” was held in a shed with corrugated metal and cardboard and black plastic as the walls and roof. While headed by several wonderful teachers, the conditions made learning and teaching a challenge. One year the school received a generous donation of desks that unfortunately couldn’t be used due to the all-weather conditions of the building.
After donations made by the Iowa MOST team along with generous donations made by a few District 6000 Rotarians, and much collaboration and support by the Club Rotario de Huehuetenango including some key in-kind donations for construction, funding for a new school was completed. The work took about 3 years due to the difficult terrain. The School of the Clouds lives up to its name at 8500 feet. The mountainside had to be excavated in order to make a foundation for the school.
The School was finished in late 2018/early 2019. Today most of the team arrived to find a beautiful school that most of us had not yet seen. It is bright and open and lovingly cared for. A bathroom was also constructed to replace the former open-air latrine. There are two rooms decorated with bright banners and posters. There are desks and a whiteboard and posters, and the walls are painted brightly and with pride.
The kids and their teacher and the school staff greet us warmly upon our arrival. We sing a song first used by District 6000 Rotarians in Xicotopec, Mexico to teach kids about the importance of brushing their teeth and washing their hands. We give them booklets designed by Nan Johnson and Nancy Pacha that have beautiful drawings for coloring and the words to the song. The kids remember the song from previous years and stand to sing it with us. Then Juan Francisco “Paco” Fernandez read The Hungry Caterpillar, and Cassye Dunkhase “fluttered” around the room wearing butterfly wings.
Next, the team had each kid drink a dose of deworming medicine and then receive fluoride. The kids patiently wait their turn to have their teeth “painted” and tell us it tastes like the bubble gum flavor it is supposed to. Next, we give each kid a temporary tattoo painted with the glitter color of their choice. Some choose spiders (like “el hombre de araña” or Spiderman), some choose flowers, some choose suns, and one little girl has a tattoo she tells us is Tinkerbell. They all enjoy getting their photos taken together and then looking at them on the camera’s LCD screen.
We donate books to the school that we have brought with us. Rotarian David Ramos shows them some of the books and the kids perk up to see new books they haven’t read before. As we are leaving to return back down to Huehuetenango, many of the kids bring out books and start reading them aloud with one another.
They wave and smile, saying “Nos vemos el proximo año!” We wave and smile, saying “We’ll see each other next year!”