Mar. 29, 2013
Temple Beth Or is working to improve the lives of Guatemalan children who are faced with enormous poverty and discrimination.
Community Contact Information:
Temple Beth Or
- Provide academic scholarships to the children of impoverished families living in the Mayan village of San Antonio Aguas Calientes in Guatemala.
- Support the community preschool established by Nueva Generación.
- Provide the TBO congregation an opportunity to visit the sponsored children in Guatemala and participate in a community service project.
- Partner with the families in Guatemala by coordinating support drives in the Temple, collecting shoes and school supplies.
Our congregation has worked to improve the lives of many children who are faced with enormous poverty and discrimination. Over the past five years we have funded 141 yearly scholarships. When Guatemala faced national disasters, Temple Beth Or collected emergency funds and supplies. Our congregation has developed a strong partnership with the people of Guatemala resulting in lasting, meaningful relationships. Our service trips further enrich our commitment to the country.
In terms of the service trip preparation, meetings are held prior to leaving for Guatemala. A handout is given about the country, the population and the economic and social problems faced. A suggested reading list is provided. The itinerary is created and travel precautions discussed. Supply drives are held throughout the Temple for materials needed to take down to the village. Announcements of the trip are made to the entire congregation through our weekly e-blasts and Temple Topics, explaining the upcoming trip and opportunity to participate. The average group is 25 participants on a first-come basis. Fortunately, no one has been turned away at this point. Ideally, as popularity increases, a service trip could be offered at least once a year.
The goal for 2013 is to raise the funds needed to build at least one house per year ($4000), hopefully taken on by an upcoming bar/bat mitzvah student. Another goal would be to develop an annual trip for our high school students. Once in Guatemala, the congregation is updated by blog and Facebook. Opportunities are given throughout the year for school sponsorships. Kippot are sold through the Temple gift shop and available for purchase at Friday Onegs (payment can be made after Shabbat).
A Temple Beth Or member created a 501(c) (3) called Nueva Generación (New Generation). In support of her efforts, our Rabbi proposed a Temple service trip in December 2008. During this first trip, the participants visited the village of San Antonio Aguas Calientes, having an opportunity to visit the children they agreed to sponsor for the coming school year. Also, the group volunteered in an orphanage for children with special needs, covering the staff during the Christmas holiday. The members celebrated Hanukkah each night and visited a newly created congregation in Guatemala City, Adat Israel (formerly Casa Hillel) and presented them with a variety of needed Judaica. Our Rabbi conducted a service for the congregation, as they have no regular Rabbi. Upon returning to Raleigh, a presentation was given to the congregation. From that point, members stepped up to sponsor children. The following year, Nueva Generación commissioned a weaving cooperative to create kippot to be sold to the Raleigh community.
A community preschool was created in 2010 and serves 16 children with 3 teachers. Our membership stays abreast of crisis that may occur and coordinates efforts to help in emergencies. Each Mitzvah day, a project is completed for Guatemala. Such as in 2012, the 1st and 2nd graders in Religious School created books with basic concepts in English and Spanish. On this recent trip we had 26 participants. Part of the group constructed two houses, in alliance with BuildinGuate (a Guatemalan non-profit). The other participants provided a medical clinic in the village in alliance with the village government and another non-profit, Education Plus Development. Over 200 patients were seen in just 2 days. Members also provided a soup kitchen at the Escuintla Garbage Dump and visited a nearby orphanage providing a holiday party and gifts for the children on Christmas Day. On the last evening, the eve of Shabbat, we shared Havdalah with our friends from the Adat Israel congregation in Guatemala City.
The results of our activities with Guatemala have enhanced our membership's awareness of the economic and social injustices among the indigenous people in Guatemala. It has resulted in meaningful relationships with our international neighbors, the indigenous and our Jewish friends from Adat Israel. We have widened our reach of practicing our Jewish values and acts of Tikkun Olam. Our continued partnerships with Guatemalan NGOs provides lasting relationships for our members. And most importantly the children in San Antonio Aguas Calientes have a better chance of receiving an education and hopes for a brighter future, a "new generation".