Partnership with The Canterbury School in Guatemala City

Guatemala Mission 2013

In August of 2013, St. Peter's once again sent a group of parishioners and friends to visit the Canterbury School in Guatemala City.

Since 2005, St. Peter's has had a partnership with The Canterbury School in Guatemala City, a school of 175 students enrolled from preschool through six grade. Many students could not afford to go to school if not for this Anglican-run institution.

Each year we send a group down to the school, to continue our friendship with the children and teachers and to complete a project to improve the school. Over the past few years, St. Peter's has provided The Canterbury School with funding for a computer lab, audiovisual equipment, musical instruments, new bathrooms and to put a floor, windows, a door and electricity in the second floor classrooms. Projects we have completed at the school include planting over 200 trees, painting the entire school (inside and out), planted a vegetable garden, and updating old playground equipment and installing new equipment. The next trip is scheduled for August 2014.

St. Peter's supports The Canterbury School through both parish donations and the marketing of Juan-Ana Coffee, which St. Peter's purchases from The St. Lucas Mission in San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala. Exclusive of shipping costs, all of the money raised is returned to Guatemala in the form of support for the growers, the packers and The Canterbury School.

Volunteer opportunities include:

  • Assisting with coffee sales on Sunday mornings
  • Supporting student scholarship fundraising opportunities
  • Participating in a service project at the school

Philadelphia-based skilled volunteers, including teachers/administrators, computer specialists and Spanish teachers, are also needed.

Notes from Guatemala 2013

Guatemala Mission 2013

The annual St. Peter’s mission trip to Guatemala began at the crack of dawn on Sunday, August 11, 2013. Accompanied by five members of Christ Church, our group left Philadelphia and, after a short layover in Atlanta, eventually touched down safely in Guatemala City.

As an unexpected surprise, we learned that the Archbishop of Canterbury was making a quick visit to the Diocese of Guatemala. As soon as we landed, we met our friend and guide Victor and headed directly to the cathedral for a chance to meet the Archbishop. When we arrived, the service had just ended and the Archbishop was processing out of the cathedral toward a reception area. Not being the sort to miss out on a party, we fell into line and enjoyed some live music at the reception and had our first opportunity to meet the Archbishop.

After our visit with Archbishop Justin Welby and the Rt. Rev. Armando Guerra-Soria, Bishop of Guatemala, we checked in at our hostel, Hotel Dos Lunas, and then made our way to the Plaza Mayor. The Plaza Mayor is the central square in Guatemala City and is the site of the impressive Metropolitan Cathedral (the majority of which was constructed between 1782 and 1815) and the Palacio Nacional (built between 1937 and 1943).

The weekly Sunday market was taking place during our visit, so we had the chance to embed ourselves into the local culture almost immediately. Along with the sale of foods, textiles and housewares, the market was host to at least one fortune-teller, a story-teller and a parrot vendor. In keeping with our string of luck, our first day in Guatemala City also featured a special event at the Plaza. Brake dancing, skateboarding and bike contests galore.

On our second day in Guatemala, we headed out early in the morning in order to begin our projects and to reunite with our good friends at the Canterbury School. But before work could begin, we were treated to a special visit from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishop Justin shared with us his personal thoughts and reflections about his ongoing work in Central America and his hopes for the future of the church. We, in turn, spoke about our continuing mission and relationships in Guatemala and about the joy that each new trip brings. As the music began to play in the background, however, the topics steered toward the light-hearted. We’re still not sure whether the Archbishop truly believes that George and Mason are twins and we are all crossing our fingers that the Archbishop does not drop Prince George when he baptizes him in the near future!

Our second day in Guatemala got even better once the children began their presentations. The kindergarten, first grade and fourth grade students each performed dances representing different aspects of Guatemalan culture. Given their wonderful costumes and adorable smiles, this was easily the highlight. After the children finished their dances, we presented gifts to the school on behalf of St. Peter’s and then treated the children (and the Archbishop) to three songs from Los Estados Unidos.

Finally, with the festivities winding down, we began our first project at the school. A school should be a place where children can feel nurtured and happy. Our group (as well as the teachers at the school) felt that the long cinder block wall that runs the length of the property needed to be livened up so that the children could be animated and engaged by their surroundings. With buckets of paint at our disposal, we set ourselves to the task of the day.

Day 3 at the school meant more painting. We had a long wall ahead of us and we needed to get moving. We made very good progress and that meant we would probably need another order of paint from our good friend Manuel Sagastume. Manuel makes the paint just a couple blocks from the school (in a small workshop attached to his house). Even with all of the painting, there was always time each day for a little futbol diversion (at least for some of us). The end result for Day 3 was pretty good, so we cleaned up, packed up and headed out (and, in some cases, passed out).

Day 3 ended with a trip to La Aurora Zoo in the heart of Guatemala City. If you haven’t been there, we highly recommend it. Like the Philadelphia Zoo, it’s hemmed in on all sides by its urban surroundings. Nevertheless, once you enter the Zoo, you would be hard pressed to guess that you were right next to the highway, the airport (which is right in the middle of the city), and various industrial buildings. It is a wonderful oasis with an amazingly large number and variety of animals.

On Wednesday, we once again set to work on the wall, except this time we had help. The children from the fifth and sixth grades joined us and added their wonderful spirit and creativity to the mix. While most of us made sure that the paint got onto the walls, some of us were a little more hands-on in our technique than others. And some of the children thought it would be much more fun to simply paint Olivia . . .

Wednesday was also the day that we decided to plant the ton of flowers and shrubs that we bought for the school. The plants were personally selected by Greg and one of the teachers at a local vivero (nursery) that sits perched on a hill high above the school just a few kilometers away. Since the older children were busy painting, we asked the younger ones (kindergarten and first grade) to join us. As usual, the children were more than happy to help and we were so thankful for them.

On Thursday morning the group finished up at the school and then went to the Lake Atitlan region to immerse themselves in the beauty of the country and in Mayan culture. After a few days exploring the area, they returned to Guatemala City for the trip home.