Celebrations, fellowship and future plans kick off annual Supporters Gathering in Antigua

The Quetzal Gala, Fiesta Guatemala, increased social media presence and new partnerships are just a few of the successes board members and supporters celebrated on the first day of the annual Supporters Gathering. Concurrently, a group of seven potential supporters visited Escuela Integrada to meet the teachers and staff as part of a vision trip. This is the first year the Supporters Gathering includes two tracks—vision and planning— designed to expand the opportunities for involvement in the school.

“I’m really excited for the vision group to have the opportunity to connect with each other and with us, to learn in a relaxed and nice environment and to explore what their relationship might be with the school in the future,” said Paula Bohland, executive director of GRACES. “For the planning group, it’s important for us to sit together and plan as we think about what is next. We are in a new phase at the school with increased resources and opportunities.”

In the planning meeting, Bohland celebrated the financial and spiritual growth at the school, along with the increased morale of the staff. GRACES successfully met two of the three primary goals for Escuela Integrada in 2017:

  • All current students have sponsors for their education, including materials and the cost of the teacher.
  • Students receive a full breakfast every day, which helped significantly with student health and attention during the school day.

The third goal, which focuses on benefits for the teachers, is underway. As a small token of appreciation, the teachers received gift cards to a local grocery store twice this year. GRACES is working on a sustainable plan for health benefits and continued education, along with a salary increase for the teachers.

“We’ve been in survive mode for the last four to five years, said Bohland. “We are absolutely moving from surviving to thriving.”

The planning group reflected on their individual experiences and the collective growth of the school as evidence of a program model that is moving with an upward trajectory. Discerning the will of God and His plan for Escuela Integrada, while walking alongside the leadership of the school will continue to be at the forefront of the planning process.

The planning group also brainstormed additional ways to keep supporters engaged throughout the year. Ideas ranged from implementing an off-season Vacation Bible School, increasing the number of vision trips and potentially providing meals for students in November and December when the school is on break.

“In reality, the way we grow interest in the project is by having people come down here for mission trips and through sponsorships,” said Bohland. “There are more people who want to come see the school. It’s the result of the work we’ve done to get the word out this past year.”

The vision and the planning groups will come together multiple times this week in celebration and fellowship. On Wednesday evening, students, staff, supporters and vision trip members will co-host a cultural night fundraiser for the school where students from the school will perform, and guests will enjoy a traditional Guatemalan dinner. The evening includes marimba, folk dances, raffle prizes and an auction. The groups will also celebrate two graduation ceremonies, one Wednesday and one Thursday, for the students of Escuela Integrada.

“Lives are changing, our relationships are growing and we’ve come so far,” said Bohland. “I’m excited to see what happens next.”