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    Posted February 20, 2012 by
    Antigua, Guatemala
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Impact Your World

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    Real Friends to Real Kids

    Since 2006 Anne Austin and Gary Teale have opened their hearts and expertise to hundreds of Guatemalan children who are challenged by abject poverty. In addition to the daily struggles caused by poverty, thousands of kids find that the chance to receive an education is illusive. Any kind of education!

    When Gary and Ann decided to step away from their jobs in 2006 they had no idea, which way the road was going to take them. They researched opportunities for most of 2004 and early 2005. They wanted to do something, for at least a year, for children that would allow their educational experiences to contribute. Gary was a grade school Principal and Ann was teaching art to kids in lower and middle school.

    They looked at all sorts of opportunities around the world but none fit like one working with kids in Guatemala City. Kids who were dependent on found treasures in the city dump to sustain their families. Gary and Ann jumped at the chance to move to Guatemala and work with these kids.
    They rented out their home in Seattle and headed to Guatemala.

    Soon into their yearlong commitment they both realized they had accidently stumbled onto the path that leads to the rest of their lives. They fell in love with the kids, the country, the culture and the blessed opportunity to perhaps, make a difference.

    In 2007 they decided they would stay in Guatemala in pursuit of helping as many kids as possible attain an education.
    The challenges in Guatemala are daunting:

    *Approximately 80% of the rural indigenous population of Guatemala lives in basic to extreme poverty.

    *Over 60% of rural indigenous children in Guatemala suffer from chronic malnutrition. Guatemala has the 5th worst rate of child malnutrition in the world.

    *International research has shown that higher levels of education lead to greater family economic capacity, as well as decreasing infant and maternal mortality,reducing violence in communities, slowing the birth rate, and contributing to greater social equality within society.

    *Guatemala spends the smallest percentage of GDP on its educational system when compared to other countries in the Western Hemisphere (less than 2%).

    *Both external and internal critics of the Guatemalan education system label it as dysfunctional and failing. For example, less than 1% of the graduating students going into teaching can meet basic math knowledge standards. Only 8% can meet basic literacy standards.

    From these challenges Avivara was born. Born on the wings of an idea supported by what Gary and Ann could financially bring to the implementation of a stand alone non-profit.

    “…Avivara is addressing the issues listed above through the provision of educational materials to teachers and students and teacher development workshops in order to improve school attendance and the quality of teaching and learning in classrooms in rural, poverty-impacted villages in Guatemala. It also provides scholarships to students in these same villages to continue their educations on into junior high, high school and university…”

    Here is one story that illuminates how Ann and Gary have made an impact on the lives of so many children in Guatemala.

    Nanci is one of our scholarship students who is now in her final year of high school. When she was 13 years old, her mother died and shortly thereafter her father abandoned their family. That left Nanci in charge of their home and her four sisters, the youngest being less than a year old at the time.
    Over the last six years, Nanci has struggled to attend school and work afternoons as a housekeeper in Antigua, while also caring for her sisters and maintaining their small home in the village of San Mateo Milpas Altas.
    We first heard about Nanci from one of her school classmates, who also receives a scholarship from Avivara. She described Nanci as a very dedicated and hard-working student who needed our help because the requirements of her last two years of schooling (internships and more demanding studies) were
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