Saturday, February 16, 2013

School Begins!

February is an exciting month for Serving Paraguay.  In Paraguay, the school year begins in February and ends in late November.  Last year, we were privileged to be chosen as a ministry given funds to host a Christmas party for the community.  We hosted the event in early January just after the Paraguayan holiday of "Day of the Kings."  In Paraguay, instead of Santa Claus, the three Magi bring gifts to children on January 6th.  The funds for this event came from the Viva organization- an international ministry that focuses on connecting and equipping Christian children's ministries.  We are members of the Paraguayan chapter of Red Viva

Our children and youth in Hogar GANAR planned a Christmas pageant and a drama representing the birth of Christ and the forgiveness of our Heavenly Father.  They practiced for weeks and were able to minister to the children and adults attending the event.  We had a local clown ministry visit, and they presented again to the children the message of the gospel.  We were overwhelmed by the many churches and ministries that came together to provide games and lessons during the first portion of the event.  In our initial planning, we estimated inviting 350 children, but were really expecting about 200 children for the event.  Our school directors and children and house parents went into the community a few days prior to the event to invite our neighbors.  In faith, we bought gifts for 300 children, and as the morning began, we saw that there were going to be a very large number of children.  Every child had to sign in and register.  By the time we were serving snacks we had passed our 300 number and had to run to the grocery store to buy more snacks.  In the end, 346 children ages 12 and under were in attendance.  Between the children, volunteers, and parents, we had more than 600 people at the event!  Hundreds of our neighbors were able to hear and see portrayed the precious gospel message of our Savior!!  And every child present, thanks to the Viva grant and the help of our community grocery store, Super Alegria, was able to receive not only a snack but a Christmas gift as well. 

 Some of the children enjoying the program

At the Viva Navidad Christmas event, we passed out flyers advertising our school, in hopes that many families would return and register their children to attend our school.  After the event many families came to the school to sign their children up and then returned with their friends and neighbors.  February 11th was our first day of school, and as of today, we have 179 students attending classes!  In 2012, we had 116 students and in 2011, there were only 89 students.  Each year, we have opened a new grade so that our students can continue in our school and eventually graduate from high school with us.  This year, we opened 10th grade, the first year of high school in Paraguay.  And in 2015, we will have our first graduating class!

4th Grade hard at work

For those of you that do not know how our school functions, I would like to explain it to you.  The official prices (at the current exchange rate) to attend our school are $15/month for pre-school through sixth grade, $20/month for middle school (7th through 9th grade), and $25/month for 10th grade.  The actual cost/month/student to pay teachers' salaries and to provide necessary classroom materials is almost $45/student with our current enrollment.  In most Christian or private schools in Paraguay, students will be paying at least double the amounts that we charge.  Now, we know that many parents are unable to pay those costs, and it is our desire that no child ever leave our school for inability to pay the tuition.  So, the students that began with us in 2011 receive a "half-scholarship" and only pay half of the above-mentioned fees.  When new students come to register, we study their family situation, and charge accordingly.  Obviously, the children from Hogar GANAR do not pay to attend the school and we also do not charge the children of our employees or teachers.  Every family that brings more than one child to the school also receives a family discount- the second sibling receives 25% off and the third and subsequent children only pay half.  At this time, less than a quarter of our students are paying the full amounts mentioned above. 

Our Kindergarten class

In working as missionaries, we have learned that giving things for free is never the best way.  The families in our community, even the most impoverished ones, are capable of setting aside a $10 or $20 a month to provide a quality education for their children.  And when they are paying something, they understand and appreciate the value of the education our school provides.  In our parent/teacher conference last night I was able to explain the actual costs to the parents and explain to them that every child in our school is receiving a "scholarship." 

Presenting our teaching staff at our first parent/teacher conference of the year

The mission of our school is to see that every child is educated with excellence, and prepared for their future in University studies.  With our entirely Christian staff, we are able to share the love of Christ and the message of his salvation with every child and every family.  We offer English three times a week for every student, thanks to our missionary English teacher, Jewel Vernoy.  Our schedules include morning prayer and devotional every day for every student, and weekly church services.  Our middle and high school students have Bible class as part of their base curriculum.  Students from fourth grade and up also have computer class.  Our curriculum also includes all the requirements given by the Paraguayan ministry of Education, such as music, dance, GuaranĂ­, Spanish, science, math, art, etc. etc.  Our 10th grade students have courses in Philosophy, Anthropology, Physics, Chemistry, and Statistics, along with their general courses. 

Our 8th Grade students beginning their day

And one of the most exciting things about our school is that it also serves as a feeding center.  Nearly every update, I mention the grocery store, Super Alegria and their donations.  Over the past two years they have provided food to feed EVERY student EVERY day.  It has been an incredible blessing!  This year, because of the large quantity of students, they will be making a cash donation each month to ensure that we can continue to feed our students!  We will be serving lunch Monday through Friday to our nearly 50 middle and high school students that attend school for a full day, and we will provide a nutritious snack for our younger children that attend school a half day.  The mothers of the students (that do not work during the day) are asked to volunteer one day a week to come to the school and prepare the meals for the students.  This is the first year we will serve a full lunch, and what a blessing to be able to ensure that our school's young people are eating a healthy, filling lunch five days a week!

Our beautiful school kitchen where snacks and meals will be prepared

When we privatized the school on our property in 2011, we did so out of necessity to protect our children and because we had the dream that the school could be a major center for community ministry and blessing for the families living nearby.  At that time, we had no idea all that God would do through the school.  It is difficult to sit in South America and write to a North American audience hundreds and thousands of miles away trying to express both the excitement we have and the burden we feel for this small nation of Paraguay.  It is hard to share the subtle changes in the personality of adolescents that a year ago had no hope, and today are smiling and able to verbalize what they want to see happen in their lives in the future.  I wish you could each meet the mothers of our special needs students that are so overwhelmingly grateful to our school because we treat their children differently from every other school, valuing them and taking the time to ensure that they, too, can learn. 

Four of our 10th grade students

If every parent pays their tuition each month, we will have an income in the school of $1,250.00.  This money serves as the petty cash for the school: to keep our photocopier running, to buy textbooks, paper, white boards, and any other classroom or cleaning needs.  The petty cash from the school also now buys all school supplies for the children of Hogar GANAR!  What remains is paying the 15 staff members of the school.  This amount is $6350.00/month.  If you have ever wondered how you could be a part of our ministry of "Serving Paraguay," we are now asking for school sponsors.  We would like to see each of our students sponsored at $30.00/month, beginning with those living in our children's homes and with those receiving full and half scholarships.  We will partner you with a child and send you their picture and updates of their progress throughout the year.  If you choose to sponsor a child in the Itaugua Christian School, you will not only be sponsoring their education, but you will be providing them with a chance to receive nutritious food five times a week, a chance to know Christ as their personal savior, and a chance to receive the tools that will allow them to choose their own future, impacting the nation of Paraguay in an amazing way!

Our school facilities

Please consider partnering with us in "Serving Paraguay!"  We are always available to answer any additional questions you may have about our ministries or finances.  Simply email your questions or concerns to

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