On Monday, September 9, eight bloggers will join writer/photographer Laura Reinhardt and I for a week-long trip to visit World Vision's child sponsorship and community development work in Guatemala!
One of the programs we'll be visiting is the Children Artistic Development Center in San Juan, which incorporates music into its education program. Yolanda plays the double bass in the orchestra. Here is her story.
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World Vision’s Children Artistic Development Center aims to change the reality of children in Guatemala, especially girls. At present, there are around 80 girls who combine their education with music classes on Saturdays. As a sponsored girl through World Vision, Yolanda was able to finish school.
“It’s hard for indigenous women to leave poverty and ignorance. If I had never known music, I would probably have married at the age of 15 or 16. I would have a family [already]. But now, I’m part of an orchestra, I’m doing music, and I’m doing what I really like.”
Like many Guatemalan children, Yolanda faced a hard childhood. Growing up with her three siblings in a house with a tin roof, plastic sheets, and mud bricks, she watched her parents struggle with poverty.
“My dad was a peasant farmer and used to work at the sugar cane fields. My mom worked in the fields since she was a child, and now she’s a housewife. With effort, my dad became a carpenter, which helped us to improve our house. I know how hard they work and I feel grateful to them,” says Yolanda.
Many young women in this community get married early. They usually don’t finish school and have to work late hours to support their families. In San Juan Sacatepéquez, 40.8 percent of the population lives in poverty; 9.48 percent lives in extreme poverty.
“The direction of my life changed completely. My family is proud of me. They are involved with me in this project, and they are happy to see me as a musician,” Yolanda says.
Yolanda was only 12 years old when World Vision promoted this new initiative for children from the poor and indigenous community of Zet, northwest of Guatemala City. The Children Artistic Development Center opened in 2004, providing education opportunities to vulnerable children through music and arts.
“I remember that the teachers evaluated who was going to be part of the project. A teacher asked us to repeat the rhythm she was making with her hands. I was anxious and scared. I wanted to pass, and thank God I didn’t fail.
“Then she asked me to show my hands. The teacher told me: You are going to play the double bass!”
Lessons started, and the 200 new students arrived at the center. As part of the introduction, teachers showed pictures of the instruments they would be playing. “The teacher Lourdes took me aside and told me my instrument was going to take a little longer to arrive, since it was larger,” recalls Yolanda.
“Finally, the instruments arrived! I touched them and heard [for the first time] the sound of a violin. It was exciting…a feeling hard to explain. I had only seen instruments in pictures!”
Yolanda’s double bass was not there. A few weeks later, a huge case was in the classroom. Yolanda was scared because she thought it was too big for her.
At first, Yolanda didn’t like the instrument and wanted to quit practicing. Her teacher told her to try for another month and, if she still didn’t like it, she could return it.
“I’m so grateful to teacher Lourdes! Thanks to her insistence, now I’m a double bass player and it definitely changed my life!” Yolanda says after eight years of playing music. “If I had returned it, what would happen to my life? Probably I would be raising two or three children, I would be working in a clothing factory, or maybe I would be exploited.
“Thanks to this project, I understood that the most important thing is education,” adds Yolanda. “Since 2008, I have been traveling to Guatemala City to study double bass at the National Conservatory of Music.”
Being part of World Vision’s Youth Orchestra gave Yolanda the opportunity to perform in different events around the country. She is an example of the transformation that music brought to this community. “I never thought it could happen to me. I come from a remote village, and I never thought to go further than that,” Yolanda adds.
“Every concert we perform is an extraordinary experience. It encourages us to go further. We always wear our traditional clothing, which identifies us as ‘san juaneros’ (from San Juan). Thanks to World Vision and people who give their support, I have been able to do this,” Yolanda says.
At present, Yolanda is pursuing a literature degree at San Carlos University. She dreams to graduate and travel around the world. “One day, I will say that I am Yolanda, I have a language and literature degree, and I am one of the best double bass players in Guatemala!
“Thanks for helping me to transform my life and my family’s as well,” she says. “Thanks to those who support this project. Thanks to World Vision Guatemala and the donors, because their contributions help me and my friends. We were able to change our sad faces, our hunger, and worries into happiness. With your support, we now have a better life!”
Join the World Vision bloggers in Guatemala! Check back in September and follow the trip on our blog. Consider sponsoring a child in Guatemala from the very community we'll be visiting!