Rivendell Academy visit

Básico 1 students had a fun visit from students from Rivendell Academy in New Hampshire, USA.

Dear Las Manos Family and Friends,

I am writing to you on May 21st, 2016, exactly three weeks from my last day working with Las Manos de Christine in the role of Head English teacher and Volunteer Coordinator.  It is incredible to believe that in a few short weeks I will again be living Stateside and other very fortunate educators will be filling my post in El Hato and have the privilege of spending each day working with the children and young adults of El Hato, the school’s staff and administrators, and the Las Manos team.

My first experience with Las Manos was three years ago.  I was volunteering with another local NGO at the time, and on a day off from school I asked Bryant if I might come up to El Hato and spend a day observing the Las Manos program.  That was the first time I met Salina and Alejandra, who I have had the privilege of working with this past year.  Though I unfortunately did not keep in touch during the two succeeding years I was living in the States, when I returned to Antigua in October 2015 I decided again to seek Las Manos out and see if I could volunteer in a more regular capacity.  Little did I know the extent to which I would fall in love with the program and the community in El Hato.

Pen palsAfter volunteering for a month in November, I returned in January in my new role teaching English to students as young as three and as old as myself, and supervising volunteers.  I feel incredibly blessed to work with a supportive, dynamic, and child-centered team.  What’s more, I have had the chance to develop strong relationships with my students and grow as an educator.

I have not yet brought myself to tell any of my students that I will be leaving before the June break, though it’s a task I must do soon.  I will miss all of my students, but especially my Básico students.  It is recently becoming more common in El Hato for girls to continue school after the sixth grade.  The current Telesecundaria classes are perfect examples of this.  In the Básico 1 class there are 21 students, 11 of whom are girls; in the Básico 2 and 3 classes combined there are 19 students, 2 of whom are girls.

There are many obstacles that prevent teens in El Hato from attending school, especially girls.  Las Manos de Christine and partner NGO SERniña are working hard to combat these issues, empower young girls, and make educational opportunities both enriching and accessible.  What I hope for most when I am able to visit is that the current Básico girls will still be attending school regularly, and have hopefully moved on to the next level of instruction, respectively Básicos 2 and 3, and Bachillerato.

When I return home to the States I hope to work with my local community to raise awareness about Las Manos de Christine and educational needs in El Hato.  While I plan to return to visit as soon as possible, I am going to be focusing my energies on my graduate school studies for the near future.  I want to say a sincere thank you to everyone at the school for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this community, and most especially to Salina for always being a strong support and for welcoming me into the Las Manos family!


Pen pals


Between WorldsI sat on a bench at Finca Azotea, a beautifully manicured equestrian club/coffee farm listening to a conversation filled with so much curiosity. What language is he speaking? Have you ever been on a horse? How much do you think it costs to ride a horse? What type of fruit is that? Ten minutes prior, these fifteen-year-olds from El Hato were shoveling manure with the strength, pride, and seriousness of grown men. While we were waiting for Francisco to return with his truck, we had time to walk through the vivero and watch a few minutes of riding lessons.

Shortly after starting at Las Manos I realized almost no one from El Hato has ever seen the ocean. They know of it. They hear about it. I can’t imagine my life without having experienced the ocean first hand. The ocean moves through all the senses in a way that is very difficult to describe accurately to someone who has never experienced it. How important is it to go outside of your world once in a while? I guess it depends a lot on whether the trip is a positive, negative or somewhere-in-between experience. Several years ago I had intended to organize an end of year trip to the beach for students graduating middle school, but I’m sad to say that dream never made it to the top of the priority list.

Between WorldsWith so many students a school field trip is something that happens every few years at best. We do manage to work in one class field trip and a few small group trips each year and sometimes a work trip ends up being just as good.

Thank you Azotea for letting us take advantage of your great gardening resources and for providing us with a mini field trip today.


Help Las Manos help the El Hato community.  Volunteer with us when you’re in Antigua, or donate here.

Between Worlds

Natalie's GardenI live in a fairly large modern house in a small estate in a medium size village in the South of England and have a fairly small garden of approximately 200 sq m. I also have an allotment of approximately 60 sq m half a mile away on which I grow fruit and vegetables.

Natalie's GardenAs I work in my garden I divide and move plants all the time either because the clumps get too large, I lose plants to the winter weather, they come to the end of their natural lifespan or I want to replace them with a different plant with better characteristics. I also often find small seedlings from established plants. In the UK garden centres, plants are expensive to buy and it seems such a shame to throw away plants which many people would love to have. On the other hand it is quite a lot of work to pot up all the spare divisions and seedlings!

Natalie's GardenI work in the National Health Service and many of the staff are on low wages. I decided to sell my plants and any spare produce from the allotment for low prices at work to staff and donate the money raised to charity so that there would be a double benefit – to them and to charity. It is also nice to know that plants that I love are enjoyed by my friends and that they remember me each time they look at them!

Natalie's GardenI felt that Las Manos de Christine would be an ideal charity to support as the relatively small amount of money I can raise would reach a good cause without the large administration and fund raising costs of an international charity. Additionally my daughter Maddie has worked with the school and charity whilst on a gap year.


Natalie's Garden

Teaching EnglishHello! My name is Rachel Downs and I’m excited to be a new member of the Las Manos team! I’m a New Hampshire USA native, though for the six years prior to coming to Antigua I lived, attended university, and worked in the greater Boston area of Massachusetts.

This past month I have been fortunate enough to begin my new role as an English teacher and the Volunteer Coordinator with Las Manos de Christine. I can hardly express my gratitude to the students, teachers, and families of El Hato School as well as the Las Manos staff for giving me the opportunity to learn, grow, and teach in this beautiful and dynamic community.

Teaching EnglishBefore starting with Las Manos last November as a volunteer, I worked for six years at a non-profit early-childhood center in the Boston area. With most of my training and background being with children ages 1-6, I was excited (and a little nervous) at the prospect of working with not only pre-primaria and primaria students (Kinder, Parvulos, Preparatorias, Primeros, and Segundos) but also teenagers and adults in the Básico and IGER programs. Despite some pre-conceptions on my part, I have found that while I love all of my classes for different reasons I especially look forward to the time I get to spend with the Básicos in the afternoons.

There is something very special about the group of teens that make up the Básico 1, 2, and 3 classes. They are bright, they are creative, they are curious, they are goal-centered, they are funny, and they are caring and loyal friends and family members. While there admittedly is a pretty broad range of interest for English itself as a subject, each student is driven in his or her own way. We recently completed an “all about me” project in which the students wrote essays about themselves, their lives in El Hato, their interests, their families, and their future goals. Students worked over three weeks to become familiar with the applicable vocabulary, write sentences, and then first, second, and final essay drafts. While their aspirations are fairly diverse, including becoming professional dancers, football players, engineers, mechanics, carpenters, and lawyers, the two most popular career choices by far are teachers and doctors. I consider myself incredibly privileged to be able to work with these young leaders and look forward to getting to know them better in the coming months.

Teaching EnglishMeanwhile in the mornings, my students in the Prepas and Segundos classes have been working on pen pals projects with two preschool classrooms in the United States. Nearly every week for the past month in these two groups have, with teacher help, written class letters to their partner classrooms at Lemberg Children’s Center in Waltham MA. Segundos and Prepas have told their friends in the States about their school and their lives in El Hato, and asked questions. Thanks to the ease of e-mail, we have received several thoughtful responses back. One inquisitive Prepa student asked the Navigator children at Lemberg, “I know that there’s snow in the United States – are there also penguins?” The students responded, “We have seen penguins, but only at the zoo!”

The Prepas and Segundos have learned that they have very different diets from their friends in the States, the main difference being that children in El Hato love a wide range of fruits and vegetables, some of which the Navigators and Voyagers at Lemberg had never heard of before! In response to hearing that the Segundos love mango and papaya, the Voyager children decided to have a class tasting! The Voyagers reported back that all of them liked mango, but only one child liked papaya. The children in both schools have also been surprised to hear about some of the differences in family make-up. Many of the children in the Voyagers classroom reported that they are only children, or that they have one sibling, while many of the Segundos come from much larger families!

I chose these two classes in particular for the pen pals project because I have more class time with them than I do with most of my other students (40 minutes each day, rather than 30), so it is a project we can work on simultaneously with other English curriculum. When we draft letters to our friends in the States, the students tell me what they want to say or ask the other class in Spanish, and I repeat it back to the whole group English so that their vocabularies can continue to grow in meaningful ways.

Prepas and Segundos are two especially cohesive groups of children. There are 30-something children in each class, and each one is bubbling with personality. Within the classes there are some very strong friendships, blossoming friendships, and a whole range of strengths, abilities, and interests. Contributing to these positive learning environments are two incredibly dedicated and experienced local teachers, Seño Rosario and Seño Azucena, who I am happy to be able to work with on a daily basis.

I have learned so much as a teacher in the past five weeks, and I cannot wait to see what the next few months have in store.


Rachel Downs

Help Las Manos help the El Hato community.  Volunteer with us when you’re in Antigua, or donate here.

Empty PilaMost of us have experienced the inconvenience of life without water for a few hours. In my neighborhood on the edge of Antigua, it’s not uncommon for a neighbor to borrow a shower. Water is turned off from 10pm-5am each night and it seems like a pipe or the pump breaks weekly, leaving us without water for a few hours during the day. We have learned how to adjust. We keep a few containers of water ready. Our longest water shortage so far was for 3 days.

The village of El Hato has not had water in a month. Can you imagine not having water for a complete month? It’s the dry season here and a lot of stomach bugs are going around. This past weekend my son vomited in the car, in his bed, and left no linen unsoiled. I’ve been thinking about those El Hato moms trying to care for their sick children who share beds with several family members with no water. There are a few springs in the village, but the water is not enough to go around. Women have been waiting in line all through the night for their turn to take a bucket. With continuous visits to the water office from the community, local businesses, and representatives from the school, we have managed to get two delivery trucks of water in the past month.

El Hato Water TruckRumors are flying. I have heard the well in Guayabal where the water is pumped from is dry, that all water is being redirected to Antigua, that the pump is broken, and that there is a new pump waiting in storage at the water office but the paper work hasn’t gone through to use it. The fact is there is no water. In a school with 350 students, this translates to no hand washing, no bathrooms, no snack program, no cleaning, thirsty kids, sick teachers, and unsanitary conditions for all. Water Department of Antigua, we are disappointed in you.


Help Las Manos help the El Hato community.  Volunteer with us when you’re in Antigua, or donate here.

Departamento de Aguas

cs90_8551-Guatemala-2015This blog entry was written by Las Manos librarian and teacher Alejandra Shoc.  A translation to English can be found below it.

Durante mucho tiempo un viejo escarabajo Volkswagen modelo 1979 ha sido miembro importante del equipo de trabajo de Las Manos, este carro ha sido todo una novedad entre turistas nacionales y extranjeros a su paso por las calles de la Antigua, pero a pesar de lo útil que ha sido para nosotros también ha sido un problema en cuanto a desperfectos mecánicos se refiere.

Por tal motivo en vez de seguir gastando en este atractivo escarabajo celeste que ahora funciona muy bien, la directiva ha tomado la decisión de ponerlo en venta, pero da nostalgia saber que se irá ya que nos hemos encariñado tanto con él.

Este clásico Volkswagen ha sido reemplazado por un Honda CIVIC LX blanco modelo 1998 que está en muy buenas condiciones, es más amplio, cómodo y posee más espacio en la cajuela perfecto para nosotros.

Así que si está interesado en el Volkswagen puede comunicarse con Salina Duncan nuestra directora.

-Alejandra Shoc

Carrito nuevoNew car

For a long time a 1979 Volkswagen Beetle has been an important member of the Las Manos team. Our little bug has been a novelty among tourists, both from Guatemala and from other countries, as we have driven it through the streets of Antigua. But despite how useful it has been for us, it has also been a problem because of the mechanical problems it has had.

Our VW BugFor that reason, instead of continuing to spend money on this attractive little blue Beetle, which now works very well, the Las Mans directors have decided to sell it. Even so, one can’t help but feel nostalgic knowing that it will go, as we have become quite attached to it.

This classic Volkswagen has been replaced with a white 1998 Honda Civic LX that is in good condition, is more spacious, comfortable, and has more room in the trunk – perfect for us.

And so, if you would like to buy the Volkswagen, please contact Salina Duncan, the Las Manos director.

-Alejandra Shoc (translated by Pete McManus)

Carrito Nuevo

Las Manos FestThis blog entry was written by Las Manos librarian and teacher Alejandra Shoc.  A translation to English can be found below it.

El pasado 21 de noviembre se llevó a cabo el cuarto festival de Las Manos que en esta ocasión se llevó a cabo en el Antigua Green School.

Este festival se realiza con la colaboración de músicos, restaurantes y voluntarios que ponen su mejor esfuerzo para que los asistentes queden satisfechos.

Las Manos FestDentro de las actividades que se realizan dentro de la fiesta están rifas, subastas, juegos y arte para los niños, venta de manualidades o arte, comida y bebida.

Todos los fondos recaudados nos ayudan a seguir con nuestros programas educativos y de construcción por eso agradecemos a todos los colaboradores y donantes de esta actividad.

-Alejandra Shoc

Para ayudar a Las Manos a ayudar a la comunidad de El Hato, sea voluntario con nosotros cuando esté en Antigua, o visite nuestro sitio web para donar.

Las Manos Fest

Las Manos Fest

This past November 21 we put together the fourth Las Manos Fest, held this time at the Antigua Green School.

This festival was held with the help of musicians, restaurants and volunteers who put in their best efforts to make sure that the visitors enjoyed themselves.

Las Manos FestSome of the activities included raffles, auctions, games and art for the children, the sale of crafts and art, eating and drinking.

All the funds raised will help us continue with our education and construction programs. For that reason, we are very grateful to the contributors and the donors who participated in the festival.

-Alejandra Shoc (translated by Pete McManus)

Help Las Manos help the El Hato community.  Volunteer with us when you’re in Antigua, or donate here.

Las Manos Fest

We continue buildingThis blog entry was written by Las Manos librarian and teacher Alejandra Shoc.  A translation to English can be found below it.

La colaboración que Las Manos de Christine le ha dado a la escuela José Ignacio Ortiz Vides ha sido notoria en estos últimos años ya que aparte de ayudar a los niños en su educación también ha contribuido en la construcción y reconstrucción de la escuelita.

Ya se ha construido tres salones para el uso de las maestras de preprimaria, una galera al aire libre para dar clases, puertas, jardines, paredes, entre otros; y recientemente don Ismael, el albañil, ha iniciado la construcción de una pared que ayudará a que algunos salones de la escuela no corran el riesgo de deslave.

Con esta pared se pretende proteger los salones y crear un área más limpia y segura para que los niños jueguen sin correr peligro aparte de aprovechar el espacio para realizar programas de jardinización con los niños y jóvenes.

-Alejandra Shoc

Para ayudar a Las Manos a ayudar a la comunidad de El Hato, sea voluntario con nosotros cuando esté en Antigua, o visite nuestro sitio web para donar.

We continue building

We Continue Building

The help that Las Manos de Christine has given the school José Ignacio Ortiz Vides has been well known in recent years for two reasons: Besides helping the children with their education, Las Manos has also contributed to building and rebuilding the school.

Las Manos has already built three classrooms for the preschool, a pavilion for outdoor classes, doors, gardens, and walls, among other things. And recently Ismael, the construction worker, has begun the construction of a retention wall to help prevent several classrooms from running the risk of landslide.

With this wall we hope to protect the classrooms and to create a cleaner and safer area for the children to play, as well as to create a space to have garden programs for the children and adolescents.

-Alejandra Shoc (translated by Pete McManus)

Help Las Manos help the El Hato community.  Volunteer with us when you’re in Antigua, or donate here.

Drum making with MeganThis blog entry was written by Las Manos librarian and teacher Alejandra Shoc.  A translation to English can be found below it.

Christina preppingUn año más nuestras actividades con los niños y jóvenes de los diferentes programas que laboran en la escuela José Ignacio Ortiz Vides ha llegado a su fin. Damos gracias a los maestros que laboraron con nosotros por determinados periodos y que contribuyeron a la educación guatemalteca; Xavier, Melody, Jamie López, Christina Barteld, Luke Sherman Y Megan Walters que tengan buena suerte y éxitos en el futuro.

También agradecemos a todos los voluntarios que han colaborado con nosotros en especial Pete McManus y Julie Zimmer por apoyar nuestras actividades; a todos los visitantes que conocieron nuestros programas y dejaron donaciones; y a todos los que pusieron su granito de arena en la realización de actividades para recaudar fondos.

JulieA Danielle con su programa Serniña le agradecemos su interés en las niñas de nuestra escuela y por realizar cambios importantes en el autoestima de ellas.

JamieEsperamos contar con ustedes el próximo año ya que con su apoyo y ayuda económica hemos realizamos cambios no solo en la vida de nuestros niños sino también en las instalaciones de nuestra querida escuela.

-Alejandra Shoc

Para ayudar a Las Manos a ayudar a la comunidad de El Hato, sea voluntario con nosotros cuando esté en Antigua, o visite nuestro sitio web para donar.

Ping pong lessons in El HatoThe Year 2015

One more year of activities with the children and young people enrolled in various programs in the school José Ignacio Ortiz Vides has come to a close. We thank the teachers who worked with us for extended periods and who contributed to education in Guatemala: Xavier, Melody, Jamie López, Christina Barteld, Luke Sherman and Megan Walters. Wishing them good luck and success in the future.

MelodieWe are also grateful to all the volunteers who have worked with us (especially Pete McManus and Julie Zimmer, with their committed support of our activities), all the visitors who learned about our programs and left donations, and everyone who played a part in carrying out our fund raising activities.

We thank Danielle and the program SERniña for their interest in the girls in our school and for helping them achieve important changes in their self-esteem.

SERninaWe hope we can count on you in the coming year, as with your economic support and volunteering we have effected positive change not only in the lives of our children but also in the facilities of our beloved school.

-Alejandra Shoc (translated by Pete McManus)

Help Las Manos help the El Hato community.  Volunteer with us when you’re in Antigua, or donate here.

Luke and Pete

Christmas with Las ManosThis blog entry was written by Las Manos librarian and teacher Alejandra Shoc.  A translation to English can be found below it.

En Guatemala tradicionalmente se celebra la Navidad con la elaboración de un nacimiento que es representado con las imágenes de José, María y el niño Jesús donde toda la decoración es alegórica a este acontecimiento y siempre va acompañado de los populares árboles navideños.

Los nacimientos son más populares en los hogares de las familias católicas por el hecho de tener imágenes en su elaboración y como en nuestro summer camp asisten niños de diferentes creencias religiosas, nosotros para darle fin a nuestras actividades del año, decidimos hacer un nacimiento no con fines religiosos sino con fines artísticos.

Este fue el primer año que realizamos un nacimiento y los niños se mostraron muy entusiasmados porque algunos de ellos nunca habían elaborado uno en sus hogares ya sea por religión o por dinero ya que se gasta en el material.

Y así, entre el nacimiento, música navideña, incienso y mucha creatividad los niños se despidieron de las actividades del summer camp 2015 que Las Manos organizó.

-Alejandra Shoc

Para ayudar a Las Manos a ayudar a la comunidad de El Hato, sea voluntario con nosotros cuando esté en Antigua, o visite nuestro sitio web para donar.

Christmas at Las ManosChristmastime at Las Manos

In Guatemala Christmas is traditionally celebrated with a Nativity scene featuring Joseph, Maria, and the Baby Jesus. Everything about the scene is an allegorical representation of the event and is accompanied by always popular Christmas trees.

Nativity scenes and their accompanying images are most popular in the homes of Catholic families. As children with various religious beliefs attend our vacation camp, in order to finish off our activities for the year we decided to make a Nativity scene with an artistic emphasis rather than a religious emphasis.

This was the first year that we set up a Nativity scene, and the children were very enthusiastic because some of them had never made one in their homes, either because of the cost or because of their religion.

And so, with a Nativity scene, Christmas music, incense, and a lot of creativity, the children said goodbye to the Las Manos 2016 vacation camp.

-Alejandra Shoc (translated by Pete McManus)

Help Las Manos help the El Hato community.  Volunteer with us when you’re in Antigua, or donate here.