The first PoP school was built in honor of our Founder Adam Braun’s grandmother, Eva. She’s a Holocaust survivor and her experience was a crucial part of his upbringing; after she survived such a harrowing ordeal, Adam wanted to do the most meaningful thing he could to ensure that his grandmother’s legacy would last and that her survival would make the lives of others better. Upon building the first PoP school, Adam saw how meaningful it was to dedicate a good deed to someone else — we can bring happiness to our own lives by honoring the people we love most.
At PoP, we’re passionate about the unparalleled positive effects that stem from an education. Yet sometimes we’re so focused on our own efforts to help students receive a quality education that we forget to honor the other people who play an integral role in helping instill in our students a passion and desire to learn: their parents.
Recently, we were fortunate to have a chance to speak with some mothers of PoP students in Chicocab, Guatemala, a small agricultural community located over an hour from our southern regional office in Boca Costa. It’s one thing to hear a student discuss the impact that receiving an education has on his or her life, but talking with these women provides another perspective on how synonymous education is with opportunity.
Just a short walk from the school, through the main part of the village, we sat down with Manuela. She greeted us warmly when we arrived at her home, offering us sodas in a bright yellow shirt that perfectly matched her sunny personality.
“When you have so little, like we do, it is so important to have an education,” said Manuela. Referring to her daughter, Manuela (the two are tocayas, meaning they share the same namesake, a fact that Manuela told our team with pride), she added,
“It can’t be taken away from her. It is something that she will always have for herself, even if there is nothing else.”
Manuela’s two older sons were unable to continue with their education due to the family’s lack of financial resources. With five of her seven children gathered around her, she told our team that even though Manuela hasn’t completed secondary school yet, she’s already “seeing the changes reflected in our family. If Pencils of Promise hadn’t helped us, she would not be in school right now, but now she will be able to help our family in the future.”
While speaking with Manuela, it was apparent that discussing her dreams for her family was difficult — understandably, as it’s challenging to be forward-thinking while consumed by daily worries like maintaining a household or putting food on the table.
Yet when the subject came up, she didn’t hesitate to share her aspirations for her children: to study.
“Manuela is the first of my children who has been able to continue studying and given the opportunity to attend secondary school … I hope that she continues studying until graduating from whichever degree she chooses.”
We met Catarina, a single mother also from Chicocab, setting up chairs in a shaded spot outside her modest, one-room home constructed of wooden planks and cement block, woven textiles drying on a clothesline nearby.
Since her husband passed away some years ago, Catarina has been the sole provider for her family; her eldest son, Pascual, attends secondary school with the help of a PoP scholarship.
“As his parents, we were never given the opportunity to be able to receive an education — and now that Pascual has this opportunity, he must take advantage of it,” Catarina said. “I always remind my son how important it is to complete his schoolwork and to try his best to learn more and more every day. I see the quality of education that he is receiving and I am so thankful.”
Like Manuela, it was initially difficult for Catarina to open up about her dreams for her children. But when the subject was mentioned, she looked at Pascual — quietly standing beside her — and smiled brightly. She began to answer, hesitatingly at first, but beaming at her son the whole time.
“What I wish for most is that my son will be able to complete his studies. I hope that I will have the joy and happiness of knowing that he is able to finish his education, because I can see how willing and excited he is to keep learning.”
It was clear that she wasn’t used to saying these thoughts out loud, but Catarina’s confidence only grew as she continued to speak.
“Together, we do have many dreams for the future. Pascual wants to continue with his education, but I don’t know how we will be able to continue helping him. For now, we know that he will complete secondary school with the help of Pencils of Promise.”
In Pasac Palacal, a community about an hour away from PoP’s Boca Costa office, our team sat down with Isabela, whose son, Manuel, is also a PoP scholarship student. In their home, a small wooden structure about 20 minutes walking distance from the school, she told us that their family “used to worry about our lack of resources, but … now, we can pay their school fees and for their school materials … Now, I don’t worry so much anymore because I’m just happy to see them studying.”
Like Catarina, Isabela was initially hesitant to share her aspirations for her sons, as she mentioned being “conscious of the fact that beyond 3rd Básico [the equivalent of 9th grade] it will be impossible for them to continue studying.”
“Yes, there are dreams,” Isabela said. “But for the moment, I only allow myself to dream about them completing their education. It’s difficult to think farther beyond that right now.”
Yet even while appearing quite grounded (this was the only moment in our conversation that her voice seemed to falter), Isabela’s optimism couldn’t help but shine through.
“In our family, we have a goal — our goal is that my two sons that are studying now are able to complete school and are able to find good jobs. Then, we hope that they are able to help the children that are now in primary school, so that they too are able to study and that all are able to complete their education. This is our plan that we hope to accomplish, so that every one of my children will be educated … As a family, we will collaborate and work together so that all will make it through secondary school.”
Isabela was also adamant in sharing her appreciation for everyone who has played a role in sending her sons to school.
“We don’t have the resources or know how to pay back all the people who have helped us, both in my family and in Pasac Palacal. Without even knowing us or meeting us, they have given us confidence to keep moving forward and are helping so many people in our community.”
This Mother’s Day, we want to take a moment to celebrate all the PoP mothers who have dedicated and sacrificed so much to help their children attend school. On a day where we’re honoring our own supermoms in the U.S., we’re also thinking about these incredible women, who — despite having so little — instill confidence in their children to pursue their potential and promise, no matter the obstacles.
We’re relentlessly working to provide all children with access to quality education. These PoP moms are (just three of many) working tirelessly to remind their children that an education is the key to a better future. They send their sons and daughters to school every day because they believe in the power and opportunity inherent in learning, inspiring their children — and all of us — to believe that with an education, anything is possible.
Honor your mother by empowering another. Our friends at 1–800-FLOWERS.COM are offering 15% off an exclusive collection of flowers, plants and gifts, along with a $10 donation to PoP for each Mother’s Day purchase.