Local residents were able to hear about the work Impact Ministries is doing in Guatemala during a presentation on Tuesday night at the Estevan Alliance Church.
Les Peters with Impact Ministries and Impact graduate Hector Beb spoke to supporters in attendance. Beb, whose people group is of Mayan descent, discussed how Impact Ministries helped him, and Peters acted as a translator.
“In Guatemala, there’s a lot of poverty,” said Peters. “The largest part of the demographic is living below the poverty line, and that’s anywhere from $5 per day to $2 per day for a whole family. He comes from a family that was living in extreme poverty, and struggling from day to day.”
Guatemala also suffers from a lack of education and healthcare, Peters said. The systems are corrupt and violence has been an issue after 36 years of civil war from 1960-1996.
“The civil war just led to a lot of death and a lot of violence. Nothing really changed,” said Peters. “So it’s a very sad period of history for the Guatemalan people and Hector lived through the end of that.”
Peters, whose background is in education, noted that the average person in Guatemala has about 4 1/4 years of education.
But there has been hope for Beb since he came into Impact’s school. Impact Ministries has 10 schools in operation in Guatemala, with 1,500 students attending those schools. Beb came in at a fifth grade level, and Impact Ministries made a big difference in his life.
“By graduating from elementary school, and then graduating from high school, and then graduating from university, he’s just breaking all the records and bursting through all the averages, and he’s talking about that experience and others like him who all of a sudden have a sense of hope,” said Peters.
Impact Ministries operates Christian schools, so they’re teaching Biblical principles and values, which Beb also discussed on Tuesday.
“He’s taken a prominent role in our ministry and our work, and done some amazing things,” said Peters.
Peters and his wife are on the founding board of the ministry. When they joined the board, they asked how they could bring about change in the country. From a political level, there are limited options to address healthcare and education needs. So they decided to address something they felt they could do, which was provide education at the elementary school level.
The plan was to open seven elementary schools, and to have graduates come into one high school, then move on to university. They have the seven elementary schools, but also three junior high schools. One of those junior highs also has high school classes.
Impact Ministries believed it would take seven elementary schools to open one high school because in some of the mountain villages, the dropout rate between Grade 1 and Grade 2 is as high as 50 per cent.
“If you have that kind of fall off, how many elementary schools are we going to need?” said Peters.
They have been able to hold on to more students that they thought.
Since it’s difficult for students to learn on an empty stomach, the schools also provide one meal a day, and Peters stressed that in some cases, it might be the one meal they get that day.
A medical clinic has been opened to serve the students and families, and three churches have also opened through Impact Ministries, with hundreds of people attending each week.
Peters has numerous connections to Estevan. His brother, Ellery, was the director of education for the former Estevan Rural and Public School Divisions. Ellery Peters and his wife also attended the Alliance Church when they lived in Estevan, and that led to a connection between the church and the ministry.
Multiple teams from the church have travelled to Guatemala for mission trips, with the most recent team going down there to help with a construction project in the summer of 2017.