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Students Donating Time, Talents to Guatemalan Children Need Local Support

February 13, 2007
A chance to help those less fortunate is readily available by assisting 17 Anoka-Ramsey Community College (ARCC) physical therapy assistant (PTA) students traveling to Antigua, Guatemala for a week in May. While in Guatemala, the students will work in a malnutrition center, an orphanage and build a simple house for one Guatemalan family. Funds for travel and other expenses, averaging $1,100 per student, need to be raised through donations and fundraising efforts. The trip is not for college credit and therefore no financial aid is available.
Guatemalans children According to Anoka-Ramsey Community College physical therapist assistant faculty member, Melissa Gill, many Guatemalans children live in shacks made of cardboard or tin with hard-packed dirt floors. (Photo courtesy of God's Child Project)

Though everything possible has been done to minimize costs, including staying with host families affiliated with an award-winning, non-profit organization, God's Child Project, the group is already in full-gear fundraising mode. Each student has solicited their employer. One PTA student, who is not going to Guatemala, inspired her church to adopt a fundraising effort as a service project. The father of the ARCC PTA faculty member, Melissa Gill, who initiated the project and will be traveling with the students, is now sponsoring three Guatemalan children, one for each of his own children. The group will also sell God's Child Project mugs and coffee and hold a fundraising event, likely a spaghetti dinner, in mid-March.

"I've seen a lot of pictures," says Gill. "The kids literally live in dumps. Their houses, if they have any, are large cardboard boxes hooked together. The floors are dirt."

The trip has been a personal goal of Gill's for years. She expanded that goal to include 13 second-year PTA students and four first year students, who will use their new physical therapy skills as the opportunity permits.

"As an educator, I think this will be a great experience for the students," says Gill. "They will learn the act of compassion and giving to those less fortunate. Sharing the gifts they have been given is their duty to the world. After this experience, I hope they continue to give back to their community and make a positive change in this world."

About Guatemala
Guatemala is located between Mexico (to the north), El Salvador (to the south), Honduras and 50 miles of Caribbean coastline (to the east) and more than 200 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline (to the west).

According to God's Child Project, the annual per capita income is about $1,000, but a rural farmer may earn less than $100 in a year. Unemployment is estimated at 20 percent nationwide, while estimates of under-employment reach as high as 60 percent. Life expectancy is 55 years, as compared to 73 years in the U.S. Eight out of every 100 children die in infancy. Poor nutrition, poor sanitary conditions and parasite-caused diarrhea are the main causes for the high infant mortality.

About God's Child Project
Founded in 1997 and headquartered in Bismark, N.D., God's Child Project was formed to serve the needs of 35 children in Guatemala. Since inception, the organization cites caring for and educating 2,800 poor and orphaned boys and girls in Guatemala, and providing education, health and development services to 8,700 people and 1,200 poor Mayan Indian children in the northern highlands.

The tagline on their Web site home page simply says, "Breaking the Bitter Chains of Poverty through Education and Formation."

Forty percent of the children that the organization has served are girls; sixty percent are boys. Most of the children are from five to 16-years-old. Approximately seventy percent of the children cared for and educated are from exceptionally poor, yet generally positively-focused, families. Thirty percent of the boys and girls cared for and educated are orphaned, abandoned or otherwise hurt children who can no longer live with their natural families.

To donate to the effort, please contact Gill at 763-433-1329 or visit the Anoka-Ramsey Community College at www.anokaramsey.edu for fundraising opportunities and events.