Niños con Bendición

Niños con Bendición

Children dance to raise scholarship funds

by Nancy Hoffman

Niños con Bendición is a group of 16 children ages 6-13 who perform folk dances before various audiences to raise money for scholarships for their schooling and to help cover daily living expenses.

The group was founded in 2004 to give children in the village of San Antonio Aguas Calientes a way to attend school while maintaining their cultural roots.

Lesbi Chavez had the idea to choreograph short dances and use the presentation to maintain the children’s cultural roots while having something tangible to generate funds. I was looking for a meaningful activity for a large annual group of families traveling and sat down with Lesbi to transform her idea into an activity. The presentation for my group in June 2005 was the children’s first experience in front of a large audience.

The original idea was to find each child a sponsor for his or her education, then that child would leave the group (with the sponsor) and another child would join the group.

What Lesbi and I did not anticipate was that the group would quickly become a “surrogate family” for many of the children, and for them to leave the group was not an option. Lesbi literally opens her home for the children to come and play, do homework, visit, use a computer, etc. The children are together six days a week.

In the beginning, the children danced to a cassette recording of marimba music. The group has since purchased a used marimba, and the children have taught themselves how to play, with the occasional assistance of a music teacher (part paid, part donated time). They also have a drum. Tino, Lesbi’s husband, a carpenter, made a couple of simple flutes as well. Once a month, La Peña del Sol Latino (5a calle poniente #15-C, La Antigua), hosts the group to perform for the public. Visitors enjoy the performances and make donations to support the children.

Occasionally, the group is invited to perform somewhere near Antigua or in Guatemala City. Aside from that, Lesbi depends on me or others to send visitors to her home in San Antonio Aguas Calientes where the children perform. Those attending have the incredible opportunity to make tortillas, hang out and play with the children.

The structure was designed to pair the same sponsor and child yearly, but with the world economy, there are sponsors who can no longer afford the $300 yearly cost.

Every year I make sure we can get enough sponsors for each child so they can continue with their education.

Donations and calendar sales (this is our second year selling calendars at Q100 / $15 each) have also enabled Lesbi to serve the children a hot meal every day after school.

Though there are still many other needs and unplanned expenses, we are thankful for the generosity of our donors. And the children’s parents are especially appreciative.

To arrange a presentation or sponsorship, contact Nancy Hoffman at nancy@guatemalareservations.com. You can also visit www.supportlosninos.net

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