Planting Seeds Int’l Anniversary Event Raises $ 10,000 to Support Community and Educational Efforts in Guatemala

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Two decades of community development and educational work in Guatemala started by Pembroke residents Susan and Richard Schmaltz, and which now continues through Planting Seeds International, were celebrated at an event last month.

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The social distancing 20th anniversary event took place at the Pembroke Best Western Inn and Conference Center on the afternoon of December 12 and saw supporters from across the Ottawa Valley come together to celebrate past successes and hear about future plans while raising $ 10,000 for the cause.

This cause was started in 1999 by the Schmaltz who, after retiring from their educational careers in Pembroke, moved to Guatemala to help educate children in the poorest region of Guatemala City. During the first two years, Richard led teams to build houses for poor families, while Susan established preschools and trained teachers. In the evenings, they would cook up to 75 lunches a night and roam the dangerous streets to feed the homeless. They partnered with Safe Passage, an organization working with the poorest of the poor at the Guatemala City landfill, and set up a child care program on land adjacent to the landfill. The non-governmental organization (NGO) developed by the Schmaltz was called Oneness Through Service – Guatemala and revolutionized the educational process for impoverished Guatemalan children by replacing the traditional practices of copying, rote learning and memorization with practices self-initiated, practical, activity-based learning centers. In 2017, Oneness was renamed Planting Seeds International when the Schmaltz resigned and returned to live in Pembroke. Shannon Moyle from Ottawa and Mac Philips from Chicago stepped in as co-executive directors of Planting Seeds.

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Richard said that since 2004 a steady stream of 100 people from the Ottawa Valley and others from Edmonton, Calgary and Halifax, have all traveled to help in various capacities with their initiatives in Guatemala, including by building enough furniture for 23 classrooms including not only tables and chairs. but more elaborate projects such as reading centers and water tables.

“The Ottawa Valley has been such an amazing part of Susan and my trip. I can’t tell you how important it was for us to have the support of the Ottawa Valley, ”said Richard. “And different people from all walks of life, all professions, different interests but they shared a common interest, they wanted to make a difference and they did. They brought down friends, parents, their kids, their spouses… so it was contagious on a level that involved many people.

Susan said the support of people here over the past 20 years has been truly inspiring and that Planting Seeds International only exists because of supporters who care about a largely forgotten group of people who are suffering in another part of the world. .

“What has been accomplished over the past 20 years is so beyond our imagination, so beyond our skills, beyond our education, it’s totally beyond belief,” a- she said, adding that every time they said “yes” to the mission, everything fell into place.

She called the transformations she witnessed in Guatemalan children grandiose.

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“My fundamental belief is that we must teach children from an early age to love themselves and care for others. They must be able to think, problem solve, and create, so that they can lead their generation into a whole new way of being in this world – a way of freedom, a way of peace, a way of love. Susan said. .

Moyle, from Ottawa, who has known Richard and Susan all her life, began working with them as a professor at Planting Seeds in Guatemala in 2006, where she witnessed Susan’s methodology and philosophy every day. .

“I saw children learn, I saw them play and I think the most beautiful thing I saw was the children’s love for learning. They were so excited to come to the school, which I thought was about Susan’s methodology a lot, ”Moyle said. “The philosophy of Planting Seeds is based on love. It’s about developing the whole child – physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and that’s the goal of all of these programs.

Moyle told supporters at the event that the next big project for Planting Seeds International is building a community center.

“I would say there is a 99% chance that we will innovate in 2022; we have the architects, we have the help, we have the construction workers, we have the design, we have everything; we’re just waiting for that last permit, ”Moyle said.

Other new initiatives for 2022 include an expansion of snack programs at two early childhood program centers, monthly nutrition workshops for parents, and a pilot for a Go Boys program, similar to Planting Seeds’ existing Go Girls program. , which emphasizes values, communication and goals.

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Moyle called the funders of Planting Seeds’ work a huge support system for her and with their incredible support the organization was able to enrich the budget for 2022 to reach more children and more people.

“Every time I see the Ottawa Valley team, I get my energy back,” said Moyle. “I think something we have to be really, really thankful for is the fact that we’re all here, together, 20 years later. It really warms my heart. We can’t all change the world, but if we can be that person for someone else, where they know they can count on you, they know they can come to you, they know they can trust you … to be that person, what else can we ask for.

adixon@postmedia.com

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