We were online for almost three years. COVID-19 was a relentless threat that did not distinguish gender, age, or race, yet different places dealt with it in their own distinctive ways. On March 13th, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was registered in Guatemala. The country effectively closed its borders, and suddenly, there was a total lockdown.
A rigorous curfew was imposed, and almost all families adopted extreme hygiene measures, never seen before and for which we were very unprepared. Nevertheless, we did everything in our power to continue with our lives without jeopardizing our health or that of our loved ones.
COVID-19 impact on Children and Youth
Being at home generated mixed emotions, especially for the youngest members of the family. In contrast to the spacious playgrounds found in the U.S. Unfortunately, Guatemala has very limited spaces. There are very few public recreational parks, and those that exist have been invaded by gangs or addicts, putting children’s coexistence at risk.
Therefore, confinement and forced coexistence with the family were the only options. For some, it was beneficial to spend time with their children, but this was not the case for those facing domestic violence, overcrowding, resource scarcity, and other difficult circumstances.
At Meso, students from various economic backgrounds usually coexist in our campus. While some students have spacious yards at their homes, most don’t enjoy these kinds of spaces. Especially our scholarship students, who often live in very small homes, sharing them with siblings, parents, and sometimes other family members such as uncles, cousins, grandparents, and even pets.
Adapting to virtual classes was a great challenge for everyone, but especially for them, who, in addition to overcoming space challenges, also had to seek access to digital devices that exceeded their parents’ budget. Last but not least, accessing a stable internet connection was the most difficult part of the challenge. Some companies providing this service did not have coverage in some villages, so many fell behind in their studies while trying to hire a company to bring efficient Internet to their homes…
Despite these challenges, both parents and students found solutions to all the problems. From children whose parents bought a tablet or laptop through payment plans, to those siblings who studied every day through a cell phone.
Meso joined forces
Despite the obvious difficulties, the entire Meso community got to work. The administrative staff, teachers, parents, and students accepted the challenge, and three days after the closure, everyone had jumped on the “Homeschool train”.
Virtual classes began and continued with the support of Facebook groups where everybody shared important information, and bolstered by the determination of the entire community. Teachers and students shared scientific, artistic, and other challenges to maintain contact with each other.
Our comeback from COVID-19
Como todo en la vida, nada es para siempre y nuestros estudiantes regresaron 100% a clases presenciales en enero del 2023. La emoción se sentía en el aire, los reencuentros fueron muy emocionantes y llenos de abrazos y cariños. Los chicos se sentían muy emocionados de volver a compartir momentos inolvidables con sus amigos. El regreso también supuso un shock, ahora para volver a acostumbrarse a la rutina y el ambiente. Pero como siempre, la comunidad Meso aceptó el reto con gracia y siempre dispuestos a encontrar soluciones efectivas.
Al vernos todos los días, logramos identificar la necesidad de nuestros estudiantes de adoptar un estilo de vida más saludable y resiliente, para lo cual, desarrollamos varios programas y adaptamos nuevas medidas en nuestro colegio, tales como:
- We developed a disciplinary program for students to understand and respect boundaries.
- We renovated the school cafeteria and established Meso Eats, offering healthy food to improve their life quality and contribute to their cognitive process.
- With Meso Eats, we removed junk food, sodas, and processed foods from the menu, that did not positively contribute to their bodies and minds.
- Although Indigo, our emotional intelligence program, was developed during the pandemic, it was until 2023 that we opened a class where students have a period each week to acquire tools to develop a growth mindset, become self-aware and learn to self navigate.
- We organized Copa Meso and Basketball Tournament, where students from different grades played soccer and basketball.
- We worked in our garden, where students learned to cultivate vegetables and discovered the importance of soil conservation, also understanding why Meso is part of the Save Soil movement.
- Our kids participated in our “Meso’s Got Talent” and “Spelling Bee” contests.
- For the first time, 20 of our students, aged 14 to 17, traveled to the U.S. to represent Guatemala at the UNESCO Center For Peace Summer Camp. We opened our Montessori class for Prekinder and Kinder students to facilitate the development of new skills within this educational model.
- We celebrated 25 years of education! We celebrated our beloved Meso and how it has evolved over all these years.
We have achieved so much, but there is still much to do! But for now, we are grateful for everything we have achieved, the time we spent locked up, and all the lessons that the lockdown taught. Without that pain, we would not have had the opportunity to grow, not only the students, but also the teachers and administrative staff as well. We still want to grow, and surely more challenges and opportunities will come our way in 2024.