A day with Nuevo Reto

My second day began with dogs barking and birds singing.  The air was crisp and my heart and head were in full swing.  One at a time, I opened the suitcases that were brought to our bed chambers and inspected the contents… separating the donations for Nuevo Reto from the others.  I set the pressing ones at the top of the stairs and waited for some strong young men to help me get them downstairs to the library.

In the mean time, I was greeted by smiling young faces telling me that it was time for breakfast.  We were treated with some delicious pancakes and scrambed eggs and entertained by children running and playing.  Despite Margarita telling young Brandon, Bryan and Fernando not to run in the house, they did.  They were delightful though, and offered Scott and Sarah the opportunity to get involved with their shenanigans.

Daniela was one of the first ones to show up this morning.  I was happy to finally meet her in person.  Guatemala Service Projects sponsors the education of Daniela.  She is charming, and with the advantage of such a sweet older sister, Brandon and Bryan have another positive role model in their lives.  meeting her early set me to have a fantastic day.  She smiled at me throughout the day, and I beamed in return.

While breakfast was being cleared away, and the structured part of the day had not yet begun, it was time to stock the bookshelves.  Actually, that initially began by me holding up a bag and saying something like “English beginner” or “Spanish older kids” and the kids learning the words well enough to know where to put them on the shelves — according to language and age-appropriateness (or reading evel).   For this library, we received requests to have about 40% English and 60% Spanish.  So, one shelf was all English, with board books and beginner readers at the bottom, and a few chapter books at the top.  For Spanish, again we had some beginner and easy readers as well as chapter books, but we also had a small section of romances, self-help books and medical reference guides.

Once all of the bags of books were put on the appropriate sheves, I used the help of my family to remove all of the books from their protective plastic ziploc bags and arrange them neatly on the shelves.  It’s a good thing we had those books packed in plastic bags.  When I did it last year, it was just to help them from sliding around in the suitcases individually.  However, this year the suitcases got rained on twice during our trip, causing rain to soak through the bags.  If it were not for the clever packaging, most of the books would have been ruined.  (As it was, two copies of my Guatemalan Picture Dictionary — more in a future post — were damaged beyond salvation.)

The day at Nuevo Reto is divided along the schedule of the school day.  With the younger kids attending school in the morning, the older kids attend English class at Nuevo Reto in the morning.  After lunch, the groups swap.  So, today while the younger kids were at school, we observed as Ali, a recent high school graduate from Ohio that is one month into her 3-month stay with Nuevo Reto, sang a song in English with the kids and then reviewed some common infinitives with the phrase “I like”…  I heard so many of the kids choose “to learn” (aprender) from the list of infinitives.  So, while “me gusta aprender” was on the board, the kids were saying “I like to learn” and then reinforcing the new vocabulary with a written record in their notebooks.  Once it was written, the kids would take their notebooks to Ali and say it in front of her in English.  After any necessary pronunciation corrections were made, each child received a high five.  I was proud of Daniela’s efforts, and very impressed with Junior’s dedication to learning English.  Delightful to witness!

Following the “me gusta” lesson, we were given the choice to implement an activity that we planned.  We played Uno, which was one of the non-book items that we donated to the library!  I thought that it would be a good way to reinforce colors and numbers, minimally, and would be a fun way for each person to participate — unless they were skipped!  We started with a larger group, so I only dealt five cards to each player.  As each student played a card, they had to say both the color and the number in English.  It took a while for a couple people to catch on to the rules, especially when a skip or reverse card was played, but a winner was eventually determined!

During the second game, the kids thought it would be fun to hear us say the colors and numbers in Spanish when we played a card!  Scott and Sarah both knew enough Spanish to play along and not make mistakes!  We played three games in total and a fun time was had by all.

One of the Uno participants was the young lady, Sindel, that my family personally sponsors.  I was happy to get a photo with her as well.  She told me, after seeing the photo, that she thought she looked ugly.  But, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  She is actually quite beautiful, and very friendly.  Good Uno player too!   My dad would love her — he’s quite the card player himself!


After Engish class had come to a close, it was time for lunch.  We were served a delicious noodle soup that they called “sopa mein” which was a cross between chicken noodle and a chicken chow mein.  It was delicious, and served with warm tortillas and refreshing jamaica to drink.  I just had to snap a photo of the cuties working in the kitchen making tortillas.  I snapped several photos and told them I was doing so because they had the prettiest smiles.

Then, after lunch, the most amazing and beautiful thing happened!  I was blessed to see that Ada had another surprise up her sleeve.  Sarah approached me in the dining room and said “I think they’re painting our logo on the wall”.  Sure enough!  Ada free-handed our logo and had started painting it in with the help of a few older girls in the program.  Then, one at a time, each of the kids present had their hands painted and were given permission to press their handprints on the wall around the outside of the logo painting.  The older kids, as well as those that were brave enough to climb the ladder, got their handprints on the top.  It was so beautiful to see all the different sized handprints included — representing the wide range of kids being served by the Nuevo Reto ministry!  Little Yardy had her hands painted a few different coors (as did Sarah and several of the other kids.  They loved it, and the final result was gorgeous!  I won’t share them all because of space limitations, but I wish I could.  Those kids are awesome, and so is Ada, the young adult director of Nuevo Reto.  Ada Castillo is truly the right arm of her father, Jacobo Castillo, the executive director of the organization.  I’m so happy and proud to be aligned with them both.

At mid-afternoon, we were ready for the library dedication.  Chairs lined the room with the painted murals, facing the closed door of the library.  The dedication began with a few words from me about how important it was to always being in a learning mode and that reading opens our eyes and hearts and minds to so many different and interesting things and ideas.  Following my brief statement, Pastor Jacob continued by telling all those gathered about the fundamental value of reading and encouraged the young people of his community to read all that they could!  He presented me with a certificate of appreciation and then we joind together for a ribbon cutting .  Ada closed the afternoon by stating the initial hours of operation for the Nuevo Reto Community Library — Mondays and Fridays from 9-11am and from 2-4pm.  Long live the Nuevo Reto Community Library!

For dinner, we enjoyed a community meal of spaghetti with garlic bread, and then shared in fellowship with singing and more words of inspiration offered by Pastor Jacob.

What a magical day — one that I will never forget.

6 thoughts on “A day with Nuevo Reto

  1. Oh yes, say hello to Pastor Jacob for me. Not sure he remembers us from that brief afternoon presentation/visit, but my kids still talk about him and what he had to say about Nuevo Reto.

  2. You are a gifted writer! And how you find the discipline and time is beyond me!
    Oh man…sorry to hear about the damaged copies of the Guatemalan Picture Dictionary.

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