Elementary Kids Create “Hope Tree” for Impoverished Guatemalan Children

This Christmas, Cherry Hills Christian Middle School (CHCMS) in metro-Denver has teamed up with Food for the Hungry (FH) to make a difference in the lives of more than 112 children in rural Guatemala. Every time a Guatemalan child gets sponsored by a CHCMS student family, the sponsored child’s photo is hung on a “Hope Tree.” So far, more than 70 children have been sponsored.

 “Our tree is being decorated with the beautiful faces of children,” said Donna Nelson, CHCMS spiritual activities coordinator, who introduced the FH Hope Tree outreach in late October and kicked off the program in chapel at the beginning of November.

 The learning does not stop with photos. During a school chapel service, the school played an interactive online game called Survive 125. About 1.5 million people (26 percent of the world’s population) live in extreme poverty, which is defined as less than $1.25 a day. The game took them through a series of choices to see if they could survive for a month on $1.25 a day. Students made choices like where to live, whether or not to pay for a school uniform and what to eat.

 Then the children were challenged to spend only $1.25 at the grocery store to buy everything their family would eat for a day and report back on their outcomes.  “We wanted to make it an educational effort,” said Nelson.

 This is the third year of a partnership between FH and CHCMS. The humanitarian partnership has taken on a variety of forms with the ongoing goal of helping American children understand dynamics of extreme poverty while also giving them a means to respond and make a real difference in the lives of the most vulnerable. In addition to children in Guatemala, students also had the option of sponsoring a child in Kenya or Burundi.

“This has opened the eyes of kids in our school,” said Nelson. “On one hand they see that the kids around the world are just like them. And on the other hand they have also seen how they can make a difference in the lives of those living in extreme poverty.”

Over the three years of partnership, relationships are developing between the Guatemalan children and CHCMS. Through the Spanish department, students write letters to children sponsored through FH and get letters back. “They love this connection to the village where the sponsored children live,” Nelson said.

“I hope the students realize that their decision to walk alongside this child will have a lasting impact,” Nelson said. “Hopefully this will sow seeds in students that will flourish for their whole lives and will only be the beginning of realizing they really can make a difference.”

In January, the school will have a special lunch to celebrate the fruits of the Hope Tree effort. CHMS is located on the campus of Cherry Hills Community Church.