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Marathon effort for education

Guatemalan student in Korea is running to help kids back home


Kyung Hee University student Bremelin Romero has always seen education as the key to success, and now she’s set to run the Stockholm Marathon to help people in her home country. 
Bremelin Romero trains in Korea for the Stockholm Marathon. (Erik Winther)
Bremelin Romero trains in Korea for the Stockholm Marathon. (Erik Winther)

The Guatemala-born, U.S.-educated graduate student is pursuing a master’s degree in International Relations and Free Trade Agreements in Korea, but she has not forgotten her Central American roots.

Romero, who first came here in 2008 to work as a middle school English teacher in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, is running 42 kilometers in Sweden in a bid to raise $5,000 to help indigenous children in Guatemala study for a better future.

She will run the Jubilee Stockholm Marathon on July 14. More than 10,000 runners are set to participate in the run to mark the 100th anniversary of the Stockholm Summer Olympics Marathon of 1912.

Romero has already raised more than $1,000 to donate to Guatemala’s New Hope Foundation. The initiative founded in 1997 by survivors of Guatemala’s civil war supports education for indigenous and Ladino youth in the Baja Verapaz region.

“After learning a bit more of the Korean miracle, I learned that Korea was able to rise from the ashes because of one important factor ― an educated population,” Romero explained. “After the civil war, Guatemala hasn’t been able to eradicate violence, corruption and illiteracy. Being away from Guatemala, and having the option to be well-educated made me realize that this is what Guatemala needs. This is the reason why I decided to raise funds and raise awareness of education.”
Students from the New Hope Community Bilingual Institute in Guatemala hold up signs of thanks to support Bremelin Romero’s fund-raising efforts on their behalf.( The New Hope Foundation)
Students from the New Hope Community Bilingual Institute in Guatemala hold up signs of thanks to support Bremelin Romero’s fund-raising efforts on their behalf.( The New Hope Foundation)

The New Hope Foundation is working to teach the principles of justice, historical truth, and participatory democracy to youths living in the area surrounding the town of Rabinal.

Many people were slaughtered in that region between 1980 and 1982, in what became known as the Ro Negro Massacres. The victims were indigenous people who resisted government attempts to remove them from their land to make way for the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam. Those who refused to settle in harsher conditions in nearby highlands were kidnapped, rape, and massacred by paramilitary and military officials.

An estimated 200,000 people either died or disappeared during the Guatemalan civil war from 1960 to 1996. Many of the survivors of the violence and their descendants still live in extreme poverty.

The New Hope Community Bilingual Institute offers education programs with strong links to the local Maya Achi culture, with classes taught in both Achi and Spanish for more than 150 scholarship students, offering education with a strong emphasis on human rights, rural sustainability and development.

“I appreciate the fact that they are educating students in their own environment,” Romero added. “In Guatemala there is a lot of discrimination against the indigenous population. Even if the indigenous population is the largest one, it is very segregated. The people are labeled as ignorant and they don’t have much political pull.”

The students learn about their own local history of the Maya Achi as well as the true story of both the Spanish conquest and the more recent armed conflict, incorporating a Mayan world view. The curriculum is designed for a rural setting to help encourage students to return to their communities to work instead of emigrating to urban areas.

“Our goal is to create leaders prepared in rural development not only to raise personal living standards, but also to help the community,” said the foundation’s director general, Sandra Lopez. “We are grateful for any contribution to keep our mission going.”

To make a donation to the campaign go to www.facebook.com/RunBremRun or visit www.fne.cosmosmaya.info/bienvenidos_en.html for more information on The New Hope Foundation.

By Kirsty Taylor (kirstyt@heraldcorp.com)
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