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Summer Service in Guatemala

Aug. 17, 2012

Sheryl I. Fontaine

Sheryl I. Fontaine

Sheryl I. Fontaine, associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, recently returned from Guatemala, where she volunteers each year, along with some of her students and fellow faculty members, at Xela Aid, a nonprofit humanitarian organization that provides health care and other assistance to economically disadvantaged communities.

In addition to Fontaine, this summer’s CSUF volunteers included seven faculty members from the Department of English, Comparative Literature and Linguistics; a nurse; a graduate student; and two alumni. The group, Fontaine said, brought suitcases full of school supplies and worked on four different projects in the village preschool, middle school and after-school programs. 

“We also were active participants in the local earthquake preparedness drill, spent one day working with a women’s literacy class and took a hike to the sacred Laguna Chicabal with a group of eigth-graders,” Fontaine said.

Several years ago, she and Debi Lyn Esquivel, acting director of the University Learning Center, established El Centro de Estudios in San Martin, a Mayan village near Quetzaltenango. “After the first few trips, Debi Lyn and I put together our own backgrounds in tutoring and teaching and found a way to start El Centro de Estudios,” Fontaine said. “With the money raised from our trips and from donations, we provide supplies and pay for a young woman from the village to work as the tutor/teacher in the center. I know it’s a cliché, but I have gained more from these trips than I’ve ever been able to give.”

By: Mimi Ko Cruz, 657-278-7586

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