Foundation of Dreams

Nearly a year ago, the physicians and employees of Digestive Specialists, Inc. (DSI) and Digestive Endoscopy Center, LLC (DECL) raised over $26,000 to build a school in Quiche, Guatemala with Pencils of Promise (PoP). We are excited to announce that we are partnered with Vicampanavitz Preschool and Primary School. View before and after photos here.

Additionally, two employees were selected to go on an Impact Trip this past July to experience firsthand PoP’s community impact by visiting some partner communities. Laura Pfeiffer and I (Shannon Simpson) were thrilled to represent DSI and DECL as we visited rural communities in Guatemala. View our photos here.

Our Impact Trip group of four loaded into two Toyota Hilux trucks along with PoP staffers and visited communities in the hot Boca Costa region.

Our first stop was Xiquina, where poster presentations highlighted the construction progress and we helped fill in walls with concrete. Everyone from the community was there and the women took an active role in the construction effort. We visited current provisional classrooms, which were stifling hot and observed lessons in progress. We also interacted with community members, who showed us the 10 Year Plan they developed for their area. After their initial partnership with PoP, community leaders were motivated to systematically improve village infrastructure. They developed and implemented a plan that includes extending running water to every home.

Next, we were greeted with fireworks and songs at Chirij Maza where they had prepared a plethora of cultural activities, including a curated mini museum and student performances featuring flutes, songs, and dance. We were also presented with scarves woven by village women. A sizeable rain shower interrupted the festivities, but we received an overview of the WASH program as well.

The school day was over by the time we reached Chuicomo where after an initial bout of shyness, conversation, games, and even a photo session ensued. Everyone wanted a hug, which made it incredibly difficult to leave.

Once a community has acquired 20 percent of the building materials needed for new classrooms, it is time to break ground. This huge step is marked with a dedication ceremony, which we participated in at El Paraiso. After touring the dirt-floor provisional classrooms that would be replaced, there was a program that included the presentation of the Guatemalan Flag as well as the singing of the national anthem, and traditional dances. In preparation for the dedication ceremony, each child is asked to draw a picture of their career dream. These images are collected in a Box of Dreams, which is buried. The foundation of the school is then literally built upon the dreams of the students who will directly benefit from the facility. It was humbling to participate.

I fully appreciated the irony that I was in Guatemala with PoP to promote education, but was functionally illiterate as I did so. It has been over 20 years since I took high school Spanish. Although, I remembered a few words, I relied heavily on pictures, gestures, other people, and even Google Translate during our Guatemala experience this summer. This experience underscored the critical role of literacy in informed decision making and improved quality of life and how things like sound infrastructure and clean water can positively impact children and their future.

The doctors and employees of Digestive Specialists, Inc. and Digestive Endoscopy Center, LLC, raised over $25,000 to build a school in Guatemala in partnership with Pencils of Promise only because of your help. If you would like to continue to support Pencils of Promise or would like to learn more about their work in Guatemala, Laos, and Ghana, please visit

Pencils of Promise collaborates with governments and local communities to provide appropriate infrastructure to facilitate a learning environment and to remove barriers to education related to hygiene through their WASH program.

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