Studying Abroad in Santiago Atitlan

Hi everyone! My name is Grace Pittman and I am studying abroad in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala through North Carolina State University’s social work department. Even though I am on this trip with the social work department, I am not a social work major. I am majoring in communication with a focus in public relations and minoring in psychology. As part of my study abroad experience I am working at La Puerta Abierta. The NC State program has placed students at La Puerta Abierta for the past 7 summers, and I have been in the school for  five weeks and will complete my service at the center in mid July.



Some of my responsibilities at La Puerta Abierta include helping teach the kids English, going into the community with the traveling library, and helping with donor relations as well as updating this blog. I have enjoyed every moment I have spent at La Puerta Abierta; having the opportunity to be surrounded by and to help children  has been the experience of a lifetime. I also feel blessed to be able to work alongside creative and caring souls like our teachers and our director, Amanda.




I have had such an amazing experience not only at La Puerta Abierta, but also in our community of Santiago. I am staying with a host family in town and they have been  open and welcoming to me. When I was sick, my host mom made me lots of tea and soup and she was one of the best nurses I have ever had (besides my real mom, of course). While in Santiago I have had the opportunity to kayak on the enchanting Lake Atitlan, go on a boat tour, hike, and this weekend I am going ziplining in the Nature Reserve! I am so thankful for the opportunity to study in a beautiful place and work and live alongside the colorful people of Santiago!







Father’s Day Festivities!

Here in Guatemala, we celebrate Father’s Day, or Dia de Los Padres, on June 17. Our kids at the school have been preparing for this day by making tons of cute crafts and art projects to celebrate their fathers. This year, we at La Puerta Abierta decided to put on a Father’s Day Fair for our families. We gathered at Alpha y Omega, a park in Santiago, and set up for our day of fun. We started the fair by having all of the families sit in a circle where we listened to a story about Father’s Day as well as some of the kids telling us why they love their dad. Then the kids gave their dads the gifts that they had been working on all week and lots of hugs were shared all around.






Next came the super fun part: games! We had a treasure hunting station, a bowling station, a three legged race, pin the moustache on the Papa, a fishing station, a sack race, and a PE station. The kids and their fathers ran excitedly from station to station with huge smiles on their faces. The kids received a ticket for each game they participated in and at the end they could cash in their tickets for varying prizes! After everyone had collected their prizes, we all sat down and enjoyed lunch and homemade chocolate covered bananas. It was priceless to see how much joy not only the kids, but also the fathers received  out of the fair and a beautiful day of fun.






Feliz Dia del Maestro!

Guatemalans love to celebrate, especially in school settings.  We honor Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Children’s Day and Friendship Day, and we even celebrate our fellow teachers on June 25th, or Dia del Maestro.

I do feel lucky to work with such a talented, fun, inspiring and dedicated staff composed of:



Isaias is our traveling library extraordinaire.



Chonita is our most veteran teacher and works with kindergarten.  She loves to teach math.



Isabel is our lead preschool teacher.  She is creative, fun and is multilingual (Spanish, Tzutuhil,English).



Candelaria is our lead kindergarten teacher.  She began working at La Puerta Abierta as a scholarship student when she was in high school.



Juanita is spirited, ambitious, curious, and hardworking.  She is the Technical Director of la Puerta Abierta and also teaches 1st grade.  She studies psychology at the university on the weekends and is looking forward to spending 6 weeks of training with partnering preschools in Boston this year.



Ellen is our Academic Director and has been working hard this year to offer training and support to our teachers.  She’s been creating a manual for our Traveling Library Program and also our Early Stimulation Program.  Ellen is a certified yoga teacher and also enjoys teaching art to children.



Ana teaches preschool and is also our Early Stimulation Coordinator.  She is everything you would adore in a preschool teacher…sweet, considerate, playful and light-hearted.

ELENA AND DAVID are our PE teachers.

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MIGUEL, VANESSA, MARIBEL AND DORA are Jr. teachers at our center.  IMG_1854



JUAN AND JESSICA are student teachers from the EMBI  Teaching Academy and have been collaborating with us for the past 6 months.

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Together we are La Puerta Abierta!


Dancing Feet


The month of June marks the community school olympics.  It’s the time of year when students crowd the streets in sports uniforms heading to different school games, the sounds of referee whistles  echo in the parks, and children count the days for the rhythmic dance competition.


At La Puerta Abierta, we encourage all our students and teachers to participate in the performance.  We promote exercise and well-being, creative expression, and the pure fun of moving your feet!

This year, our talented teacher Isaias, choreographed  nearly 10 minutes of music including Shakira, Flamenco, Ghost busters   11224703_1053996111301319_6542560005608542940_o

and Mexican folk songs to inspire body movement.  Miss Ana designed our colorful dance costumes.  We were a kaleidoscope of color!



Baila, baila, baila con tu cuerpo…..

A visit from the Midwives


Thank you University of Pennsylvania Midwife students for visiting with our students and parents at La Puerta Abierta throughout the month of May.

Our students learned about the importance of hand washing before we eat, and after we use the restroom.


Thanks for making hand washing fun with sparkle germs and songs to sing while we clean our hands at the pila.


Look!  Manos limpias.


Lavense las manos….


Thank you for teaching us about healthy eating


and tooth brushing.


Thank you for sharing with our mothers about breast-feeding


and how to care for us when we are sick.


Mil gracias.  Thank you.  Maltiox.