Changing Lives, One Student at a Time
“It is difficult, but not impossible.”
For two months every year, these words are repeated in English House, a leadership training program in Guatemala that focuses on helping teenagers break the cycle of poverty and achieve their goals.
English House is led by Dave MacDonald (‘98) and his wife Danaya (Erickson, ’00). During the Guatemalan school break, thirty students live with the MacDonalds and their four young children in a little rental house. The students are chosen for this intensive leadership-development, English-immersion training ground because of their heart to serve others, their work ethic, and their vision for their villages.
English House is part of the year-round Forging My Tomorrow program, founded and led by a Mayan business couple, who broke the cycle of poverty through hard work. Students are chosen at age thirteen, and receive 80% scholarships. They must contribute 20% and then teach literacy tutorials in their villages—paying it forward immediately to 200+ children. They learn to believe in themselves, graduate from school, win scholarships to American universities, and ultimately change the courses of their families’ lives.
“Some people say they feel called to change a country, or a city,” says MacDonald. “We feel called to change one kid at a time, and see what God does with that. We’re honoured to be invited into their lives.”
Living on Less in the Name of Love
For nine years, the MacDonald family has moved back and forth between Canada to Guatemala, hosting multiple English Houses, and watching students grow from statistics to success. Of their eight graduates so far, all started without knowing a word of English. Three have won full-ride Walton Scholarships at John Brown University in the United States, two more work with Torrent Consulting (a Salesforce cloud technology partner), one is in teacher’s college, and two more are on scholarship at Abbotsford Christian School.
“You really have to be willing to sacrifice to do this,” says MacDonald. “Our own young children are invested in what we’re doing, so we do it as a team. They’re learning to be givers, rather than getters. We’re convinced that we’ll never regret how we’ve chosen to live our lives.”
Looking ahead to the fall of 2018, the MacDonald family is optimistic that they may be able to host another English House. “It really takes a village to put this together—with Canadian volunteers, donors investing, and the families of our students trusting us with their children. Every year, we’re blessed when it happens.
One Family’s Invaluable Support
Lungi Roberts (’18), a recent graduate of Trinity Western, came to the University from Guatemala. Though she wasn’t a student of English House, the MacDonalds were influential in her decision to study in Canada.
When the MacDonalds first came to Guatemala to teach English and computers in 2009, they met the Roberts family. The Roberts—operators of a self-supporting coffee shop ministry called Crossroads Café, in the town of Panajachel—were anchors of encouragement, helping the MacDonalds learn the Guatemalan culture and systems.
“People are serving in Christian ministry all over the world,” says MacDonald. “One major question for them is where they’ll send their kids to university. If you’re trying to make a living and ministering to others, how do you dream of sending your kids to Trinity Western?”
When the Roberts heard about Trinity Western, they knew it would be a great place for their daughter, Lungi.
“Lungi pursued her dream and didn’t give up,” says MacDonald, who couldn’t be prouder of what she has accomplished and contributed to the TWU community. She plans to return to Guatemala to work in nature conservation, now that she’s graduated.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
The MacDonalds never forget how they got started. “Without the help of the Roberts family, I don’t know if we would have settled in and carried on,” says MacDonald. “They gave us a hand up, so that we could give a hand up to others. Often in our lives, we don’t get the privilege of being able to help those who have helped us, so celebrating Lungi’s graduation has been amazing. We are all part of a larger global community, working together for good.”
No students from English House have yet come to study at Trinity Western, but it’s a dream for the MacDonald family, and they believe that—just like the other miracles they’ve seen happen—it’s difficult, but not impossible. As MacDonald says, “If we’ve learned anything, it’s to never underestimate the potential of a motivated student with a coach who believes in them.”
To get connected with English House, visit their Instagram.