Earlier this semester, Friendswood High School Spanish students took part in writing letters of encouragement to children in the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Guatemala City, Guatemala. The idea came from two sisters, Ava, freshman, and Sarah Carambat, junior, who approached their Spanish teacher D’Ann Hervada about wanting to give back.
Giving back has always been a big part of the Carambat sisters’ lives, but this particular project hit even closer to home for them. Their former neighbors Sheldon and Pamela Redpath recently moved from Friendswood, sold most of their belongings and set sail with no particular destination in mind. As if by fate, they found themselves in a place that needed their help greatly: Guatemala City.
In Guatemala, the couple has been primarily helping children at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in one of the most impoverished areas of Guatemala City. The country does not have standardized health-care, therefore many of the children would not receive the treatment they need without the aid of people like the Redpaths. This news inspired the Carambat sisters to get involved as well.
“I was talking to my neighbor and asked how things were going. She said she loved all of the people, but they don’t have anything, they’re all sick and there are a lot of burn victims there,” Ava Carambat said. “I thought if I could write letters in Spanish to the kids who are sick and lonely and some who don’t have parents, that would be really cool.”
Sarah Carambat credited their faith for their desire to help children like the ones in Guatemala.
“We were taught to look for people who are less fortunate than us and try to help them,” she said. “Being here in America, we’re so ahead of the times, so I think it’s great to really humble yourself down and get to talk to these people and see the happiness they feel because of the what you do. You get to impact and touch a place of the world you may never get to touch physically, but you’re touching them spiritually and emotionally.”
Ava Carambat said she was unable to send supplies due to a lack of funding, but that did not stop her from making a difference. She said you do not have to do a lot to touch someone’s heart.
“My parents tell us not to be selfish with the things we have and to think about others before we think about ourselves. We try to do that as often as we can, so we decided to write letters,” she said. “We tried to get our classmates to write anything encouraging and not to talk too much about themselves, but instead ask questions about the kids – not that they’re going to write back necessarily, but it makes them feel like someone cares about them; it makes them feel like they have a friend.”
Without the support of their teacher, the Carambats said they would not have been able to send so many letters, but Hervada credited all of the work to the girls.
“The work they’re doing is unbelievable,” Hervada said. “Here we have kids who are ministering to adults and other kids alike. It’s amazing.”
Hervada described the other students’ reaction when she presented the idea to them.
“They approached me and told me about the hospital in Guatemala and they thought it would be nice to send letters – just something small, and all of my classes participated for extra credit. I mentioned it to the students and within a day or two, I had letters from almost all of my students,” Hervada said. “From what I’ve found, the students in Friendswood are very concerned about others, especially those who have less than they do, so they were happy to help.”
A month after sending the letters, the class received a response: pictures and a video of the children reading their letters. Everyone involved said this was the best part.
“We were sent a picture of a little boy who was listening to his mom read a letter. He could not read and we were told his mom started to cry while she read to her son,” Hervada said. “When I told the student who wrote the letter about that, he was so touched because he could not believe something he did made someone else so happy.”
Ava Carambat described her favorite response.
“There was one boy whose arm was amputated from being burned so badly. They said he had not smiled in months, but then he smiled when he read our letters,” she said. “It’s so important to help give them hope.”
Sarah Carambat agreed.
“Seeing the pictures and video really encouraged our classmates to think about how the letters impacted the kids and their mothers,” she said. “They sit in the hospital all day and watch their child suffer in pain, but this gives them the chance to brighten up and smile and see their kids be happy.”
The sisters hope to continue to help the hospital by eventually starting a charity to allow more people to donate and give back.
“We’re hoping others will see what we’re doing and will want to do the same thing because they’re inspired by it,” Ava Carambat said.
However, both girls said they do not need or want any credit for their work because, for them, it is just a way of life.
“We don’t want the community of Friendswood to remember us, we want them to remember the children,” Sarah Carambat stated. “We’re just the voice for them because they can’t be a voice for themselves.”
With one last statement, the girls encouraged others to get involved simply by saying, “Be the good and help those who need it.”