In January of 2006, my husband and I, along with Jim Goote, then on staff at West Side Christian, traveled to Santa Catarina Pinula, Guatemala, for two very important purposes: we were going to meet the child we were adopting, and Mr. Goote was investigating the possibility of a school-to-school partnership with Kairos Christian School. A high school friend of mine had called the summer before about a school in Guatemala looking for a North American partnership, and Mr. Goote had simultaneously been interested in finding a partnership between West Side Christian and another school somewhere else in the world. So Mr. Goote came with us to Guatemala to explore the possibility of a partnership between Kairos Christian and West Side Christian.
Upon arriving in Guatemala, the three of us met Caren and William (Kairos' principal and her husband) and Caren's dad Raul, the pastor of the church there. While missionary and former West Side Christian student Joel VanDyke picked us up to meet our daughter, Mr. Goote stayed at Kairos, and the partnership between these two schools - West Side Christian in Grand Rapids and Kairos Christian in Guatemala - was born.
Caren, Kairos School Principal and her husband William
In 2007, West Side Christian sponsored the "Connection Walk," a school-wide walkathon to raise money to build a new section onto Kairos Christian School.
In February of 2008, Mr. Goote, Mrs. Kamper, and Mrs. Hogue, then a middle school teacher, joined by about a dozen other West Side Christian community members, traveled to Guatemala to help build the first floor of the new addition with the funds raised by the West Side Christian community. The first $20,000 raised paid for these two new classrooms and plumbed restroom facilities, which replaced courtyard outhouses.
Locals mixed and poured earthquake and hurricane-proof concrete by hand
Kairos Christian students slid concrete blocks down pieces of wood to get them to the build site
because the cement truck couldn't get to the site
Unknown at the time, the foundation was laid on land that wasn't yet owned by the school, so the West Side Christian community raised an additional $25,000 which was matched by Worldwide Christian Schools (now called Tentschools International) allowing Kairos to purchase that piece of land.
To help raise funds for ongoing construction and operational expenses at Kairos, Mr. Goote started a micro-loan program in the middle school, offering $25 loans for students to create their own businesses and sell their products at the annual Christmas Marketplace. Students continue that tradition to this day, and you can shop in the middle school micro-loan business hallway at the Marketplace coming up on Saturday, December 5th.
The West Side Christian community has thus far raised approximately $75,000 in support of Kairos Christian, and these funds allowed Kairos in 2012/13 to build the second floor above the first expansion our funds supported as well as supplies for art camps, vacation Bible school, and teacher training. Our fundraising is aided bu Hands of Hope, a nonprofit organization in Hudsonville working with Guatemalan missionary Joel VanDyke that absorbs all of the money-wiring fees, allowing Kairos to receive the full amount of funds that the West Side Community raises.
It was especially important to Mr. Goote that our schools establish a relational connection and that our partnership wasn't limited to West Side Christian providing just financial support to Kairos Christian. Since our first trip there in 2006, William, David (an English teacher), and Tita (who works in La Limonada among some of the poorest Guatemalans) all visited West Side Christian. Last spring Antonio was here, becoming the first student from Kairos to visit West Side Christian! Mrs. Groenboom, Mrs. Konynenbelt, Mrs. Kamper, Mr. VanTil, Mrs. Nanninga, Mrs. VanWienen, and former teachers Mrs. Hogue, Mr. Goote, and Mrs. Bruinsma have all traveled there along with several students and parents. Westview Church also took a group to Guatemala this past summer and several West Side Christian students visited Kairos too.
An October mudslide devastated the community and destroyed 150 homes in Santa Catarina Pinula and beloved Kairos Christian music teacher Celeste Pu lost her life. Yet even amidst that tragedy, Kairos continues to seek to reach more students and families.
We value our partnership with Kairos Christian and are excited to offer the greater West Side Christina community an opportunity to support and connect with the Kairos Christian School community. You can do this in several ways:
- Pray for them.Sign up for their newsletters and like their Facebook page to receive current updates.
- Shop the middle school micro-loan businesses at the Christmas Marketplace on Saturday, December 5th. All money raised goes directly to Kairos Christian.
Please consider joining the West Side Christian community in further supporting this special partnership. Come out and shop our student micro-loan businesses at the Marketplace on December 5th, and prayerfully consider sponsoring a Kairos student, giving the gift of a Christian education!