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Giving Back

Quest for higher education Add to ...

The Donor: Ken McGuffin

The Gift: $93,000 and climbing

The Cause: Building a school in Guatemala

When Ken McGuffin was a student at Wilfrid Laurier University in 1994, he heard that a group of Lutherans was heading to Guatemala and El Salvador for some mission work. He asked to tag along. "I thought, geez this would be an interesting trip to go on," Mr. McGuffin recalled from the University of Toronto, where he is a media manager for the business school.

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The trip left a deep impression on him, especially Guatemala, where Mr. McGuffin came in contact with a women's weaving co-operative. After returning home, he put together a calendar of photographs from the trip, sold it and sent the money to the co-operative. He spent the next few years selling products from the co-operative around Toronto.

After a hurricane devastated the country in 2005, Mr. McGuffin raised money to build 10 houses in El Triunfo, a village in the country's highlands. That project led a few families to ask for help sending their children to school. The village school only went up to Grade 6 and the children had to travel to a private school to continue their education. Few families could afford it, so Mr. McGuffin started raising money for school fees, books and other supplies to help several children. When more families asked for help, he started looking for a better solution.

With the help of some other organizations, Mr. McGuffin began working on a plan to expand the local school. First they raised money for extra teachers to add more grades. Then they raised $21,000 to build an addition to the school to add new classrooms. The school now goes up to Grade 9 and will start Grade 10 in January with Grades 11 and 12 to follow soon.

So far, Mr. McGuffin, with the help of a Canadian charity called Pueblito Canada, has raised $93,000. He still needs to raise about $21,000 annually to cover the school's operating costs.

Mr. McGuffin travels to Guatemala regularly and now children of the women in the weaving co-operative he first met 16 years ago are attending the school. "I've really built some life-long friendships," he said. "The kids are just simply wonderful.

pwaldie@globeandmail.com

 

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