Magazine article Policy & Practice

APHSA Employee Puts Theory into Practice

Magazine article Policy & Practice

APHSA Employee Puts Theory into Practice

Article excerpt

Larry Goolsby is one who walks the talk.

And his walk took him hundreds of miles away from Washington, D.C., to a different continent.

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The former Food Stamp Program director went to Guatemala last June to help with construction of a school project that benefits local children who are too poor to afford even uniforms and the meager charges that local public schools charge.

Goolsby, a senior policy associate at the American Public Human Services Association, visited the country several times before with his family. One of his adopted daughters, Caroline, was born in Guatemala. Caroline went with her father and nearly 20 others, many of them from Goolsby's church in Bethesda, Md., which has over the years been helping financially and sending teams of volunteers to this school. Named Mi Refugio, it is near a village about 15 miles west of Guatemala City, the country's capital.

The school was founded some 15 years ago by Kari Engen, also of Bethesda, who, while working as a missionary in Guatemala, found that many children living in that section of the capital could not afford even the basic expenses, such as the cost of uniforms, associated with going to public schools. Through her enterprising skills, she managed to get a building two blocks from the city garbage dump, and turned it into a free school for those who lived around the dump.

"These kids and their families were so poor that many of them were making their living through salvaging material from the dump," Goolsby said. "And they were so poor that they couldn't afford to send the kids to regular public schools."

In 1993, with the help of contributions from friends, churches and charities, Engen moved her school to the present location. The school now houses more than 200 pupils in a villa that was bought by a German businessman in the 1800s. Others later tried to turn the villa into a tourist site, but then put it up for sale.

Today, the teaching staff includes many graduates of the school. Under the directorship of Engen, the school fashioned a way to get physical help and other social services by inviting volunteer teams from other countries to help throughout the year. …

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