In 2004, Deanna and I got married. Being a fairly nerdy pair, we couldn’t think of anything more fun to do on our honeymoon than go to Guatemala, stay with a family in a homestay, and go to language immersion school for two weeks. It was a blast.
We made some friends while we were there, and we also began to learn more about the culture and the history of the relationship between the U.S. and Guatemala. There is a great deal of poverty in Guatemala (though it is not a very poor country — it’s a question of distribution of wealth). Many Guatemalans don’t have the resources to send their children to school (even public schools, which are theoretically free, have a lot of materials fees, uniform fees, etc.).
We made some friends while we were there, including a man named Beninno (Nino, for short) Tecún, a Mayan man in the village of Tzanchaj, who wanted to build a school in his community that all of the kids could attend. He asked if I could help, and that school opened in 2005. Nino surprised me by naming it after me. That led to the founding of PEG Partners, a non-profit supporting education, arts, and student support and mentoring in Guatemala. There’s a lot more story to tell about that school (Escuela Comunitaria David LaMotte) still thriving and growing eighteen years later), and that non-profit, but I need to get on to another story —
In 2007, my friend Jennifer Pickering called me up. Jennifer runs LEAF, a.k.a. the Lake Eden Arts Festival, or, as it is often redundantly known, the LEAF Festival). LEAF is an amazing, diverse international music festival that happens twice a year not far from my home in Black Mountain, NC. LEAF also has a non-profit branch, LEAF International, which supports music programs in countries all over the world, as well as wonderful in-school programs in Western North Carolina.
Jennifer knew we were working with schools and libraries in Guatemala, and she suggested that we partner on a music program there. There are many chapters to this story that I will omit for now, as well, but through serendipitous connections, we found our way to a primary school in El Tejar, Guatemala that wanted to begin a program for older kids to study music in a serious way. That school began in 2007, and is also growing and thriving, with continued support from PEG Partners and LEAF.
The students there have become such impressive musicians that LEAF has invited them to come to the U.S. and perform at the festival on three different occasions. This time there are nine students, one teacher and another adult coming to the US. While they are here, we have set up a couple of other performances so that folks who can’t make it to LEAF can still get a taste of their music and learn about PEG’s work in Guatemala.
To that end, we have two events set up for the weekend of May 6 and 7. Both are free, and we hope you can join us!
789 Merrimon Ave., Asheville, NC
If you can’t make it to a show, but would like to support PEG’s work, learn more about coming on trips with us to see for yourself, etc., please visit PEGPartners.org.
Thanks, friends. Hope to see you soon!