Over the past two years, members of the Graceland University community have teamed up with the Kansas City Chiefs to raise funds to build a middle school in the village of La Plazuela, Guatemala, and one in Las Majadas, Guatemala.
As part of their efforts to help the village, students from the Graceland School of Nursing, Community Development Club and Enactus worked each of the Chiefs home games offering wheel chair assistance.
Graceland junior Abbey Stoetzel, an active member of the effort, explains, “The Chiefs offer wheelchair assistance for anyone who needs it, so we push people to and from their seats. The Chiefs take volunteers for this service, and if you provide a certain number of volunteers, the Chiefs will give you a certain amount of money for your cause.”
This year students worked a total of 10 home games and a concert and have raised over $21,000. People for Guatemala, a nonprofit U.S.-based organization that raises money for Guatemala, helped the Graceland groups find a donor who matched what was raised, for a total of over $40,000.
This will be the second school built in Guatemala since Associate Dean and Professor of Nursing at Graceland, Dr. Sharon Little-Stoetzel, and her family began an initial fundraising effort in 2016. Little-Stoetzel explains that she and her husband were in the village of Las Majadas building stoves when it was casually mentioned by Lois Werner, the president of People for Guatemala, that the land “over there” was where the village wanted a school to be built. They just needed $20,000.
Upon returning to the U.S., Little-Stoetzel proposed the project to her daughter, Abbey, who was a leader in the Community Development Club. Abbey brought the proposal to Max Pitt, faculty advisor to the club, and fundraising for the first school (Las Majadas) started in the fall of 2016 when the Graceland University community worked six home Chiefs games as a joint effort between the School of Nursing and the Community Development Club.
Little-Stoetzel became connected to the opportunity with the Chiefs through a former Graceland faculty member who was contacted by the Chiefs Fan Experience Manager, Xochitl Glazer. Xochitl reached out to Graceland’s School of Nursing with the chance to work at the wheelchair volunteer service, and the initiative grew from there. The groups even hope to continue the service and their fundraising efforts into the Chiefs’ next season. They have already been asked by Xochitl to continue volunteering with concerts and games starting in the summer.
The people involved may have raised the money, but the planning and leadership of the school is in the hands of the community members surrounding where the school is to be built. Pitt says of the people in Guatemala, “Their investment and leadership ensures that our efforts do not create dependency or toxicity. We are only doing a small part. They are leading and giving their all for the benefit of their children and their community.”
In May 2016, some Graceland students traveled to Guatemala to see the land where the school would be built and meet the people it would most impact. Graceland students will take another trip to Guatemala this spring, during which the participants will work to find more ways villagers can help themselves in the future.
Pitt looks to the future with their growing involvement. “The Chiefs appreciate the dependable efforts that have come from the 20+ volunteers at each of the games,” he says. “With enough Gracelanders working together, it is very possible that we can do our small part again next year as people in Guatemala give all they have for their children.”