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The Scholastic Kids Press Corps is a team of about 50 Kid Reporters around the nation.  The interactive site brings daily news to life with reporting for kids, by kids.
two kids with paper bag luminaries Andrew and Jacob Brownley in a room of assembled luminaries, ready for lighting. The Brownley's sell luminaries each holiday season to raise money for kids in Guatemala. (Photo courtesy Meggie Zahneis)

Illuminating Hope

Two Ohio boys make a difference in Guatemala

By Meggie Zahneis | December 2 , 2010

Have you ever thought about what it might be like to live with no bathroom or stove? This is reality for many of the 14.4 million people of Guatemala in Central America. When Cincinnati-native Andrew Brownley, 11, saw pictures from a neighbor's mission trip to the third-world country, he knew he had to do something.

"I felt bad for that girl [that I saw in a picture] because she had to take care of her family," Andrew said. "Her parents weren't around, she didn't have a nice home, she didn't have a stove, a clean floor, a sink…"

Andrew turned to his mother, Molly Brownley.

"One night Andrew said, 'Mom, I really want to help that girl, and I want her to have a house,'" Molly said. Together they did some research and found they needed to raise about $1,000 to bring Andrew's wish to fruition.  

Andrew then enlisted his little brother Jacob, who is 9 years old. They began by collecting change, but gradually expanded their efforts to include selling paper-bag luminaries to residents of their neighborhood. The neighbors all light the luminaries at one time on a set December night.

The boys also held a church bake sale. After reaching their goal, they worked with Behrhorst Partners for Development to build a family center in Guatemala. The center serves as a source of food and shelter for women and children three days each week, as well as a school for young children — many of whom only attend school until the age of 9.

The luminaries have now become an annual project for the Brownley boys. This year, the Brownleys will focus on donating the money they raise to education. They hope to send four Guatemalan girls, ranging from ages 12 to 16, to school.

The neighbors are supportive of the luminary project and proud of the boys.

"They [Andrew and Jacob] really looked around the world and saw other families who didn't have as much as they do," said neighbor Aimee Davis. "Instead of just saying, 'Oh, I feel sorry for them,' they decided to do something about it."

Another buyer, Amy Burns, said she especially liked how the project brings the neighborhood together.

Andrew and Jacob plan on continuing to sell luminaries, but they're also involving friends by asking them to take on the project in their own neighborhoods.

The process is simple. They market the luminaries by distributing and posting fliers. The luminaries are made with a white paper bag, sand, and a tea candle. A set of 10 includes assembly instructions and a date for the neighborhood to light them up.  The set sells for $10, with discounts for larger quantities.

"No matter how big or small a project, every little bit of support goes a long way in changing the lives of rural Guatemalan families," Behrhorst representative Sonya Zumbiel told the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

For more information on life in Guatemala and how you can help, check out the Behrhorst website.

KIDS MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Scholastic's newest team of Kid Reporters take a look at what young people around the country are doing to help out the less fortunate this holiday season in the Kids Make a Difference Special Report.

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