Belpre Christian Academy makes mission trip to Guatemala

Photo Provided Children hold toothbrushes they received after fluoride treatments were administered by members of the Belpre Christian Academy travel group.

BELPRE — Every two years, the Belpre Christian Academy makes a trip to Guatemala of Central America.

The mission trip is open to anyone wishing to make the week-long journey. The last one was made in March, according to the principal of the academy, Eric Fullerton.

There were seven churches and five denominations represented. Twenty people made the journey.

“We have family there,” Fullerton stated. “Bob and Tessa Yeater are missionaries there. They’ve been there about five years.”

“They’ve established a website which is a Bible and feeding program for the children in the schools,” said Michelle Fullerton, Eric’s wife. “They aren’t fed like here. They have to be part of the feeding program.”

Photo Provided A young Guatemalan girl flashes a smile at the work party.

The website is, according to Elaine Fullerton, Eric’s mother. The children in Guatemala go to school until the fifth grade unless they are able to pay. The web site has children who are eligible to be sponsored. She said there are more than 300 children to be sponsored currently on the website.

“Tortillas and salt is the main diet,” said Lucas Fullerton, one of Eric’s two sons, who made the trip. He added, “ provides fortified rice and beans at the school.”

Michelle Fullerton stated “Students can’t attend school without a uniform and a minimal fee. Suffer the Children takes all the sponsorship money then feeds all the kids. The children are fed twice a week at the school.”

Ten students from elementary through college age made the trip as well. While there, Eric Fullerton stated the group built two feeding centers, repaired two homes and put a new roof and concrete floors in a home.

“We visited shacks with dirt floors and had metal sheeting for walls,” Michelle Fullerton stated. “There was no furniture and people slept on a dirt floor.”

Photo Provided A worker goes through the day, wearing shoes which don’t fit, as they work the fields around Guatemala City.

“The entire time we were there I saw one bed,” said Lucas Fullerton. “And there were six people which slept on it.”

“But they are very happy people,” said Michelle Fullerton. “At least the kids seemed to be.”

Jen Wells is a fifth-grade teacher at Belpre Elementary School. Wells helped the team make the team’s visit a joyful one for the villagers.

“The school partnered with the team to send gifts to the children there,” she said. “Students here collected 691 Matchbox cars and 515 bottles of nail polish to send there.”

The thought for the gifts came when Wells presented her class with the NetFlix show “A Dollar a Day.” “It inspired the students to start collecting items to take,” Wells said. “We got a lot more than we expected.”

Photo Provided Students travel with an adult after receiving a gift of hats from the work party associated with Belpre Christian Academy.

“We took more than 300 hats for the kids,” said Eric Fullerton. “But the adults wanted a hat as well so they would have something on their heads as they worked the fields.”

“This is stuff they don’t get very often,” said Elaine Fullerton. “Life is very serious for them. This was a luxury for many of them.”

“What touched my heart most was a lot of adults were given the opportunity to take one of these small gifts,” said Wells. “Some of the adults chose the cars or nail polish so they could play or interact with their children. Or just so the child would have another car or nail polish.”

Sacrifice for something people take for granted was very visible, according to Michelle Fullerton. “While there, we were able to administer fluoride treatments. They didn’t like the treatments, but they put up with it so they could get a toothbrush.”

What the group agreed upon as being a special moment was the work done on the home of “Yesenia,” a seven-year-old special needs girl.

Photo Provided Some of those making the trip to Guatemala were: front row, from left: Lucas Fullerton, Duncan Watson. Middle row, from left, Eli Fullerton, Courtney Feight, Peyton Smith, Evan Wells, Connor Watson. Back row, from left: Mikayla Roberts, Sarah Watson, Alexis Groves, Seth Feight, Tom Middleton.

“She lives in Pachimulin and the floor of her home was dirt,” said Eli Fullerton, the second of Eric and Michelle’s two sons who made the trip. “The walls and roof were sheet metal.

“We tore the house apart and rebuilt it with sheet metal and poured a concrete floor,” he added. “We added some LED lighting. We bought a table and small stool for grandma, some new shoes and a set of dishes for the household.”

That concrete floor wasn’t poured with a truck pulling up to the site. Yesenia’s home was situated on the side of a mountain. Evan Wells, the son of Jen Wells, found out what the life of a pack mule was like.

“The concrete was in burlap sacks,” he said. “We carried the sacks up the mountainside to the home and put those on the ground. Then went and got more.”

“We used local help to build things and we bought supplies to build things,” said Eric Fullerton. “There are church groups constantly coming in there to constantly do upgrades and lift up the village.”

Michelle Fullerton said volunteers from neighbors was not hard to find. It was just a form of “don’t forget about me next time,” according to Michelle Fullerton. “Neighbors saw Yesenia’s home was getting help and they were eager to assist,” she said. “They were all willing to help this time in exchange for help the next time we visit. And we will, we keep in contact with the Yeaters. No one will be forgotten.”