Local realtor’s nonprofit helps build schools in his native Guatemala

OCEANSIDE — Thirty years after fleeing Guatemala during the civil war, businessman Edwin Villela is building schools in his homeland through his nonprofit, Help for Schools, Inc.
Villela hopes North County residents and businesses will step up to the plate and consider making a donation so that he can build more.
“It takes a donation of $20 once a year from 1,000 donors to build one school in a rural village,” Villela said. Each school has three classrooms and a multipurpose room to serve 75 to 100 children, grades one to six. After graduation, children can continue their education at a middle school in a nearby community and go on to trade school and even university.
Villela was 28 when he came to the United States and moved in with relatives in Los Angeles.
“I was a factory worker and part-time student at Pierce College taking English and real estate courses,” he said. After getting his license in 1985, he kept his factory job while launching his real estate career.
When he moved to Oceanside in 1990, Villela’s business flourished. Now a husband and father, Villela was eager to show his family the country of his birth.
“My wife and kids joined me on various trips back and forth to Guatemala,” he said. “I noticed some progress, but rural areas were worse than before. There was a growing population but with no education.”
Many of the problems related to the fact that villagers are descendants of the ancient Mayans and speak their own dialect. Most live in communities that are perched on top of hills and can only be accessed by foot.
“In 2007 I got the idea of helping to improve rural education and, along with other Guatemalan-Americans, established the nonprofit organization Help for Schools, Inc.,” Villela said. “Part of my motivation was seeing my own children in schools here in San Diego and comparing them to schools in rural Guatemala.”
In 2009, Help for Schools assisted with the construction of a school in Tapazan, near the town of Chiquimula.
In 2010, the nonprofit built schools in Nuevo Progreso and Calvario in the region of Huehuetenango. During construction, children and villagers hauled cinder blocks, gravel, sand, cement bags and rebar up steep hills for hours until reaching the building site. Materials were provided by the government, the plans by Help for Schools.
“In 2010 we delivered free school supplies to the villages of Tapazan, El Conacaste and El Magueyal in the region of Chiquimula,” Vallela said. “I have requests from many other locations and have seen about 20 other schools around the country that I would like to help some day.”
Because the villages have no electricity, Villela also donated rechargeable, battery-operated amplifier systems to enable students to better hear and understand their teachers.
“I am grateful to the people of San Diego since their support has made this project possible,” he said. “God bless them all.”
Villela is also grateful to his children, Leslie, Edwin Jr. and George; stepdaughter, Shayla; and wife, Elvia for accompanying him on his mission trips and sharing his vision for empowering these schoolchildren with an education.
In addition to private donors, Villela has received financial support from businesses including Staples, Carlsbad; Unipac, Carlsbad; O’Brien’s Boulangerie of Delmar; Ochoas Auto Repair, San Diego; Restaurante El Salvador, San Diego; Q-Sports, San Diego; Sonican Trucking, Chicago, Ill.; and Mike Guardia, Galveston, Texas.
Edgar Escobar, owner of O’Brien’s Boulangerie in Del Mar, is a native Guatemalan and strong supporter of Help for Schools.
“Edwin stops by the bakery and shows me pictures of what he’s doing and it motivates me to want to help more,” he said. “These little towns really don’t have anything. I have Guatemalan employees and ask them to participate in any events that will help these people, too.”
To make a contribution or for more information about Help for Schools, call (760) 522-5560 or visit www.fupegua.org. Opportunities are also available to sponsor a school in the name of a person or a business.


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  1. Mary Castillo says:

    Glad to read about the good people of San Diego.

  2. Marlon Cervantes says:

    Edwin me da mucho gusto lo que estas haciendo con tu organizacion, necesitamos mas guatemaltecos como vos, Que Dios te bendiga y te de mas fuerzas para seguir adelante.
    I’m very proud of you, persons like you is what we need more and more, people with passion, with love, with simpathy for others, also willing to help the people we left behind. Congratulations Paisano!!!

  3. ARA says:

    Tengo el gusto de conocer al Sr. Villela y ha dedicado amor a la patria que nos vio nacer es cierto son muy pocas personas que no se olvidan de donde venimos y se el trabajo que hace asi que felicitaciones y que Dios lo bendiga estas son obras de amor.
    Que lo colme de salud y vida para seguir este camino de la misericordia.

  4. Edwin Jr. says:

    Dad i am very proud of what you do and thank you for always having a big heart!

    eres el mejor papá y me alegro de que tienes esta organización.

  5. Angelica Mendoza says:

    Hola Tio!! Wow!! Im very proud to say n show my co-workers, what u are doing for ur country. If everyone thought the way u do this planet would be a better place. Bueno, que diosito lo bendiga, y lo cuide en todas sus misiones.

  6. Elaine De Mattei says:

    What a fabulous project and your contribution to making it happen is priceless. I’m glad to know you. Please count me in as a donor to your worthy cause. Elaine

  7. L Villela says:

    It all starts with education! And I’m proud of having a father who understands this and is a living role model for my own children and myself to follow true ACTIVISM.

  8. gladys Cifuentes. says:

    Sr. Villela, Esposa,e Hijos y compatriotas me da mucho gusto poder ver todo lo que juntos podemos hacer, Para mi es un Orgullo el poder ayudar con un granito de arena a nuestra patria tan querida. Sr.Villela que Dios lo Bendiga con ese Corazon tan grade para todos los nuevos estudiantes y futuro de Guatemala, CUENTE CON MI APOYO. att Dulceria La Muneca.

  9. Ricardo Prado says:

    Estimado Edwin:
    No cabe duda que aquél cadete destacado en la Escuela Politécnica de Guatemala sigue siendo un hijo del honor, el deber y la gloria. Me siento muy orgulloso de tu altruista labor y te deseo seas muchas veces más recompensado.
    Con mucho cariño, Ricardo

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