In Guatemala: A Vision, a Mission and a Holistic Solution to Big Education Challenges
When Dr. William Boegel and his wife Diane visited Guatemala to celebrate Dr. Boegel’s 50th birthday with an old friend, they couldn’t have imagined the turn their lives would take as a result. But on a visit to a remote farm, these medical missionaries had a powerful vision that the land would someday support the area’s children.
And that’s exactly what happened. Soon after, the Boegels founded Opal House Guatemala, a Seattle-based non-profit created to support an important mission in a desperately underserved country.
“I left Virginia Mason Medical Center after more than 21 years there, Diane left her job, and we moved to rural Guatemala without a true and hard plan,” Dr. Boegel told us during a recent Skype chat. “We came here on a calling and a bit of a revelation, and we left our jobs and started from scratch.”
What they’ve created in the eight years since that fateful visit is truly remarkable. Opal House is an active children’s mission that provides spiritual education to help kids develop character, a busy Montessori pre-school and primary school, medical and surgical services for children, and nutritional support and sustainability education through an organic farm.
According to Dr. Boegel, a holistic approach is critical to the mission’s success. “There are many things that came together here that are obvious and didn’t really need a specific plan,” Boegel says. “The healthcare is absent [in this area]. The food and nutritional support is poor (Guatemala has the highest rate of malnutrition for children five and under in the western hemisphere). And education is well below standard – most people only go through third grade.”
To that end, Montessori’s interactive approach to education is especially helpful. Boegel adds, “Children need stimulation and nutrition, so we provide nutrition in our school while we’re stimulating them with a very interactive Montessori curriculum, and that is very helpful, especially when they are malnourished.”
The Boegels’ open-minded approach to their work clearly contributes to the mission’s success.
“Quite frankly, it’s the art of listening,” Boegel says, “because we didn’t have a very distinct ‘fix-it’ plan. We came here to listen and to learn and to respond to very large problems. I think by living here and immersing – being a neighbor to people and seeing this environment over the years — we’ve been able to respond to major needs. Sometimes, when we think we know what needs to be fixed before we show up to a place, we miss the mark.”
What’s next for these game-changers? For starters, the couple has no plans to leave.
“This is where we’re immersed,” says Boegel. “Our next journey is to increase the school all the way to 6th grade, and that will launch into middle school and high school. We’re becoming a national center for pediatric orthopedic surgery. We’re also a nature center, and all of our crops are part of our future. We’ll eventually sell them and become more self-sustainable.”
If today’s Daily Edventure with Dr. William Boegel and Diana Boegel has inspired you, there are a number of ways you can help. Donate by clicking here, or contribute your time to the mission’s very active visitor’s program. Through this program, volunteers can help in the clinics, work on the organic farm or donate education expertise to their Montessori program.
As Dr. Boegel says, “There are quite a few ways to interact with our mission – it’s holistic. Most people can find something that they either want to do or support financially.
About William and Diane Boegel
Founders, Opal House
Dr. William Boegel – President
Dr. Will has enjoyed a life of service, performing well in parochial school and excelling in high school and the University of Maryland, as well as working at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda for seven years. That is where he knew early on that he would serve others as a physician. He volunteered at the Haight Asbury free medical clinic for his four years of Podiatry medical school in San Francisco. He also served free clinics in Seattle during surgical residency. Ten years of Prison Ministry at Monroe medium security prison stretched him out of his comfort zone, as did helping bring a tent city to his home church of St. Jude’s in Redmond, Washington. He and Diane also served as street ministers to homeless, runaway street teens at New Horizons ministry in inner-city Seattle.
Diane Boegel – Vice President
Diane has served as a Sunday school bible teacher for three decades. She had lived all over the US and world as a daughter of a Master Sergeant. She received surgical technology training and then worked at Harborview Medical center operating rooms, and Group Health medical center. She has served as a missionary in Venezuela for three months, Mexico City, Guatemala, Egypt and other short term mission work trips.