- Compassion International Blog - http://blog.compassion.com -

Math Olympiad

Today’s post is written by Jose Merida, a data analyst, lay preacher and volunteer. He’s a member of the Church of the Nazarene, supports the ministry of Semillitas de Fe Student Center and reads our blog on a regular basis. Jose lives in Guatemala City where he’s constantly dreaming up ways to change the world for the Lord.

Last month the leadership from our student center, Semillitas de Fe Student Center (GU-950) in Guatemala City, invited me to come up with a program to encourage our sponsored kids in their academic achievement.

A couple of years ago, I taught many of the kids from this student center, and I was excited to be back, even if it was for a little while. So I asked the Lord for His guidance in prayer.

I used to coordinate the spiritual development program at GU-950 and shared lots of time, through lessons, camps and vacation bible study programs, with these kids. I knew them well enough to know that when I ask them for their favorite subject, they say math, over half the time, but also that they often get bored and discouraged with monotonous homework.

Knowing this and having a degree in math and physics myself, I proposed conducting a Math Olympiad for them on August 15, a local holiday, and right in the middle of the Summer Olympics. I wanted to get the kids excited about math and academics in general.

The local leadership liked the idea and approved it right away.

I had a great time preparing all the workbooks and problems, diplomas, medals, arranging for the food, inviting the teachers to come and help, and on the morning of August 15 we were ready to serve the 46 kids that showed up to participate (16 boys, 30 girls, ages 7-15).

I also invited a local doctor to encourage and challenge the kids to study a lot. It was amazing to see these little brothers and sisters of mine, all of whom are sponsored through Compassion, showing up courageously to participate in this event armed with their pencils and erasers and a big smile.

We actually conducted two different contests, one for elementary and another for middle school students. The contest itself lasted around 30 minutes, but the kids stayed for a couple more hours to have some pizza, playtime, and participate in the award ceremony.


We started the day in prayer and reminded them that this was just a contest, as we tried to help ease any nervousness among them. After the contest, every child was recognized with a certificate of participation. And during the award ceremony, they all also got a chance to hear from this young doctor who grew up in the community and at this church. He encouraged them to dream big and put their dreams in the Lord’s hands.

Finally, the top 12 scorers were called to the front to receive their medals and diplomas. The Olympic champion’s fanfare played in the background, as their names were announced. Their peers cheered them, and Olympiad’s best marched to the front to receive their awards. Then we sung the national anthem.


It was a moving time for the teachers. We congratulated all the kids and once again encouraged them to study their math and give their best at their schools.

We closed with our theme verse for the event, which was also printed in the diplomas and certificates – Mark 12:30 (NIV).

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Then in prayer we thanked the Lord for the experiences of the day and for all the sponsors who funded this event, and asked Him for His blessing upon all of us.

Since the Olympiad we have heard testimonies of parents in disbelief when their kids showed up at home with a medal. Now the parents feel very encouraged to support their kids more.

We have also heard testimonies from some of the kids who never thought they could do well at math or have a talent for this or any other subject, and now they embrace the challenge to put more focus on their academics.

Even the teachers got excited and tried to solve the problems themselves, and although they didn’t score as good as the kids ; ) , they felt encouraged to organize more events like this one for other subjects in the upcoming months.

And many of the kids are already asking for another Math Olympiad next year.

Praise be to the Lord!