Ken’s Fourth Annual Driveway Sale for Guatemala

Join me for this annual sale featuring Guatemalan weaving from Asociación Maya de Desarrollo, Solola, Guatemala; Fair trade coffee from the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA), Guatemala; and jewelry from Casa Milagro, Guatemala.

Featuring weaving demonstrations by Maria Xoch Ajacalon from Asociación Maya

Maria Xoch Ajcalon

Saturday, June 21
8:30 am to 4:00 pm
772 Coxwell Avenue (north of Danforth Avenue and Coxwell subway station)
Toronto

For more information: Ken McGuffin, mcguffin@rotman.utoronto.ca / 416-946-3818

Proceeds from the weaving and coffee sales will be directed to the El Triunfo Education Project which provides an affordable education for the sons and daughters of weavers from Asociacion Maya through the establishment of a middle school and a high school in the village of El Triunfo, Guatemala. For more information or how to make a tax deductible donation to the project, please visit http://guatemalaschool.wordpress.com

Save the date – a fundraiser for education in Guatemala!

It started as a winter bash, continued as a spring bash, now save the date for a summer bash in support of children’s education in Guatemala. On Thursday, August 21 beginning from 6 pm, join us at Lolita’s Lust on the Danforth for a great party with friends, drinks, appetizers and a silent auction.  Tickets on sale soon!

All proceeds to the El Triunfo School project which is providing a middle school and high school education to Mayan youth in the community of El Triunfo in the highlands of Guatemala.  Can’t make it? Read the next post for information on how to donate today.

Ups (mostly) and Downs of the School in Guatemala

June 1, 2014

Dear friends,

As we start the last month of the Canadian school year, the Guatemalan school year has reached the halfway point.

With your support, the project to support a middle school and a high school in the community of El Triunfo continues to astound, amaze but also frustrate me.

First, here’s some good news. I’ve received several inquiries about the status of the students from our first grade twelve class which graduated last year. This was one of the questions I wanted to find the answer to as I visited Guatemala over the May 24th holiday weekend.

I’m thrilled to report that all six graduates are working including one of the boys in the regional office of a large Mexican cement company and one of the girls with a law office. Antonio, the director of the high school, told me, “It was a small class but they were well prepared for work.” This is a really significant achievement for these six students and their families with meagre financial resources. As one current grade nine student told, “This school is a big help for me as my family doesn’t have the resources to send me to the private school.”

All six of these students are working this year!

All six of these graduates are working this year!

The achievement of the students has not been limited to the classroom and the workplace. In recent weeks, teams of girls from both the middle school and high school have won district wide soccer tournaments.

Here's the grade eight class. The girls are holding a trophy they recently won in a soccer tournament.

Here’s the grade eight class. The girls are holding a trophy they recently won in a soccer tournament.

A project to build a new computer lab is also underway thanks to the support of the Municipality of Sololá, the government of the Department of Sololá as well as some private donations. The project is still short some funds but they hope to have the resources in place shortly.

Computer Lab Construction

Computer Lab Construction

The current grade twelve class continues to work on their main project for the year which has a focus on natural foods and agricultural projects this year.

Our grade 12 class  this year.

Our grade 12 class this year.

But there are aspects of the project which are extremely frustrating. While both schools are required to jump through many of the bureaucratic hoops required by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry has provided few financial resources for the project. Last year, the project received a small amount of funding each month, including a portion of the salaries for the teachers. This year, I was told that the project has received nothing from the Ministry, which is extremely disappointing. Fortunately the teachers are still very happy to be working at the school and are very motivated in their work, part of which is the result of the training they received from one of the partners of Pueblito Canada last year. Hopefully some funding from the Ministry will arrive at the school in the near future.

You can check out additional photos from my May trip here.

I’m looking forward to attending the anniversary of the establishment of the middle school which will take placed from July 17 to 19. This community-wide celebration is always a fun event.

It’s been exciting to hear about the jobs that the graduates of the school have found. With your financial support, we can ensure that the current students can also graduate and look for employment opportunities that would not be available to them without this education.

Your donations are greatly appreciated by the students, teachers and parents in El Triunfo. Your tax deductible donations to the school can be directed to Pueblito Canada.

You can donate online at http://www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=25964 (Click on “Donate Now.” Then under “Fund/Designation,” select “El Triunfo School Project.” Or you can also send a cheque payable to Pueblito Canada to:

Pueblito Canada
@ The Centre for Social Innovation
215 Spadina Avenue
Toronto, ON M5T 2C7
ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

For more information on Pueblito and the other projects they support in Central America, please visit www.pueblito.org.

Hope to see you soon.

Ken

PS – Special thanks to Roanie & Eytan and family for their ongoing campaign to raise funds for the school!

Update for April 2014

April 21, 2014

Dear friends, it’s been a while since my last update on the middle school and high school we’re supporting in the community of El Triunfo, Guatemala. In the months since my last update, I’ve visited Guatemala twice, the new school year has begun and the school continues to make some progress in its growth and development.

After surviving the ice storm which gripped Toronto at Christmas, I safely made my way to Guatemala. I had planned the trip so that I might be able to be at the school for the first day of school. However on my arrival in the country, I was informed that the Ministry of Education has decided that the first day of school would be January 16, the day after I was leaving the country. Sigh. There went that plan for another year.

On January 2 I visited to the school for the first of two meetings at the school, which included the participation of Lucio, the new indigenous mayor of the community, who was sworn into office along with 68 other “alcaldes indígenas” in Solola on New Year’s Day. For those of you who have been supporting my adventures for a number of years, Lucio and his family received support from us to rebuild in 2005 after their house was partially destroyed during Hurricane Stan.

At the school I met with members of the members of the COCODE (the community’s economic development council), Santos who is a teacher as well as Lucio.

Meeting with the COCODE, Lucio, and Santos in El Triunfo on January 2

Meeting with the COCODE, Lucio, and Santos in El Triunfo on January 2

I was pleased to see that the washroom project which you supported had been completed and the school directors and teachers were returning for their first day of work of the new year.

the washroom project which we funded with donations in November and December is complete and ready to use for the start of the school year!

the washroom project which we funded with donations in November and December is complete and ready to use for the start of the school year!

Last year the municipality of Sololá along with the Ministry of Education had funded an expansion of the school building adding much needed classroom and meeting space but also failed to fund the equipment and furniture needed to fill the classrooms. I had hoped that the school would find funding for the most crucial needs but I learnt that they were still of need of basic items like desks and chairs. So I decided to dig deep into my bank accounts and go shopping to purchase the needed items and worry about raising the money for the items later. On January 7, a group of us headed to the city of Quetzaltenango to do a little bit of shopping. There was a good omen on the road as we headed to the city. During the day, we purchased 4 whiteboards, 6 teacher desks, 6 teacher chairs, 2 projectors, one screen and a bunch of plastic chairs.

Some of the purchases we made for the school.

Some of the purchases we made for the school.

Where do you go to buy plastic chairs? Plastilandia of course.

Plastilandia!

(But I also wondered what you could buy here?)

The next day I returned to the school accompanied by my good friend Javier  from Toronto and we once again met the teachers who were delighted to see the purchases of the previous day.

A few weeks after my return to Toronto, I was told about the enrollment numbers for the year. The school had put much work into trying to attract new students to the school. A big new sign was posted on the highway at the road leading into the community.

New Sign!

They took to the airwaves of a community radio station to promote the school and distributed flyers and posters to other villages. During my January visits in El Triunfo I saw parents waiting at the school to register their children and also saw parents and students walking into the community for the same purpose. So it came as a bit of a disappointment that the enrollment is only slightly higher than last year at around 80 students. I had expected that the numbers would be a little higher. I was told that the enrollment in this level of education (middle and high school) is down across the country. In El Triunfo, some families may be short of resources and have chosen to keep children at home. In addition, a handful of families with resources have sent students to other schools to pursue a different curriculum such as nursing, teaching or computers. But it is still an achievement to be providing an education to the students who are enrolled in the school.

In March I returned to Guatemala for some fun at the beach, which included a trip on a very small boat to see dolphins and a return visit to the school in time for Carnival! As mandated by the Ministry of Education, the schools in Guatemala mark the last day before Lent with a celebration.   In El Triunfo, there was dancing, skits and some clowning around.

Clowning around at Carnival!

Clowning around at Carnival!

While the community continues to look for financial support for various projects in the village and the school such as improvements to the unpaved road leading down into the village, we are still responsible for the majority of the salaries for the teachers, directors and secretaries in both the middle school and high school. While students do pay a modest fee of about $3 per month to attend the school, this is much more affordable than the private schools located outside of the community.

This year we’ve already bought the much needed supplies and furniture for the school in January and paid the teachers for the months of January, February and March.

Your ongoing support is greatly appreciated by the students, teachers and parents in El Triunfo. As in the past, your tax deductible donations to the school can be directed to Pueblito Canada.

You can donate online at  http://www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=25964  (Click on “Donate Now.” Then under “Fund/Designation,” select “El Triunfo School Project.”  Or you can also send a cheque payable to Pueblito Canada to:

 Pueblito Canada
@ The Centre for Social Innovation
215 Spadina Avenue
Toronto, ON M5T 2C7
ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

For more information on Pueblito and the other projects they support in Central America, please visit www.pueblito.org.

You can check out the complete set of photos from Carnival online as well as all of my photos from the trip to the beach plus videos from Carnival and the beach.

Ken

 

Happy New Year’s

December 26, 2013

Dear friends,

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season and if you’ve lost power in last weekend’s storm that you have been able to keep warm!

On Friday I will be heading to Guatemala so I can spend New Year’s in the community of El Triunfo where the school we are supporting is located. I’m also looking forward to being present for the first day of the school year in a couple of weeks!

If you haven’t already donated to the school this year, there’s still time to make a contribution.

This past year was a tremendous year for the school with many notable achievements and with your support we can ensure that 2014 will be equally as successful, if not better!

With your support, students from El Triunfo can have a better future!

With your support, students from El Triunfo can have a better future!

Your tax deductible donations to the school in El Triunfo can be directed to Pueblito Canada. You can donate online.  (Click on “Donate Now.” Then under “Fund/Designation,” select “El Triunfo School Project.” Or you can also send a cheque payable to Pueblito Canada to:

Pueblito Canada
@ The Centre for Social Innovation
215 Spadina Avenue
Toronto, ON M5T 2C7
ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

Thank you for your ongoing financial and moral support!  And best wishes for the rest of 2013!

Ken

December Update – It’s been a good year!

December 14, 2014

Dear friends,

As we come closer to the end of the year, we can look back with some satisfaction at the achievements reached in the school we are supporting in the community of El Triunfo in Guatemala.

The school provides an affordable education from grades seven to twelve for the children from several villages who probably would not have the opportunity to pursue their studies otherwise.

Over the past twelve months, we’ve seen

-          the graduation of the first grade 12 class;

-          the completion of an expansion  which allows each grade in the school from grade one to twelve to have their own classroom; and,

-          participation of four teachers in  a weeklong  training workshop in Nicaragua on arts-based learning.

These are notable achievements for an initiative which started out in 2006 by providing a handful of scholarships for children in El Triunfo to attend middle school outside of the community.

In my recent visit to the school at the end of November, it was pointed out to me that the school is now attracting interest from students who want to come and study from communities up to ten or fifteen kilometers away! At the start of the year I was personally disappointed in the relatively small number of students (around 80 from grade seven to twelve in the school) who had enrolled. But this fall the school directors and teachers have been hard at work encouraging enrollment for next year by hosting information programs on a local community radio station as well as distributing posters and flyers over a wide area.

For the 2014 school year, which starts in about a month, there is still much that needs to be done. While the Ministry of Education and the local municipality has provide support for capital projects (ie – projects which means that a giant sign showing their support can be put up), there is still little or no government support for ongoing operating costs of the school. Next year we’ll still be responsible for the teachers salaries. In addition the shiny new expansion lacks some of the basic needs for a classroom such as blackboards, desks and even chairs.

The school is also seeking support to provide internet access to the computer lab, to purchase more computers, as well as to build a new facility for the computer lab and kitchen.

I want to thank all of you who offered support for the washroom project I mentioned in last month’s update. The needed money has been sent to the community and the project will be finished in time for the start of classes in a few weeks.

There’s still time this year for you to make a tax deductible donation to the school, which can be directed to Pueblito Canada. You can donate online.  (Click on “Donate Now.” Then under “Fund/Designation,” select “El Triunfo School Project.” Or you can also send a cheque payable to Pueblito Canada to:

 Pueblito Canada
@ The Centre for Social Innovation
215 Spadina Avenue
Toronto, ON M5T 2C7
ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

 For more information on Pueblito and the other projects they support in Central America, please visit www.pueblito.org.

Thank you.

Ken

Graduation Day!

November 19, 2013

Dear friends,

Last Saturday there was a milestone in the history of the school we are supporting in the community of El Triunfo in Guatemala with the graduation of the school’s first grade twelve class. Until this day, only students who had the financial resources to leave the community and study elsewhere could reach this level of education.

It's graduate day for the grade 12s. November 16, 2013

It’s graduation day for the grade 12s. November 16, 2013

Santos Tzorin, a teacher in the school who was born in El Triunfo, told me in an email, “During the graduation I remembered the great progress that our community has made compared to years ago when I had to leave my parents, my community, and adapt to a different culture in order to study in a school far away….which I why I thank you very much for this opportunity for our young people.” Since I was unable to attend the ceremonies he also wanted to thank me and all of the people in Canada who support the project each month on behalf of the students, their parents and the entire community.

It has been a remarkable year and the community has worked hard to ensure that the school will continue to be a success. Earlier in the year an expansion was inaugurated which meant that every class in the school from grade one to twelve has its own classroom. This project was largely funded by the local municipality with some support from the Ministry of Education. This fall a second smaller but equally important (some may say it’s more important) project was initiated by the community. The tiny washrooms which were originally built to serve a small primary school were in desperate need of replacement. With some support from the Ministry of Education plus donations of both cash and labour from the community, the washrooms are being rebuilt along with the installation of a new septic system.  But the community has fallen short of cash on this $10,000 project and have asked us for $2500 to finish it. Counting on your generosity I sent half the required funds to Guatemala this morning.

Diagram of the new washrooms for the school.

Diagram of the new washrooms for the school.

If you haven’t already donated to the school this year, please consider making a donation to support the washroom project and also to ensure that we can pay the administrators and directors of the school for their work this month as they wrap up the school year. We also need to start looking ahead for 2014 so that there are funds available for the teachers when the school year begins in January. Your tax deductible donations to the school in El Triunfo can be directed to Pueblito Canada. You can donate online.  (Click on “Donate Now.” Then under “Fund/Designation,” select “El Triunfo School Project.” Or you can also send a cheque payable to Pueblito Canada to:

 Pueblito Canada
@ The Centre for Social Innovation
215 Spadina Avenue
Toronto, ON M5T 2C7
ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

 For more information on Pueblito and the other projects they support in Central America, please visit www.pueblito.org.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

Ken

And don’t forget my Annual Fair Trade Holiday Sale for Guatemala which takes place this year on Friday, November 29, 2013. There will be clothing and accessories from Asociación Maya de Desarrollo, Solola, Guatemala; Fair trade coffee from the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA), Guatemala; and jewelry from Casa Milagro, Guatemala plus other surprises! Complete details  are here!