It’s the annual holiday sale for Guatemala!

Join me for this annual sale featuring clothing and accessories from Asociación Maya de Desarrollo, Solola, Guatemala including handwoven scarves, jackets and ponchos; fairly traded coffee from the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA), Guatemala; and jewelry from Casa Milagro, Guatemala.

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Thursday, December 1

11:00 am to 6 pm

Fleck Atrium

Rotman School of Management

105 St. George Street

Toronto

(Just south of St. George Subway station)

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

Donations will also be accepted for 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 in the village of El Triunfo, Guatemala. For more information or how to make a tax deductible donation to the project, please visit https://guatemalaschool.wordpress.com

Change of seasons and the end of the school year

October 23, 2016

Dear friends,

The cold winds which blew through Toronto yesterday was a reminder that seasons are changed and after weeks of warm weather it’s time to reach for a heavier jacket. In Guatemala, the country is also expecting the first “frente frio” of the season this weekend. This month is also the end of the school year in the public school system.

In another month, I will be headed to the school in El Triunfo to participate in the graduation ceremonies for both the middle school (our grade nine class) as well as the high school (our grade 12.)

It will be a bitter sweet day for me as this will be, for the time being, our last high school graduation as we have made the decision to suspend funding for the high school next year. But I will definitely celebrate the achievements of the students and their families.

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The 2016 Grade 12 Class

Without your financial support for the last six years these students would not have been able to pursue their studies and I hope you will be able to continue to support the project.

You can donate online through Casa Pueblito or mail in a cheque. (A cheque actually ensures that more of your money goes directly to the school!)

(If you are donating online please follow: under “Donate To This Charity Now”, please select option #2 “El Triunfo School Project.” You may also wish to indicate that your donation is for Ken’s School in the note.)

You can also mail a cheque payable to Casa Pueblito (please note this is a new address).

Casa Pueblito

107A 2238 Dundas St. W

Toronto, ON M6R 3A9

ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

Thanks everyone for your ongoing support.

Ken

PS – I have some sales for Asociacion Maya coming up. For those of you who read Spanish, here’s a recent article from Prensa Libre on the co-op.

School Update for September 2016

September 11, 2016

Dear friends,

It’s been a while since my last update on the school we are supporting in the community of El Triunfo in Sololá, Guatemala. Since the spring I’ve visited Guatemala twice including a visit for the anniversary celebration of the school in July and a brief but important visit earlier this month.

The events for the anniversary are always a fun event for me to attend. I’m always struck by the creativity and energy of many of the activities and the efforts of both students and teachers. There was also an evening ceremony with Lucas, a Mayan priest from the community and his family.

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Mayan ceremony with Lucas

 

Other highlights included the willingness of Antonio, the high school director, to lay it all out on the dance floor with his grade 12 students, the dance of the “seniors” by the grade 12 class and the crowning of the senoritas for the next year.

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Antonio and the grade 12 class!

 

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Dance of the “seniors”

 

You can see more pictures from the school here and well as my visit to Asociacion Maya, the women’s weaving cooperative here.

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Las Senoritas

 

While my July visit was filled with fun and laughter, my September visit had a more serious purpose.

Over the past two years, both the community and I have been preoccupied with the low enrollment in the high school. This year, as you know, we did not have a grade 11 class after not enrolling any students for grade 10 last year. Before the start of this year’s school year, members of the COCODE put in quite a bit of work in promoting the school by going door-to-door in the village, doing promotional work in the neighboring villages and taking advantage of some free publicity on community radio to run promos for the school. Despite their best efforts, the grade ten class this year is currently only four students. Combined with the grade 12 class of 8 students, it makes for a very small school.

During my July visit, I learned a bit more about the enrollment issue from speaking with various community members. Some families have concerns about the curriculum which is “perito contrador” – which offers primarily accounting and business courses and does not provide a pathway to university. There are other families with the resources to send their children to schools in the larger near-by communities which offer a wide-range of courses. There is also a significant amount of immigration to the United States from the area including by boys who could be students in the school.

In addition to the enrollment issue, donations for the entire project have consistently lagged behind the expenses for several years leaving me to cover the gap. This is an unsustainable situation, one that I was willing to willfully ignore as I hoped that we would get more students in the high school.

After meeting with the COCODE last week, we agreed to suspend the high school for the 2017 school year. We’ll consult with the community over the coming months to see if there is enough interest to relaunch the high school in 2018, perhaps with a new curriculum. Next year we will continue with the middle school as the student numbers have remained strong. One possible project, if funding can be secured, is to upgrade the computer lab. Since the school’s inception, we’ve never been able to have enough computers to have a full lab.

In the meantime, we will continue to fund both the high school and middle school for the rest of this year and I’m looking forward to attending the graduation ceremonies for the grade nine and grade twelve classes in November 26.

I hope I can still count on your support for this year as well as for next year. It’s a decision I did not take lightly having thought about it for more than a year. And thank you to the people in Canada and in Guatemala who I sought advice from during this time.

You can donate online through Casa Pueblito or mail in a cheque. (A cheque actually ensures that more of your money goes directly to the school!)

(If you are donating online please follow: under “Donate To This Charity Now”, please select option #2 “El Triunfo School Project.” You may also wish to indicate that your donation is for Ken’s School in the note.)

You can also mail a cheque payable to Casa Pueblito (please note this is a new address).

 Casa Pueblito

107A 2238 Dundas St. W

Toronto, ON M6R 3A9

ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

 Thanks everyone for your ongoing support.

Ken

Sales for Guatemala this month in Toronto and St. Jacobs

Join Maria Xoch from Asociacion Maya in Sololá, Guatemala who will be participating in two special events this month in Toronto and St. Jacobs.

Maria Xoch Ajcalon

Maria will be a featured guest at the annual IntiRaymi Festival in Christie Pits this Saturday and Sunday. We’ll have beautiful scarves, wallets and more from Asociacion Maya; fairly traded Café Justicia; and jewelry from Casa Milagro.

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And on Saturday, June 25, Maria will be giving weaving demonstrations at the Eco-Coffee Corporation in downtown St. Jacobs, Ontario.

At both events, donations will be accepted for for 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. Details on how to make a donation to the project are online at https://guatemalaschool.wordpress.com

A visit to Guatemala

March 22, 2016

Dear friends,

I’m back from my visit to the school in Guatemala. I had hoped to provide an update for you from Guatemala but my laptop didn’t cooperate.

The trip gave me the first opportunity this year to visit the school in the community of El Triunfo in the department of Sololá where we have 70 students this year studying in the middle school and high school. Coincidently on my first visit to the school I just happened to meet three graduates from last year who were visiting the school to pick up their official diplomas.

 

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Three high school grads from 2015 and their diplomas

 

For this year’s students and staff, the school year is in full swing with planning underway for several special events including Mother’s Day festivities on May 10th, the annual celebration for the anniversary of the school in July, and the graduation ceremonies for the high school students on November 5. The school has been fortunate that the teaching staff remains the same as year. A new director for the middle school has hired this year along with a new secretary for the high school.

I met with the community economic development committee (COCODE), which oversees the school and discussed some of the challenges facing the school including the poor enrollment in the high school. For many of the poorer families in the area, it is perceived to be better for the children to be working rather than attending school. The drop off in enrollment from the middle school to the school reflects national trends as a recent newspaper article shows that while 98.75%  of Guatemala’s children are enrolled in primary school, this drops to 68.43% in middle school, while the enrollment in high school is only 38.02%. In other area of concern, the school is looking to upgrade the computer lab with a few new computers and is also seeking affordable Internet access for the entire school.

One fun part of the school visit was giving out gift bags to the grade seven, eleven and twelve classes which were prepared by students in the Guatemala Project at Ursula Franklin Academy in Toronto. The bags contained each contained a notebook with a personal message in English and Spanish from the Canadian student, a friendship bracelet, pens as well as a Spanish/English language flash cards. The bags were excitedly received by the students in El Triunfo.

 

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This year’s grade seven class with their gift bags

 

The following week I returned to the school where the students in El Triunfo had prepared their own messages, and in some cases, gift bags for the students in Toronto.

Thanks to everyone who has made a donation to the school this month. With your support, I am able to send money to the school each month for the salaries of the teachers and staff.

You can donate online through Casa Pueblito or mail in a cheque. (A cheque actually ensures that more of your money goes directly to the school!)

(If you are donating online please follow: under “Donate To This Charity Now”, please select option #2 “El Triunfo School Project.” You may also wish to indicate that your donation is for Ken’s School in the note.)

You can also mail a cheque payable to Casa Pueblito (please note this is a new address).

Casa Pueblito

107A 2238 Dundas St. W

Toronto, ON M6R 3A9

ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

Thanks everyone. Look for more photos from the school as well as the Lenten processions in Guatemala City here.

Ken

 

A New School Year

March 4, 2016

Dear friends,

It’s been a while since I last provided you with an update on the school in Guatemala. In January students and teachers returned to the classroom for the start of the school year in Guatemala.

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“Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.” 

Tomorrow morning I’m going to Guatemala to visit the school for the first time in 2016! In the meantime, I’m pleased to let you know that there are 57 students in the middle school for grades seven to nine. For the second year in a row there is a healthy grade seven class with 25 students but enrollment does start to drop in the following grades.

We continue to struggle as well with enrollment in the high school but there are 17 students who are very happy to be in the classroom. As we didn’t have a grade ten class last year, there is not a grade eleven class for this year. I’ve been told economic pressures for some families forces kids to seek work, whether in the local community or further afield instead of further pursuing an education. I hope to find out more details on the situation when I visit the community.

This year I have already sent money to the school for the salaries of the teachers and school staff for the months of January and February so it’s time to get some funds coming in to support the school.

You can donate online through Casa Pueblito or mail in a cheque. (A cheque actually ensures that more of your money goes directly to the school!)

(If you are donating online please follow: under “Donate To This Charity Now”, please select option #2 “El Triunfo School Project.” You may also wish to indicate that your donation is for Ken’s School in the note.)

You can also mail a cheque payable to Casa Pueblito (please note this is a new address).

Casa Pueblito
107A 2238 Dundas St. W
Toronto, ON M6R 3A9
ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

Thanks. Look for an update later next week with photos from the school.

Ken

First Day of School for 2016

The Guatemalan school year runs from January to the end of October. Students will be back in class in the school in El Triunfo this week. Below is a new sign which was put up at the entrance into the community earlier in the year. “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.” 

 

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