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.

INTIRAYMI 2016 FLYER OFFICIAL jpg

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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A Final School Update for 2015

December 29, 2015

Dear friends,

It’s been quite a year as I marked my 10th anniversary of being involved in education projects in the community of El Triunfo in the department of Sololá in Guatemala. For the last eight years, we’ve been supporting the growth of a middle school, and more recently a high school, which has provided an education for dozens of students who live in El Triunfo and several near-by communities.

The year started off with some pleasant surprises. The first one was discovering Rosa, a former student, was now working in the middle school as the secretary.

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Rosa in her office at the middle school.

 

The second surprise was the super-sized and super-energized grade seven class with 32 students, which was the largest in the school’s history. The class was always fun to visit throughout the year and challenged me with great questions about Canada each time. I’d like to extend special thanks to the Guatemala Project at Ursula Franklin Academy in Toronto for putting together gift bags for this class which were gratefully received by the students. Gift bags for our new grade seven class have already been prepared and the plan is to have the students in Guatemala send messages back to the students at Ursula Franklin.

Our 2015 Grade Seven Class

Our grade seven class with their gift bags from Ursula Franklin.

The annual celebration for the anniversary of the school in July was another opportunity to meet the students, old friends from the community and to make new friends.

Las Senoritas

Finally I was disappointed to miss the graduation ceremonies in November. It’s always a pleasure to share in this special day with the graduates, their families and the teachers but travel kept me away.

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The graduating grade nine class for 2015!

However the year hasn’t been without its challenges. The high school is struggling with persistent low enrolment in the high school as few of our graduating middle school students do not continue their education. Economic pressures for some families forces kids to seek work in the area or in Guatemala City or as far away as the United States. As I pointed out earlier in the year, we did not have a grade 10 class this year so there will not be a grade 11 class next year. But we are hopeful there will be a strong grade 10 class when classes resume next month.

We are also dealing with various issues around the computer lab as new computers, monitors and printers should be purchased soon and the lab still hasn’t been connected to the Internet.

Another challenge for the overall project is the plunge in the Canadian dollar has caused the expenses to increase as the Guatemalan currency has not declined.

Fortunately there are many supporters of the project. I’d like to particularly thank Michele, Margaret and Jennifer for organizing the Fourth Annual Mid-Season Bash in August and for all of those who donated auction prizes and attended the event. The staff and board at Casa Pueblito have been fantastic in their continuing support of the project. I’d also like to thank those who have generously donated to the school over the past year.

If you haven’t made your donation this year, it’s not too late. You can donate online through Casa Pueblito.

(Important: 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

Please note Casa Pueblito is also in a position to accept donations of securities.

Happy New Year to you and your family and friends!

Ken

Annual Holiday 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.

Maria Xoch Ajcalon

Friday, December 4

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 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 https://guatemalaschool.wordpress.com

Ten Years of Education in Guatemala

October 17, 2015

Dear friends,

If you can believe it, we’re coming up to the 10th anniversary of supporting education in the community of El Triunfo. Ten years ago this month a tropical storm devastated many parts of Guatemala. While El Triunfo was largely spared, there was serious damaged caused by mudslides and heavy rain to several houses. Thanks to your generosity we were able to buy materials to rebuild ten houses. After the houses were completed I received a letter from a community member outlining the situation for students in the community and asking me to support his two daughters in their dream to complete high school.

Glorida (and her sister, not pictuered) were the first scholarship recipients in El Triunfo from this project.

Glorinda and her sister, (not pictured) were the first scholarship recipients in El Triunfo from this project. She is now working in the local office of a Guatemalan university.

While there was a primary school in the community, students had to travel and enroll in schools in larger centers in order to continue onto grade seven.  Within two years, the project had expanded from providing scholarships to a handful of students for them to study outside of the community with the establishment of a middle school in the community. With your support the community was able to physically expand the school in 2010 and add high school classes.

The expansion of the school is inaugurated in October 2010

The expansion of the school is inaugurated in October 2010

It’s been quite an adventure with many ups and downs including the elation of graduation days and the excitement of the start of each new school year but also the disappointment of variable student enrollment numbers. And the anniversary celebration for the school is lots of fun each year. Remember when the students used to jump through fire?

In 2010, students literally played with fire at the anniversary for the school.

In 2010, students literally played with fire at the anniversary for the school.

But, overall, the project has been able to help improve the lives of dozens of students and their families by providing them with invaluable life-long literacy skills In addition, most of the students who have completed grade 12 have been able to find meaningful work away from the basic jobs in agriculture, in the informal sector or at home, which many of their peers pursue. And in a country where teenagers are often married to much older men, it’s been great to see the number of female students, with the support of their families, who have chosen to stay in school.

What's the bigger class ever in the school? The grade seven class this year.

Which is the biggest class ever in the school? The grade seven class this year.

You can see the progression of the school through my photos online here.

The success of the school has not been possible without your ongoing financial support. While students pay a small fee every month (which is often waived by the school for those who cannot support), money is needed every month to pay the bulk of the salaries of the teachers, directors and secretaries of the school.

This year has been a bit of a challenge as the continuing decrease in the Canadian dollar has caused the expenses to increase. (The Guatemalan currency has not moved in either direction this year.) If you haven’t donated this year, the teachers and students (and my bank account), would appreciate your support.

You can donate online through Casa Pueblito.

(Important:  under “You can select to apply your donation to a specific fund set up by this charity,” please select “El Triunfo School Project.”)

You can also mail a cheque payable to Casa Pueblito (please note this is a new address). Cheques may also be dropped off with me.

Casa Pueblito

107A 2238 Dundas St. W

Toronto, ON M6R 3A9

ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

Please note Casa Pueblito is also in a position to accept donations of securities.

Thanks

Ken