A Visit to Guatemala for the Start of the School Year.

February 7, 2015

Dear friends.

Last month I returned from an extended visit to Guatemala during which I pondered the mysteries of life in the country which enable a beer company to place promotional Christmas trees in the public spaces of many towns and cities on an annual basis and the possible return to political life of a former president who is currently a guest of the U.S. federal prison system.

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Fortunately I also was able to visit with many friends and organizations that I knew, including the school we support in the community of El Triunfo in the department of Sololá.

One of my last meetings with this group.

One of my last meetings with this group.

I visited the school several times during my visit, first meeting with the COCODE (the community’s economic development council) on January 3. It was a bitter-sweet meeting as this would one of the last times I would be working with this group. A new COCODE has been selected by the community and their two-year term will begin on March 10. But the current committee has done an excellent job of leading projects in the community, including the construction of a new path down the hillside to the school! The path will make the hike up and down the hill much easier, especially during the coming rainy season.

The new walkway leading down the hill to the school.

Walkway

On January 7 I was able to chat with the teachers and staff of the school, where I received a wonderful surprise. Rosa, a young woman from the community and a former pupil in the middle school, has been hired as the secretary for the middle school! It was great to see her in her new role as she has had to overcome many challenges to complete her education.

Rosa at work registering students.

During the following week I had the chance to meet with members of the new COCODE as well as with some of the new students in the school during an orientation day. Students were still registering for classes during my visit and enrollment for the grade seven class rose from 25 to 28 in front of my eyes. The following week, after my return to Canada, I was told that enrollment rose to 32 students in grade seven with another 15 students each in the grade seven and eight classes. Unfortunately enrollment is still a bit low in the high school with only 18 students in total. It’s hoped that a few more students will enroll by the end of next week.

Registration of New Students for Grade 7

While the budget for this year’s project remains the same in Guatemalan currency, our actual costs are going up thanks to the sharp decrease in the Canadian dollar. (The Guatemalan currency has only slightly declined vs the U.S. dollar over the past year.) So I hope I can count on your continued support of the project this year and perhaps a little bit extra.

The school is also seeking additional resources to connect the computer lab in the school to the Internet as well to buy a small bus to help transport students and staff to and from the school as students are now travelling to the school from villages up to 5 km away.

You can donate online here.

(Click on “Donate Now.” Then under “You can select to apply your donation to a specific fund set up by this charity,” select “El Triunfo School Project.”)

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

 Pueblito Canada 

107A 2238 Dundas St. W

Toronto, ON M6R 3A9

ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

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

Orientation Day

Further photos from the school are online here  and some general trip photos are here.

Thanks! Ken

A final message for 2014 on Ken’s Guatemalan School

December 29, 2014Dear friends, greetings from Guatemala where I’m planning to celebrate the New Year’s with friends and then visit the school next week to get an update from the teacher and the staff in advance of the school year.

I’d like to thank all of you again for your tremendous support of the school. We started this process in 2005 by offering a small number of scholarships for students who wanted to travel outside of the village of El Triunfo to pursue an education. Today we have a middle school and high school which attract, not only the students of El Triunfo, but students from several near-by villages.

In another month, it will be first pay day of the school for the teachers of the school. With your support we are able to pay the teachers in both schools along with a director and secretary for each school, a computer technician to keep the computer lab going as well as a cleaner.

You can still make a donation for this year. 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 “You can select to apply your donation to a specific fund set up by this charity,” select “El Triunfo School Project.”

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

Pueblito Canada

107A 2238 Dundas St. W

Toronto, ON M6R 3A9

ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

Thank you! Best wishes to you and your families for the upcoming year.

Ken

A Christmas Update

December 23, 2014

Dear friends,

While we are winding down the year, things are gearing up again at the school in Guatemala. I just received a budget for the new school year which will begin in a short few weeks.

It’s a reminder of the success of the project that we will keep going for another year. There’s no single element to this success. There are motivated and committed teachers who contribute greatly to the schools. There are the parents who see the value in sending their children to school and the members of the community who support the project. There’s the local municipality who has contributed to the expansion of the school building in the past. There’s also you. With your support and generosity, we’ve provided the financial resources to pay the salaries of the staff and teachers.

Our 2014 grade 12 class with their teachers and a special guest.

Our 2014 grade 12 class with their teachers and a special guest.

I’d like to thank you all for your support this year. If you haven’t made a donation this year, there’s still time to make a donation so that even more students can graduate in the coming years.

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 “You can select to apply your donation to a specific fund set up by this charity,” select “El Triunfo School Project.”

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

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

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

Pueblito is also prepared to accept donations of securities. Let me know if you’d like further information.

Best wishes for the holiday season and see you in the New Year!

Ken

The school year ends!

November 24, 2014

Dear friends,

After ten month of classes, fiestas, soccer tournaments, special projects, exams and the entire rainy season, the Guatemalan school year came to a close at the end of October. While the school directors and secretaries are still hard at work finishing the incredible amount of paperwork that the Ministry of Education demands from them, students and teachers are now enjoying a two month break and some graduates are pondering their future.

At the end of October I was fortunate enough to visit Guatemala to attend the graduation ceremonies for the second grade 12 class to graduate in the school we are supporting in the community of El Triunfo as well as the graduation for the grade nine class a week later.

I’m not the type of person who usually gets sentimental about graduation and commencement ceremonies. I seem to remember trying to talk my family members out of attending my last university graduation in the mid 90’s. But on a Saturday afternoon I felt myself tearing up while watching our four graduates on the stage as well as seeing how thrilled their families were in the audience.

Hey they actually gave us the diplomas!

Our four grade twelve graduates with their diplomas.

While it was a small class (a fifth student is currently finishing some course work as well as a work practicum and should be able to receive his diploma in the new year), it was still an important milestone for Maria, Celestina, Isaias and Domingo and their families from communities where relatively few have a high school degree.

Our graduates with a special guest. Their teachers are in the back row.

Our graduates with a special guest. Their teachers are in the back row.

The grade nine graduation, which marked the end of middle school for the graduates, was also a very special day despite the prevailing very cold and rainy weather. (Darn Canadian cold front!)

it was a cold, windy and rainy day.

it was a cold, windy and rainy day.

As the parents walked their sons and daughters up to the stage, I realized that I knew seven of the thirteen families from their work in the community or with the school or with Asociacion Maya, the women’s weaving cooperative I’ve been involved with for 20 years.

hey - I know these people!

hey – I know these people!

There was the daughter of Victor, who has been the president of the economic development committee in the community for the last two years; a son of Antonio, the current indigenous Mayor; a son of Lucas, a Mayan priest; as well as several students who are grandchildren of some of the original members of Asociacion Maya who survived the civil war and the attacks against their community to help form the weaving cooperative in the 1980’s. The only disappointing part of the day is that I couldn’t stay for the meal after the ceremony as I had a bus to catch to begin my journey back to Toronto.

I was entrusted to present 2 of the diplomas.

I presented diplomas to two students at the grade nine graduation.

Check our further photos from the grade 12 graduation here and the grade nine graduation here.

Our support of the school has been critical in its success as it receives very little support from the Ministry of Education. Santos, a teacher in the school and a resident of El Triunfo, told me that the school is gaining a reputation in the area for providing a good education and for having good teachers. “Without your help, the school is not possible,” said Santos as our financial support pays for salaries of the teachers.

Throughout the year donations have lagged behind the monthly expenses. If you haven’t supported the school this year, please consider a donation in the next few weeks.

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.” (THIS IS IMPORTANT.)

You can also drop off a cheque payable to Pueblito Canada with me or mail one to:

 Pueblito Canada
2238 Dundas St W
Toronto, ON M6R 3A9
ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

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

I hope to have another update for you before the end of the year. In the meantime, curious to see where the school is in Guatemala? You can now find it on Google Maps. Also, I’m pleased to announce the return of my annual holiday sale for Guatemala on December 11th. As usual I’ll have some wonderful scarves, wallets, jackets, purses, coffee and much more available!

See you there.

Ken

Annual Fair Trade Holiday Sale for Guatemala

Annual Fair Trade Holiday Sale for Guatemala

Thursday, December 11, 2014
11: 00 am to 7:00 pm
Fleck Atrium (Ground Floor)
Rotman School of Management
University of Toronto
105 St. George Street (south of Bloor, across from Innis College)
(note – this year we’ll be in the south building of the Rotman School near The Exchange Café.)
Subway –St. George Station

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 plus other surprises!

For more information: Ken McGuffin, mcguffin@rotman.utoronto.ca

Proceeds from the weaving, coffee, and jewelry sales will be directed to the cooperatives and organizations which produce the items. Additional donations for the El Triunfo Education Project which provides an affordable middle and high school education for the sons and daughters of weavers from Asociacion Maya are gratefully accepted.

BACKGROUND:

*Asociación Maya de Desarrollo is a weavers’ co-operative committed to preserving the ancient art of backstrap weaving. Inspired by nature’s palette, the weavers are hand-dyeing rayon chenille, bamboo and cotton yarns. They are creating unique pieces of wearable art by combining the innovative use of fibres and traditional Mayan designs. Organizing themselves together since 1987, its members are cultivating leadership roles for Mayan women and building a better life for themselves and their communities. There is a now a thread of hope and economic opportunity for 180 weavers in the mountains of Sololá

*Café Justicia is Fair Trade PLUS, shade-grown, organic coffee produced on the volcanic slopes surrounding Lake Atiltán in the Guatemalan highlands. The coffee is produced by campesinos on the El Paraíso Co-operative of the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA). The CCDA is an organization founded in 1982 and mandated to peacefully defend the rights of workers on large coffee, sugar and cotton plantations in Guatemala; recover lands stolen from the Mayan communities over the past century; promote organic and traditional Mayan agriculture, and protect the cultural rights of Guatemala’s Mayan majority.

*Casa Milagro is an organization supporting the financial, health, and educational needs of mothers and their families in the indigenous village of Santa Cruz on the shores of Lake Atitlan in the highlands of Guatemala. The organization’s jewelry project provides an income to women with few other economic opportunities to provide for their families

Gently Used Laptops and Desktops Needed for Projects in Guatemala & Tanzania

Dear friends, Do you have a laptop sitting unused in a closet somewhere? Is it a newer model (no older than 4 or 5 yrs) which can still run current Microsoft software?  If you are looking for a home for it, please read on! Two projects which benefit children in Tanzania and Guatemala can put that unused and unloved computer to work. Please note we can only accept computers in working order. We do not have the resources to fix them.

Amani Children’s Home in Tanzania

Amani is a grassroots organization at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro which helps house, feed and educate 300 orphans and homeless children, founded 10 years old by some locals to address the problem of young street children, often orphaned by AIDS. Of the 300 children supported, Amani’s social workers have reunited 200 with extended family (Amani often provides modest financial support for food, clothes or school fees to make this possible) – another 100 have been unable to be reunited and are housed at Amani’s facility. The home has a modest computer lab and your gently used laptop would be a great addition; laptops are also needed for 40 promising kids for whom Amani is paying tuition and board at private high schools (the public system has a teacher student ratio of 80 to 1.)   Dan Richards, an instructor in the Rotman MBA program, has worked with the project for a number of years. In March, a school group from Toronto will be visiting Tanzania and would be glad to carry your laptop to Amani.

El Triunfo Education Project

The project is providing a middle school and high school education for indigenous children in the community of El Triunfo, Guatemala. This year approximately 80 children are enrolled in the school in grades seven to twelve. Your laptop would go to the home of a student enabling them to practice and develop their typing and computer skill and also to the teachers of the school who do not have the resources to purchase their own. Desktops are also needed on an ongoing basis for the school’s computer lab.

Let me know if you can help either one of the projects. Ken

Fair Trade Fest in Hamilton

Hey friends in Hamilton and area, I’ll be selling at the Fair Trade Fest on November 5 at McMaster University for Asociacion Maya. Details are below.

Fair Trade Fest