October 26, 2010
When I last wrote on Thanksgiving weekend from Guatemala, I shared with you the news of the completion of the second floor of the school in the community of El Triunfo and the week-long celebration which was taking place.
After a “quiet” day riding chicken buses to visit my friend Emilie in Santa Cruz del Quiche, I returned to the village on October 11 for the final day of the celebrations. This was a community-wide event that had several dignitaries in attendance including Pedro Saloj, the mayor of the town of Solola, Antonio Mendoza, the indigenous mayor of Solola plus representatives of the Guatemalan Ministry of Education, the Governor of the Department of Solola and several people I never did quite figure out.
For the day, as a surprise, I was going to wear a traditional shirt that some of the men in the community wear still wear on a daily basis. However my friends suggested that I needed to wear all of the traditional pieces of clothing. So a pair of pants along with the rodillera, a rectangular piece of wool worn around the waist, were brought to me. I will admit I needed a little help, including borrowing a belt to keep the rodillera in place, to get dressed.
As the ceremonies began and the invited guests, including myself took the stage, my appearance took many people by surprise. I was the focus of much amusement for the rest of the day!
The ceremonies were quite formal and lengthy with speeches, music, processions, ribbon-cutting and ceremonial door opening of the new classes. In all of the speeches, especially from community members, people talked about the importance of education. It was really gratifying to hear the support for the school from the community.
Finally, the events ended with performances from students in the primary school and the middle school.
After a quick lunch, I had my last meeting with the members of the COCODE (economic development committee) who I had worked on the school since July 2008. Their term of office had ended and a new committee was introduced during the ceremonies. Led by Antonio Chopen Sulugui, the ten member committee had done an excellent job of managing the construction project for the school. When we first discussed building the second floor on the school, Antonio suggested a budget of US$20,000 to buy all of the necessary building materials.
When the final receipts were tallied, the total came to CDN$20,600. There are very few building project in Canada that are delivered on time and on budget like this one was!
I’ll miss working with Antonio but I’m looking forward to the new committee as we launch the school’s first grade 10 class in January 2011.
By 2013, children in the community will be able to attend school from grade one to grade twelve at an affordable cost!
After our amazing fundraising over the first part of the year when we raised enough money to pay the teachers each month and also pay for the construction materials, we are now a little behind and need to raise some funds (approximately $3600) to pay the teachers for the rest of the year.
An important part of the fundraising equation this year has been the support of Pueblito Canada, which graciously adapted the school last year as one of their projects. Donations for the school are always welcome by Pueblito (and tax deductable!) You can donate online at
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 El Triunfo School Project The Centre for Social Innovation Suite 165 – 215 Spadina Avenue Toronto, ON M5T 2C7