May 15, 2011
It’s been some time since my last update. In March I had the opportunity to visit the school and other friends in Guatemala during my usual brief visit of only five days.
But my visit to the school was a little bit unusual in that I had a number of people with me including Anne & Denis and their son Nicholas from Toronto; and three friends (including Vivian) of the weaving cooperative in the village who were visiting from the United States.
After a traditional lunch for all of us at my friend Maria’s house, our group walked down the steep hill and over the school where there was a surprise waiting for us.
I had expected that we would visit the classrooms and meet some of the teachers and students. Instead, the Consejo Comunitario de Desarrollo (community development council) in El Triunfo, who I work with on the school, along with the teachers and students, had arranged a special presentation for us. Since I had missed the ceremonies for the opening of the high school (diversificado) in January, they decided to have an event for us featuring dance and music by the students. You can see some of my photos from the day at http://www.flickr.com/photos/29121052@N07/sets/72157626417039071/
Perhaps the highlight of the day for me was the spoken word recital in English by two of the grade ten students. It was the most English I had heard spoken by any students beyond “hello” and “goodbye” in the four years that the school has been running. And it was wonderful to hear. I’m looking forward to my next trip when I plan to test more of the students, especially the grade ten class, on their English skills!
The afternoon ended with several soccer matches including a game where Denis and I joined the teachers in a hopeless match against some of the students. I think they toyed with us for the first half before humiliating us in the second.
After the end of the soccer games, I stayed behind for a meeting with the Consejo while the rest of the group headed back to where they were staying. These meetings are an important opportunity for me to receive updates on the operation of the school; discuss any future plans for the school; and to receive receipts for the money we have provided to them. I was pleased to hear this year the Consejo has worked to improve the governance of the two schools. Under Guatemalan law, the schools are non-profit organizations and each of their boards must have representation from parents, teachers, and the local municipality. The Consejo made changes at the start of the year so that the boards have the proper membership, which hadn’t been the case last year.
While it is great to see the energy of the students, the work by the Consejo and the support of the parents, another key aspect of the school is the financial support from you. We are responsible for paying the salaries of the teachers, which is the greatest expense for the school. Without your support, it’s unlikely that the school could continue. While it does receive some help from the government, the Guatemalan Ministry of Education is unlikely to provide additional support for the school in the near term.
If you haven’t made a donation to the school this year, please consider doing so. Donations to the project 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 El Triunfo School Project The Centre for Social Innovation Suite 400 – 215 Spadina Avenue Toronto, ON M5T 2C7
Or I would be happy to come and pick up a cheque from you directly.
I would also like to invite you to join me on a 10-day educational seminar in Guatemala which is being organized by Pueblito Canada. You’ll have a chance to meet the students, teachers, and community during the celebrations held each year for the establishment of the school. The seminar will also visit other projects and cooperatives; hear from speakers on environmental and human rights issues and also take some time for a little bit of sight-seeing!
The cost of the program will be $2,200 which includes: 8 nights of hotel (double accommodation); 2 meals a day for 7 days; transportation in-country; trip organization, guiding & translation; honorariums for communities and organization we meet with; and a donation to Pueblito Canada (amount for the tax receipt to be determined.) You’ll pay for your own travel to and from Guatemala (feel free to extend your trip!) and health insurance. The dates of the seminar will be Saturday, July 9 to Sunday, July 17. If you are interested in joining me, please let me know and I will send you an application. Please forward to friends and colleagues who may be interested in participating.
I hope you send you another update after my next visit to Guatemala in early June.