September 14, 2012
July is always an interesting month to visit Guatemala. I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in the country during the month to attend the anniversary of the middle school and high school which first opened in January 2008. Starting with grades seven to nine then expanding in the last two years with grades ten and eleven, the school will add its first grade twelve class next year.
So why is it interesting? July is in the middle of the rainy season. While most mornings start off sunny and clear by mid-afternoon the clouds have moved in and rain follows shortly. And the rain can make the heaviest downpour that you’ll see in Toronto seem like a light sprinkle by comparison. The month is also when the various school marching bands start their seemingly daily and constant rehearsals for the parades which will take in the following months. In August, Solola holds its annual “feria” over a 10 day period complete with parades (with the school bands), religious processions, food, drink, concerts and very sketchy ferris wheel and other amusement rides.
There’s another round of parades and events on this weekend to celebrate the independence of Guatemala and the other Central American countries from Spain. Now the school marching bands tend to be heavy on the percussion so if you’re not near the band, all you hear is a low boom…boom…boom… from off in the distance. Combined with the afternoon gloominess and the occasional sound of thunder from an approaching storm, it can seem at times that the armies of Mordor are just around the corner.
This year’s anniversary was condensed into a half-day event for reasons I’ll explain later. I was actually relieved after last year’s five-day extravaganza which we endured in very wet and rainy conditions. After hearing marching bands rehearse for the past few days, I was surprised to arrive in the village to find out that I was to lead a parade complete with a marching band down the hill and into the school. Here’s a short video of the band.
The events of the day included many features that I’m starting to become familiar with. It began with a formal opening with the national anthem followed by greetings from various representatives of the community and the school. It continued with performances from the students in traditional dance, not so traditional dance and lip-synched songs. The boys who brought K’Naan’s Waving Flag to the activities last year returned with a little reggaeton this year. A group of boys created a humourous visit to the barber shop in a skit. Three senoritas for the school were elected and our collective efforts to support the school were recognized.
What was new this year was the participation of the marimba band (video) of the municipality of Solola and several performances by the teachers – including three teachers playing the marimba (photo and video here) and a duet from Carlos, the director of the middle school, and his young daughter on the song Fuiste Tu.
I truly appreciated the effort which is put into the performances at these celebrations and I also value the opportunity to continue to meet more people from the village of El Triunfo and from the surrounding villages who send their children to the school and to reconnect with old friends. You can see more photos from the day here.
As I mentioned this year’s anniversary was cut back in length compared to the events of the last two years due to the immediate start of a new construction project at the school. Two year ago we supported a project to add three more classrooms which gave the school nine in total. This year the school received financial support from the Ministry of Education and the municipality of Solola to add three more classrooms. When completed for the start of the next school year in January 2013, it means that each of the classes from grade one to twelve will have their own dedicated classroom. I am also pleased to see this support from the government. In the coming years we hope to see increased support for the operating costs of the middle and high schools as currently only the primary school is fully-funded by the Ministry.
For this year, it means that we need to continue to support the school this year to the tune of almost $40,000. Around this time of the year, you might be expecting your invitation to Ken’s Guatemalan Dance Party, an annual fundraiser which initially started to fund scholarships for five students from El Triunfo to attend schools outside of the community. The event has been a great success over the years with a tiny house and backyard in Scarborough overflowing with guests and great food and music. This year, due to the hectic schedules of myself and our usual host, we’ve decided to take a hiatus with the event. But we ask if you’ve usually purchased a ticket for the dance party or made your annual donation to the school at this time of year that you consider making a donation this month. If you’ve forgotten, we asked for a minimum contribution of $25 for the dance party ticket last year.
If you still can contribute, tax deductible donations to the school in El Triunfo 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 @ The Centre for Social Innovation 215 Spadina Avenue Toronto, ON M5T 2C7 ATTN: El Triunfo School Project
For more information on Pueblito and the other projects they support in Central America, please visit www.pueblito.org.
I hope to travel to Guatemala for the end of the school year in October. I’m also working on a couple of other initiatives for the school and I hope to have more good news to share with you shortly.