March 29, 2013
It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me about the middle school and high school we are supporting in the community of El Triunfo in Guatemala. Since December I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Guatemala twice with my most recent visit taking place earlier this month. The school year is well underway and I was able to visit some of the classes and meet students, teachers, and the new leadership of each school. While the sizes of the classes are small, the project now offers students classes from grade seven through twelve for the first time. It means that students from El Triunfo can finish high school without having to travel outside of the community.
But first I’ll backtrack to my visit in December when I spent a couple of weeks visiting various projects and friends throughout the country.
As you know I’ve been working with Asociacion Maya De Desarrollo, the women’s weaving cooperative in El Triunfo, for a number of years. Lately there has been an initiative by friends in the United States to equip the weavers with ergonomic weaving benches. Typically, the weavers spend hours kneeling on the ground working which can cause discomfort and pain. But the use of the benches enables the weavers to protect their health while producing more textiles of better quality. On a day in December, twenty-three women received benches which had been purchased for you. You can see photos from the day here.
I also had the opportunity to visit the school and see how construction was progressing on the construction project which will add classroom space. There was also a pleasant surprise for me in the primary school as they were able to establish their own computer lab with a donation from a Guatemalan foundation. Here’s a photo of the lab.
On my last day of my December visit, I spent an afternoon at a Christmas festival in the heart of Guatemala City. In recent years the municipal government has spent a great deal of money on the city’s historical centre. The Christmas festival took place over a couple of weeks and actually included an outdoor skating rink!
Earlier this month I returned to Guatemala for the first time in the new school year which began in January. After a several-month delay, related to the school construction project, the new leadership of the COCODE (the community’s economic development council) as well as a new junta directiva for each of the middle school and high school finally took over. It was good to meet with the new team which includes Santos, a teacher in the middle school, who is from the community. While the project still faces some significant challenges, including a decline in student enrollment this year, the new team has brought with them some great positive energy and the sense that if we work together we can overcome them.
On April 13, the new addition to the school will be officially opened. For the first time, each grade in the entire school – primary, middle, and secondary – will have their own classroom. There will also be a room to hold school-wide and community events.
But as I mentioned there are some challenges which need to be overcome in order to improve the quality of the education which will help it attract and retain both teachers and students. Some of the pressing needs include
- Computers – An increase the number of computers available in the computer lab. There has never been more than 15 computers available for student use as a result students in some of the classes need to share.
- Internet – The teachers would also like to connect the existing computer system to the Internet so that more web-based learning and resources could be accessed by everyone.
- Library – the school has never had a library and the teachers wish to establish one with at least some basic resources.
- Improved classroom technology – while some teachers use their own computers to develop curriculum and class presentations, there are no screens and projectors in any of the classrooms.
- Washrooms – the existing washrooms were built for a small primary school. They need to be rebuilt and expanded.
The COCODE and junta directivas are now working on budgets for each of the specific requests. The good news is that we feel that we can tap into existing resources (NGOs and foundations) that are already active in the region, including some groups which have previously worked in the community.
In the short-term, the junta directivas are also working on a plan to increase the number of students in the schools. There are currently only 17 students enrolled in the high school and 56 in the middle school. They plan to visit the homes of a number of former students who may have started school in January but did not continue to attend classes to find out why they are not in school and to ask them to consider to return.
Plans are also underway for a visit later in the year by the teachers to meet with Pueblito Canada’s partners in Nicaragua to learn more about how they promote psychological development in primary school students through art-based education.
I’m also pleased that a number of students have expressed an interest in attending University. The University of San Carlos (USAC) has opened a satellite campus in the near-by community of Solola spurring interest in many to continue their education.
When I last wrote to you I mentioned that plans are already underway for the 2nd Annual Guatemala Mid-Winter Bash. Due to my travel schedule and the schedules of the event organizers, we had to delay this bash until later in the year. I’m pleased to tell you that the Guatemala Mid-Spring Bash will be held on Friday, May 3. Please hold the date in your calendars and look for ticket information shortly!
I’d like to thank everyone who made a donation to the project in 2012 and the students and the community in El Triunfo looks forward to your support this year. Donations are used to pay the salaries of the teachers in the middle school and high school and funds have already been sent to Guatemala for the months of January, February and March. Your 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:
@ 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.