April 21, 2014
Dear friends, it’s been a while since my last update on the middle school and high school we’re supporting in the community of El Triunfo, Guatemala. In the months since my last update, I’ve visited Guatemala twice, the new school year has begun and the school continues to make some progress in its growth and development.
After surviving the ice storm which gripped Toronto at Christmas, I safely made my way to Guatemala. I had planned the trip so that I might be able to be at the school for the first day of school. However on my arrival in the country, I was informed that the Ministry of Education has decided that the first day of school would be January 16, the day after I was leaving the country. Sigh. There went that plan for another year.
On January 2 I visited to the school for the first of two meetings at the school, which included the participation of Lucio, the new indigenous mayor of the community, who was sworn into office along with 68 other “alcaldes indígenas” in Solola on New Year’s Day. For those of you who have been supporting my adventures for a number of years, Lucio and his family received support from us to rebuild in 2005 after their house was partially destroyed during Hurricane Stan.
At the school I met with members of the members of the COCODE (the community’s economic development council), Santos who is a teacher as well as Lucio.
I was pleased to see that the washroom project which you supported had been completed and the school directors and teachers were returning for their first day of work of the new year.
Last year the municipality of Sololá along with the Ministry of Education had funded an expansion of the school building adding much needed classroom and meeting space but also failed to fund the equipment and furniture needed to fill the classrooms. I had hoped that the school would find funding for the most crucial needs but I learnt that they were still of need of basic items like desks and chairs. So I decided to dig deep into my bank accounts and go shopping to purchase the needed items and worry about raising the money for the items later. On January 7, a group of us headed to the city of Quetzaltenango to do a little bit of shopping. There was a good omen on the road as we headed to the city. During the day, we purchased 4 whiteboards, 6 teacher desks, 6 teacher chairs, 2 projectors, one screen and a bunch of plastic chairs.
Where do you go to buy plastic chairs? Plastilandia of course.
(But I also wondered what you could buy here?)
The next day I returned to the school accompanied by my good friend Javier from Toronto and we once again met the teachers who were delighted to see the purchases of the previous day.
A few weeks after my return to Toronto, I was told about the enrollment numbers for the year. The school had put much work into trying to attract new students to the school. A big new sign was posted on the highway at the road leading into the community.
They took to the airwaves of a community radio station to promote the school and distributed flyers and posters to other villages. During my January visits in El Triunfo I saw parents waiting at the school to register their children and also saw parents and students walking into the community for the same purpose. So it came as a bit of a disappointment that the enrollment is only slightly higher than last year at around 80 students. I had expected that the numbers would be a little higher. I was told that the enrollment in this level of education (middle and high school) is down across the country. In El Triunfo, some families may be short of resources and have chosen to keep children at home. In addition, a handful of families with resources have sent students to other schools to pursue a different curriculum such as nursing, teaching or computers. But it is still an achievement to be providing an education to the students who are enrolled in the school.
In March I returned to Guatemala for some fun at the beach, which included a trip on a very small boat to see dolphins and a return visit to the school in time for Carnival! As mandated by the Ministry of Education, the schools in Guatemala mark the last day before Lent with a celebration. In El Triunfo, there was dancing, skits and some clowning around.
While the community continues to look for financial support for various projects in the village and the school such as improvements to the unpaved road leading down into the village, we are still responsible for the majority of the salaries for the teachers, directors and secretaries in both the middle school and high school. While students do pay a modest fee of about $3 per month to attend the school, this is much more affordable than the private schools located outside of the community.
This year we’ve already bought the much needed supplies and furniture for the school in January and paid the teachers for the months of January, February and March.
Your ongoing support is greatly appreciated by the students, teachers and parents in El Triunfo. As in the past, 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.” 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.