Tag Archives: school

School Update for December with a surprise!

December 24, 2017

Happy holidays everyone!

It’s been quite the year for the middle school we are supporting in the community of El Triunfo, Guatemala. We started the school year in January with around 60 students enrolled in grades 7, 8 and 9 and had around 60 students finish the school year in October with 21 students graduating from grade 9 in November.

Graduation 2017

Our grade nine class on graduation day!

 

On a recent trip to Guatemala, I visited the school mostly for the reason to get caught up on the paper work. Every dollar we send to the school to pay the teachers must be accounted for and it was time to get the receipts for each month’s pay since I had last visited the school. During the course of my visit to the school with the community members I work with, there was a surprise for me that Gregorio, the school director, and the teachers were planning to reveal to me in 2018. Earlier this year they had applied to a foundation for a donation of computers and their request was successful! I was shown ten new computers, which had recently arrived, and are waiting to be set up for the start of the school year in January. Next month when I will be at the school for the first day of the school year, I’ll get more information from Gregorio on how the computers were obtained. But I ‘m thrilled that they now have the computers and will, more or less, have a fully functional lab, with computers for all of the students in each class.

Computers

My 2018 surprise revealed a little early!

 

I want to thank all of you for your support of the school in 2017. Many of you have been extremely generous in both your moral and financial support of the project. I’d like to remind you that it’s not too late to make a donation to the school this year so we’ll have the funds to pay the teachers as they return to the classroom next month.

You can donate online through Casa Pueblito or mail in a cheque. (A cheque actually ensures that more of your money goes directly to the school!) But here’s the link for online donations –

https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/casa-pueblito/

(If you are donating online please follow: under “Donate To This Charity Now”, please select option #2 “El Triunfo School Project.” You may also wish to indicate that your donation is for Ken’s School in the note.)

You can also mail a cheque payable to Casa Pueblito or drop one off with me.

 Casa Pueblito

107A 2238 Dundas St. W

Toronto, ON M6R 3A9

ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season for you and your family! See you in 2018.

Ken

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My August Visit to the School

October 29, 2017

Dear friends,

Can you believe it? The year has ended for the middle school we are supporting in the community of El Triunfo in Guatemala. Classes concluded earlier this month and the graduation ceremony for the grade nine class will be held on November 6.

On my last visit to the school in August, I was very pleasantly surprised to see enrollment had more or less held steady in all three grades. This means the school is bucking some local and national trends which shows school enrolment at this level is dropping. Throughout the year, I was expecting to see some of the boys in grade who were older and larger than their classmates to disappear but they hadn’t. It was quite rewarding to see them still in school as I’ve seen many kids over the years drop-out for work or family reasons.

Grade 9

Our grade nine class

 

You can see some photos from my visit to Guatemala from the school and when I went to a soccer game on what turned out to be a very rainy day in Solola here.

A recent interview (Spanish) with an official with the United Nations Development Program discussed how Guatemala is the only Latin American country not to have reduced poverty over the past two decades and in fact poverty is increasing with around 65% of the Guatemala population living in poverty. In indigenous communities, the poverty level is much higher. Around five years ago many of the families with children in the school could benefit from a program which paid them a cash bonus each month if their children were registered in school and had received all of their immunizations. The program was based on a highly successful program in Brazil. While reports say that the program continues in Guatemala, it has not been available to the people of El Triunfo for a number of years. (When I asked why the program isn’t available anymore I was told, “We voted for the wrong candidate for President.”)

On a brighter note, one of the highlights of the school since its inception has been the large numbers of girls who have been studied in the school. I was thinking about this recently on the International Day of the Girl on October 11. This project started off over ten years by supporting two young women with scholarship and continues to support the aspirations of many young women who wish to pursue an education.

Grade 7

Our Grade 7 Class

 

Thank you for your ongoing support of the school. Your donations are used to pay the salaries of the teachers each month. You can donate online through Casa Pueblito or mail in a cheque. (A cheque actually ensures that more of your money goes directly to the school!) But here’s the link for online donations –

https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/casa-pueblito/

(If you are donating online please follow: under “Donate To This Charity Now”, please select option #2 “El Triunfo School Project.” You may also wish to indicate that your donation is for Ken’s School in the note.)

You can also mail a cheque payable to Casa Pueblito or drop one off with me.

 Casa Pueblito

107A 2238 Dundas St. W

Toronto, ON M6R 3A9

ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

Thank you! And I hope to share some graduation photos with you next month.

Ken

A New School Year in Guatemala

February 18, 2017

Dear friends,

A few weeks ago the school year started in the middle school in the community of El Triunfo in Guatemala. For more than ten years we’ve been supporting education projects in the community and the experience has had its ups and downs. But I’m always excited about the start of a new school year and it made me even happier when I found out that the middle school has more students than it did at this time last year. Currently there are fifty-eight students in grades seven, eight and nine with the expectation that a few more students will register in the forthcoming days.

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Students from the middle school in El Trunfo

While we are no longer supporting a high school in the community, I am also excited about a new phase in the project. This year we’re going to start to provide scholarships to students from El Triunfo who are attending high school or university. Over the past few months, I’ve discovered that there are students who have pursued an education outside of the community. Many of these students in high school are pursuing studies which have put them on track to attend university. I’ve also discovered that several of these students have reached the end of the financial resources they have available to continue to study. With these scholarships we’re going to start small by only offering a handful of scholarships this year. If you are interested in funding a student this year or next year, please let me know.

You can donate online through Casa Pueblito or mail in a cheque. (A cheque actually ensures that more of your money goes directly to the school!) But here’s the link for online donations – https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/casa-pueblito/

(If you are donating online please follow: under “Donate To This Charity Now”, please select option #2 “El Triunfo School Project.” You may also wish to indicate that your donation is for Ken’s School in the note.)

You can also mail a cheque payable to Casa Pueblito (please note this is a new address).

 Casa Pueblito

107A 2238 Dundas St. W

Toronto, ON M6R 3A9

ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

 Thank you everyone! Ken

School Update for September 2016

September 11, 2016

Dear friends,

It’s been a while since my last update on the school we are supporting in the community of El Triunfo in Sololá, Guatemala. Since the spring I’ve visited Guatemala twice including a visit for the anniversary celebration of the school in July and a brief but important visit earlier this month.

The events for the anniversary are always a fun event for me to attend. I’m always struck by the creativity and energy of many of the activities and the efforts of both students and teachers. There was also an evening ceremony with Lucas, a Mayan priest from the community and his family.

lucas

Mayan ceremony with Lucas

 

Other highlights included the willingness of Antonio, the high school director, to lay it all out on the dance floor with his grade 12 students, the dance of the “seniors” by the grade 12 class and the crowning of the senoritas for the next year.

antonio

Antonio and the grade 12 class!

 

ancianos

Dance of the “seniors”

 

You can see more pictures from the school here and well as my visit to Asociacion Maya, the women’s weaving cooperative here.

senoritas

Las Senoritas

 

While my July visit was filled with fun and laughter, my September visit had a more serious purpose.

Over the past two years, both the community and I have been preoccupied with the low enrollment in the high school. This year, as you know, we did not have a grade 11 class after not enrolling any students for grade 10 last year. Before the start of this year’s school year, members of the COCODE put in quite a bit of work in promoting the school by going door-to-door in the village, doing promotional work in the neighboring villages and taking advantage of some free publicity on community radio to run promos for the school. Despite their best efforts, the grade ten class this year is currently only four students. Combined with the grade 12 class of 8 students, it makes for a very small school.

During my July visit, I learned a bit more about the enrollment issue from speaking with various community members. Some families have concerns about the curriculum which is “perito contrador” – which offers primarily accounting and business courses and does not provide a pathway to university. There are other families with the resources to send their children to schools in the larger near-by communities which offer a wide-range of courses. There is also a significant amount of immigration to the United States from the area including by boys who could be students in the school.

In addition to the enrollment issue, donations for the entire project have consistently lagged behind the expenses for several years leaving me to cover the gap. This is an unsustainable situation, one that I was willing to willfully ignore as I hoped that we would get more students in the high school.

After meeting with the COCODE last week, we agreed to suspend the high school for the 2017 school year. We’ll consult with the community over the coming months to see if there is enough interest to relaunch the high school in 2018, perhaps with a new curriculum. Next year we will continue with the middle school as the student numbers have remained strong. One possible project, if funding can be secured, is to upgrade the computer lab. Since the school’s inception, we’ve never been able to have enough computers to have a full lab.

In the meantime, we will continue to fund both the high school and middle school for the rest of this year and I’m looking forward to attending the graduation ceremonies for the grade nine and grade twelve classes in November 26.

I hope I can still count on your support for this year as well as for next year. It’s a decision I did not take lightly having thought about it for more than a year. And thank you to the people in Canada and in Guatemala who I sought advice from during this time.

You can donate online through Casa Pueblito or mail in a cheque. (A cheque actually ensures that more of your money goes directly to the school!)

(If you are donating online please follow: under “Donate To This Charity Now”, please select option #2 “El Triunfo School Project.” You may also wish to indicate that your donation is for Ken’s School in the note.)

You can also mail a cheque payable to Casa Pueblito (please note this is a new address).

 Casa Pueblito

107A 2238 Dundas St. W

Toronto, ON M6R 3A9

ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

 Thanks everyone for your ongoing support.

Ken

A visit to Guatemala

March 22, 2016

Dear friends,

I’m back from my visit to the school in Guatemala. I had hoped to provide an update for you from Guatemala but my laptop didn’t cooperate.

The trip gave me the first opportunity this year to visit the school in the community of El Triunfo in the department of Sololá where we have 70 students this year studying in the middle school and high school. Coincidently on my first visit to the school I just happened to meet three graduates from last year who were visiting the school to pick up their official diplomas.

 

DSC_0771

Three high school grads from 2015 and their diplomas

 

For this year’s students and staff, the school year is in full swing with planning underway for several special events including Mother’s Day festivities on May 10th, the annual celebration for the anniversary of the school in July, and the graduation ceremonies for the high school students on November 5. The school has been fortunate that the teaching staff remains the same as year. A new director for the middle school has hired this year along with a new secretary for the high school.

I met with the community economic development committee (COCODE), which oversees the school and discussed some of the challenges facing the school including the poor enrollment in the high school. For many of the poorer families in the area, it is perceived to be better for the children to be working rather than attending school. The drop off in enrollment from the middle school to the school reflects national trends as a recent newspaper article shows that while 98.75%  of Guatemala’s children are enrolled in primary school, this drops to 68.43% in middle school, while the enrollment in high school is only 38.02%. In other area of concern, the school is looking to upgrade the computer lab with a few new computers and is also seeking affordable Internet access for the entire school.

One fun part of the school visit was giving out gift bags to the grade seven, eleven and twelve classes which were prepared by students in the Guatemala Project at Ursula Franklin Academy in Toronto. The bags contained each contained a notebook with a personal message in English and Spanish from the Canadian student, a friendship bracelet, pens as well as a Spanish/English language flash cards. The bags were excitedly received by the students in El Triunfo.

 

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This year’s grade seven class with their gift bags

 

The following week I returned to the school where the students in El Triunfo had prepared their own messages, and in some cases, gift bags for the students in Toronto.

Thanks to everyone who has made a donation to the school this month. With your support, I am able to send money to the school each month for the salaries of the teachers and staff.

You can donate online through Casa Pueblito or mail in a cheque. (A cheque actually ensures that more of your money goes directly to the school!)

(If you are donating online please follow: under “Donate To This Charity Now”, please select option #2 “El Triunfo School Project.” You may also wish to indicate that your donation is for Ken’s School in the note.)

You can also mail a cheque payable to Casa Pueblito (please note this is a new address).

Casa Pueblito

107A 2238 Dundas St. W

Toronto, ON M6R 3A9

ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

Thanks everyone. Look for more photos from the school as well as the Lenten processions in Guatemala City here.

Ken

 

First Day of School for 2016

The Guatemalan school year runs from January to the end of October. Students will be back in class in the school in El Triunfo this week. Below is a new sign which was put up at the entrance into the community earlier in the year. “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.” 

 

DSC_0680

A Quick Visit to Guatemala

May 23, 2015

Dear friends,

On Tuesday I had the privilege of visiting the middle school and high school in the community of El Triunfo. Unlike my visit during Easter week, school was in full swing and I was able to visit each of the classes and speak with the teachers, school directors and students.

There are 32 (!!) students in the grade seven class this year.

There are 32 (!!) students in the grade seven class this year.

I’ve never seen the students so enthusiastic. They had lots of questions for me about Canada which quickly exceeded my ability to answer them. (How do you say beaver and moose en espanol?)  I’m looking forward to my return visit in July for the anniversary celebrations for the establishment of the school.

On this visit, we also made some progress towards getting the computer lab wired for the Internet. Carlos, a local computer expert who runs an Internet service provider in  the rural area in this part of Guatemala, accompanied me on the visit. He determined that it was possible to get a connection to his system by putting a reception tower in the next village over and a reception dish on the roof of the school. Hopefully this will happen soon but we’re waiting on a budget for the costs involved.

Looking for a signal

You can see further photos from my day at the school, including class photos and this year’s curriculum here.

I’d like to thank everyone who has made contributions to the school in recent weeks. It’s greatly appreciated by everyone involved including the students, teachers, the entire community as well as myself. I was reminded on Wednesday of the importance of education in the lives of the students. I ran into Jose, a graduate from the middle school, on the street in the town of Sololá. Due to his family situation he had to continue his high school studies at night school while looking for work but with some private support from a donor, he was able to graduate. He’s now working for an NGO in the region. He told me he was very grateful that he had the opportunity to continue his education after primary school.

In terms of donations, I’d like to point out that there have been a couple of changes in the process. Pueblito Canada, at the start of the year, amalgamated with a sister organization, Casa Canadiense. Both are organizations that have been working throughout Latin America and Canada since the 1970’s and there has been much cross-pollination between the two organizations in recent years. The new entity is known as Casa-Pueblito.  I continue to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the new organization.

So it’s important that your donations are directed to Casa-Pueblito, either online or by mail as instructed below.  Casa-Pueblito is also in a position to accept donations of securities. You can donate online here.

(Click on “Donate Now.” Then under “You can select to apply your donation to a specific fund set up by this charity,” select “El Triunfo School Project.”)

You can also mail a cheque payable to Casa-Pueblito to (please note this is a new address) :

Casa-Pueblito
107A 2238 Dundas St. W
Toronto, ON M6R 3A9
ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

Thanks!

Ken

 PS – don’t forget about my Sale for Guatemala on June 6 – fairly trading weaving, jewelry and coffee – all supporting projects in Guatemala!