Tag Archives: school

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.

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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.

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Antonio and the grade 12 class!

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.” 

 

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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!

May 2015 Update!

May 10,2015

Dear friends.

It’s been a few weeks since my last update on the school we’re supporting in the community of El Triunfo in Guatemala. During Easter week I had the opportunity to visit the country. Upon my eventual landing (another whole story involving a flight delay and a very interesting flight into Guatemala City), I was immediately reminded by how seriously the country takes this holiday. On a Wednesday afternoon, traffic in the city was lighter than usual and the offices I needed to visit before heading out of the city were either closed for the week or would be closing shortly.

Fortunately the next day in El Triunfo, I was able to meet with the new COCODE (the community’s economic development council) who took on their new role on March 10.  It was a good opportunity to meet with the people, including Santiago, the president,  who would be leading the activities on the school for the next two years and to discuss our tasks and responsibilities for the project, including the reporting and receipting of the funds we send them.  Unfortunately there weren’t any classes due to the Easter break but I did meet several teachers and students on the streets in the town of Sololá during the trip over the next few days.

with teachers and staff in January 2015

with teachers and staff in January 2015

The COCODE had one piece of disappointing news for me. A decision was made to cancel the grade 10 class this year due to low enrollment – only two students had registered for classes. But enrollment in the grade 7 class had remained at 32, which is the largest class we’ve ever had in the school.  One of the goals for the year will be to ensure that these students continue into grade 8 and that an equally large grade 7 class comes to the school in 2016. Another goal for the year is to connect the school’s computer lab to the Internet.  This week a technician is going to take a look at the lab to evaluate what would be needed to connect it to the Internet and hopefully provide an accurate budget for the project.

Your support of the school is greatly appreciated by the students, teachers and the community in El Triunfo.  Each month we send funds to the school to pay the salaries of the teachers in both the middle and high schools.  You can donate online here.    (Important:  under “You can select to apply your donation to a specific fund set up by this charity,” please select “El Triunfo School Project.”)

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

On another note, I’m pleased to let you know that my annual driveway sale for Guatemala is back for the fifth time!  On June 6, you’ll have a chance to pick up items from Asociacion Maya, fairly traded coffee and jewelry. Details are here.  I hope to see you there!

Ken

Ken’s Fifth Annual Driveway Sale for Guatemala!

Join me for this annual sale featuring Guatemalan weaving from Asociación Maya de Desarrollo, Solola, Guatemala; Fair trade coffee from the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA), Guatemala; and jewelry from Casa Milagro, Guatemala.

Featuring weaving demonstrations by Maria Xoch Ajacalon from Asociación Maya

Maria Xoch Ajcalon

Saturday, June 6

8:30 am to 4:00 pm

772 Coxwell Avenue (north of Danforth Avenue and Coxwell subway station)

Toronto

For more information: Ken McGuffin, mcguffin@rotman.utoronto.ca / 416-466-7594

Donations will also be accepted for the El Triunfo Education Project which provides an affordable education for the sons and daughters of weavers from Asociacion Maya through the establishment of a middle school and a high school in the village of El Triunfo, Guatemala. For more information or how to make a tax deductible donation to the project, please visit https://guatemalaschool.wordpress.com