Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Collaborating for a Cause

Most recent and exciting news for Li Ch'utam was our invitation and presence at a Educational Reform Conference in Guatemala City this past weekend.  Hosted by our friends at Campus Technologico and Empresarios por la Educacion, Samir and myself were given a key-note speaker position in the conference agenda, where we shared, to a roomful of businesses, organizations  and foundations working within in education discourse, our project in Nueva Mercedes. The highlight of the conference was how to implement technology to increase educational outcomes which gave us a great platform to present on as our work is a grassroots example of using computers to reinforce and in turn extend the knowledge of our pupils.

Following our presentation we were introduced to members of CoEd (a non-profit organization that provides educational resources to marginalized communities and has centers located throughout Guatemala, one being in nearby Teleman); young programmers who have developed a number of educational based computer games; and multiple other business and organizations that briefly but enthusiastically expressed interest in our project.  It was a very speedy conference as people were rushing to get back to work on a busy Friday afternoon, but numbers and emails were exchanged and we are very excited to follow up with many of these potential contributors.

Back in Mercedes, all is going according to plan, as we volunteers continue to work with the teachers throughout the school day and run our after-school program that is becoming more eclectic and productive as Samir has proposed the idea to give small lectures before computer lessons, e.g. basic lessons to begin practicing multiplication questions on Tux Mathematics (one of the educational programs we use).  Thus far the programs we are currently using have been well accepted by the children but I believe that we will need more diversity in the near future.  Meeting the computer game designers gives me hope that this will be no issue, as does discoveries of programs such as "Khan Academy", an educational website that provides video lessons at every level in dozens of different subjects.  In instances like this I am reminded of how increasingly wonderful the worldwide web is.

This past week Samir has finalized plans to organize a field trip for the 6th grade class to Finca Paraiso, a natural hot-spring waterfall located outside of nearby town El Estore.  The 6th grade teacher, Ronny, is very excited about this trip as he feels it will be a fun getaway for the children, but also an enlightening experience for the students to be introduced to one of Guatemala's most beautiful natural settings.  Ideally, we will be able to make this a Li Ch'utam tradition to give the 6th graders, soon be graduates of Escuela Primaria.

With long trips to city and busy days in the classroom during the school-day and after-school program, the work with Li Ch'utam can often be quite arduous and demanding, but the moments of celebration and leisure, such as the Mother's Day Fiesta, and refereeing a football game for the children, keep everything fresh and gives us the sense that we are accomplishing a lot and building strong relationships along the way.

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