Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Dreams come true for Christmas

Last weeks were all about scholarship programme.
There was a meeting for all the families who subscribed or wanted to subscribe their young kids to high school. The criteria were: willingness to study, involvement in Li Ch’utam activities, poor family resources making studying impossible. The applicants had to fill in the questionnaire with questions such as: why do you want to continue studying, what do you plan to do in 5 years, why do you apply for Li Ch’utam scholarship, how do you want to be involved in Li Ch’utam, how can Li Ch’utam support you apart from the scholarship. They also had to do the year budget for the scholarship. 
(on the pictures you can see the applicants working on their applications)

During the application process it turned out that 2 out of 7 applicants don’t really speak Spanish on the communicative level, other 2 understand but speak rather basic. That makes me think how is it possible that teachers let them graduate 6th grade of primary school (all the classes are in Spanish) if they cannot communicate in Spanish.. I suppose they let them pass because they know that they didn’t make any effort during the year to really teach them.

The next step was an interview with the families to get to know their financial situation, so they were asked about fixed job and other family incomes, number of kids, why parents want the applicant to study and how do they see studying with home tasks.

Thanks to BALEU S.A. we could finally give 3 scholarships and not 2. After reviewing the situation of each family it turned out that there is only one family that has no resources to support the secondary education (no fixed job, many kids) and others live with limited but rather stable income. 

So the final decision was to give one full scholarship and the rest was divided between the other 6 young people. In this way we can support them all according to the needs they have. Apart from financial support Li Ch’utam wants to support them with activities like computer classes, typing, English etc. Celia, Devora, Fidencio, Israel, Julio, Rony and Otto will be studying starting from January with Li Ch’utam support. You should have seen the faces of the kids and their families when I was informing them about the decision. They were so grateful that someone is supporting them in their kids education. I think that’s the best present I have ever given to anyone for Christmas J. Do you remember when I wrote few months ago about the young girl who wants to study but her family has no money for it? She will receive the scholarship - dreams come true for Christmas :)

Marry Christmas!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Understanding the community

Communication with the community is progressing. Visits of each house were taking too long and were not possible because of lack of time and translation resources (because of activities with kids we could have run them only on Monday and Friday morning and not always on these days we had people to translate). So the strategy changed. We had meetings with  COCODE's from both communities (Nueva Mercedes and La Ceiba) and after that we had meetings with people (women mainly) from both communities. At each meeting we had around 10-15 people (instead of 50) but the meetings were very effective. We asked about what people think about Li Ch'utam's work in the community, we were discussing the activities we run with primary school kids and it turned out that some of the families didn't know much about Li Ch'utam or about our activities. Since then we have few new kids coming for our classes. We also discussed the high school education possibilities, costs and possible transportation options. The most interesting part for the women were of course the activities with adults. All the participants (20 women) were very enthusiastic about all our ideas and subscribed for all of them. They had also some new ideas like bread and soap making. It seems like 2014 will be a busy year :).

Secondary education
In the past year there were 5 kids attending high school in Telemán out of which only one girl (for around 20 at the age of high school). I was talking to another girl who did one year of high school but did not get promotion and was not studying last year. She said that she was not studying because her younger brother started to study and the family didn’t have money for her education. She really wants to study and because of a big promotion and Li Ch’utam’s involvement in secondary education her parents decided to subscribe her to start school from January again. She said however that one day her father says that she can continue education and another day he says that there is no reason for it as he has no secondary education and has nice job and above all she’s a woman so what for does she need to study. Her brother says that it’s a waist of money to put her studying. I’m not surprised she didn’t pass the year with such support from her family..
So the subscription to high school was the hottest topic during the last weeks.
First the transportation to Telemán was organized for a reduced price. The previous volunteers discovered that people don’t send their kids to high school because the cost of transportation is too high and the road not secure. It was agreed with one driver that he takes each day high school kids at a specific hour and brings them back after classes. It was to be an exclusive transportation (and the secure one) for high school kids and for certain amount of money to be paid each way no matter how many kids are going. The price reduced from 5Q to 3,75Q each way with at least 20 kids. However after that we received the information that there will be high school in La Constancia which is a closer village, much better and cheaper option for people in the village. The cost of transportation is 2Q each. The cost of school is much lover as well, so the total cost would be around 150Q per month comparing to more than 400Q per month in Telemán. Li Ch'utam helped people to get more information about conditions to encourage them to subscribe. We wanted also to organize the secure transportation on a reduced price to La Constancia instead of Telemán. Counting with 20 out of 27 at the age of high school only 10 were really interested and were attending the meetings. Finally only 7 subscribed to La Constancia and maybe 2-3 will go to Telemán. Only one family asked for financial support. The transportation to La Constancia will not be organized as there are not enough kids. I was very surprised that less than a half of families attended the meetings about high school. So I started talking to these young people if they are going to subscribe and why didn’t their families attend the meetings. Some of them said that they don’t want to study. So it seems that the problem is not security, lack of money or distance but people's (both kids and parents) willingness. Now I feel like it’s worth to focus on those who really want to study, support them financially or in any other way to make them examples for the community and encourage more kids to study next years. Li Ch’utam decided to give 2 scholarships this year to those who could not study without our support. I hope all this will make the families think about their kids education.

One of the previous volunteers suggested that it would be nice to run a study to understand the life of the community better. There are moments when I see the need of such a study as some situations are so much NOT logical for me that it’s difficult to accept them.
Few months ago the school received many (around 200) books from the Ministry of Education. They were supposed to be used during the first half an hour (7:30-8:00) every day during school year so that kids can progress in reading. As the teachers never came at 7:300 the books were not used. During summer activities we do literacy classes and the kids read almost all of the books we have (around 40) so I asked the director if Li Ch’utam could use the school books. He said that during holidays he is not a director but as he was responsible for the books before he put them all in boxes and there is a list and nothing can be lost so Li Ch’utam cannot use them during holidays. So the books were not used during school term (as they arrived late and teachers didn’t want to come for this half an hour reading) and cannot be used during holidays because have to be in the boxes. That’s how the resources (limited indeed) are used effectively..

Before the holiday started I was informed that the invoice of the school electricity was not paid and it’s possible that during holidays there will be no electricity in school. That would disturb our classes a lot as we run 2 hours computer classes twice a week and use computers also during other activities. I even offered help in electricity bill payment. The director assured me that it will be done by the Parents Committee and I don’t have to worry about it. Luckily there was electricity from the beginning of holidays so I though it’s done. Two weeks ago we were connecting computer and speakers for the movie we always put on Wednesday and the discovered that there is no electricity at school. Next day I talked to the director and he said that the bill was to be paid that day and from the next day we can use electricity. Of course next day there was no electricity so Friday computer classes were cancelled. However I was very positively surprised because on Monday morning the electricity was there and in the afternoon I had computer classes with kids. That proves that IT IS possible here to manage the situation “quite” quickly! J Why to wait until the electricity is cut off..?

Loneliness means being closer to people

I forgot to mention hat since 10 days I’m alone in the house. Quite an interesting experience how to overcome fear at night and another prove that getting used to new situation is just a matter of time. I also feel a bit closer to the community, watching local football championship with them, talking to people I meet in the village more than before, getting a lot of information from Celia, Devora and Waldemar and learning Q’eqchi. J It’s somehow different to be alone here than with other volunteers but I’m really looking forward to mid January to have more people onboard.