Friday, December 16, 2016

Greetings from Nueva Mercedes and the new volunteer team!

Ma zala chol?

(How is your heart doing? in Q’eqchi)

I would like to present myself, a new member of Lichutam’s volunteer team. My name is Anna and I come from Finland. My heart burns for climate change, sustainable development issues and of course, Latin America.  Last spring, I spent two months in Peru where I conducted a field study for my master’s thesis that handled impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations. After finishing my studies, I wanted to further explore Latin America, do something that matters and achieve some professional experience. To have been welcomed to join Li Ch’utam’s team seemed like a perfect opportunity to do all these things. So for the next three months I will be on board! :) 

I would like to apologize for the radio silence of the blog despite already five weeks have passed since I arrived to Nueva Mercedes. We have lately had regular power cutsand the Wi-Fi has barely worked at home. In addition, the user account of the blog was on the lost ways for a while. However, in the future, Daniel (a coordinator of Li Ch’utam’s project since September, Daniel will present himself in no time) and I will aim to update the blog in a regular basis. In Li Ch'utam’s Facebook group one can also follow what we have been up to here in Nueva Mercedes.

At the moment, the children have their vacation from school. Despite that we have continued to organize different kind of extracurricular activities on a daily basis. During the holiday,it has sometimes been challenging to attract children to participate in the activities. However, we have managed to have a bunch of 6-16 children appearing to the school every afternoon.

The focus of the activities has been kept in computer classes since it has been observed to be the most preferred activity. We have tried to use “a carrot system” in the computer classes, i.e. focusing on educative games for 1-1,5 hours and then letting the children choose themselves what they want to play. This method has shown its effectiveness since often the kids would rather just play something entertaining. We are also happy that through computing games we have managed to provide some more personal support for children that obviously struggle with basics of Math and reading.

In addition to the computer classes we have also organized other extracurricular activities such as “nature&recycling”, reading traditional Q’eqchi stories translated to Spanish and practicing writing. All the activities have been well perceived by children. In our nature&recycling class, for instance, we prepared our own bowling game made of the abandoned plastic bottles that we gathered from the village. The idea of the activity was to explain children why we should and how we can take care of the nature. In couple of afternoons we had tough and emotional bowling tournaments between teams of “Barcelona” and “Zuluk”!

I thought that it would have taken a long time before the children would build trust in a new person. Therefore, I am a happy how fast they have accepted me. Now it is impossible to pass through the village without hearing a young eager voice shouting: Anaaaaaa!! Cómo estas???

 Otherwise the time here in Nueva Mercedes has flown with the “garden project”, taking care of the scholarship applications of the secondary and college students, getting to know people of the village as well as planning new activities and projects.

Shortly after I arrived, we began to saw seeds of new nutrition rich vegetables and fruits that are suitable for the tropical climate together with the families committed to the garden projects. So far, spinach,for instance has been a great success. The families seem to be at the same time curious and enthusiastic of the new seeds (and especially that the spinach has grown so nicely and fast!). Many of them have begun to organize more space to saw more seeds and constructed new beautiful huertos (home gardens). We have had in mind to shortly organize a cooking workshop and teach the families different manners how the new vegetables and fruits can be cooked.

There is also a new interesting project getting started with a local agricultural institution “ITACASAN”.  The institution is a secondary school level school that with is simultaneously with schooling, teaching practical skills for the pupils. For instance, the youngsters are responsible to take care of the cultivations of the institution and cook food for themselves. The pupils are also involved in the preparing process of the institution’s own organic product “Pinol” (a powder made of corn, cacao and amaranto consumed as a drink here in Guatemala) that is currently sold in a local scale. The aim of the collaboration project is that the students of ITASACAN would be involved in the garden project of Li Ch’utam as their internship, ITASACAN would introduce new seeds for the garden project (for example the seeds of spinaches we received from the institution) and reciprocally, Li Ch’utam would facilitate in marketing products of ITASACAN. We are eager for the project since these kinds of steps are like seeds for establishing sustainable development in practice.

As my personal project during my stay in Nueva Mercedes I will conduct an evaluation assessing what have been the impacts of the activities and aid Li Ch’utam has provided in Nueva Mercedes in terms of strengthening schooling skills and encouraging children to continue studying.The goal of the evaluation is to find out which activities and services of Li Ch’utam have been successful so far and what could be done better in the future.

I am happy and curious to investigate the relation between sustainable development and education on local level. Hopefully, the results of the evaluation will also later serve for the best of the project and providing even better basis for children for their studies!

From the next week Daniel and I will have a Christmas break for couple of weeks. People here in Nueva Mercedes have already starting to get ready for Christmas and we will also load our batteries to come back with even more energy in January. In January, our team will also get strengthened as a new volunteer, Julia from Germany will join us. For now, we want to wish Happy Holidays for all the followers of the blog!

Hasta pronto y che numsi chi us li xamaan ut wulaj chik! :)