At the Integral Heart Foundation, we believe that education can significantly alter unequal and impoverished social situations. And in a country such as Guatemala, where education is often considered a second class citizen, we are constantly challenged to provide our students with the best possible tools to empower this change.
As part of our work, we are not only providing a high standard of learning but also creating jobs, practices and opportunities for our most mature students and who are close to entering the job market themselves.
This is why, as part of this sponsorship and education program, we don’t only cover the monthly tuitions for the kid’s normal schooling but we now also provide them with extra-curricular weekend activities.
It all began with Juan Carlos (20) who with the help of our sponsorship program has been studying to be a teacher since 2011. He asked if we could help him find work on the weekends to supplement his family's income. We also had three girls in our program who we knew were beginning to fall behind our required 70% grade point average.
So we thought, why not create a weekend study program for the girls under the tutelage of JC. As part of this we had to find a space for this to happen since we still do not have our own location. Eventually we found a lovely location courtesy of another non-profit here in Antigua Guatemala.
We must admit that we were a little hesitant about the response we were going to get from the girls, since we understood that they might prefer to do something else on Saturdays besides going to extra classes. But, when we mentioned this opportunity to them, we were greatly surprised that they wanted to start immediately.
The weekend classes have been running now for almost four months. JC makes a small salary, gets to practice as a teacher, and the girls grades have improved greatly.
Then, three weeks ago another group of our students who are not sponsored yet but, who attend our programs, asked if they could join this weekend study group. As you can imagine we were a little surprised. Fourteen year-olds asking to do extra homework on a Saturday?
This new group voluntarily joined the study group because the said that they have developed a new interest in the power of education from attending our on-going programs and wanted to take advantage of this weekend tuition. As Jennifer said after her first Saturday attending the classes: “I finally could do all my homework, ask all the questions my normal teacher has no time for, and go to my classes on Monday very proud of myself.”
So here is one more improvement we are making in these children’s lives thanks to you, our GlobalGiving donors.
From our Integral Hearts, thank you!
Here at the Integral Heart Foundation we thought that we’d honor one important aspect of our vision; that is the importance of the personal relationships between our sponsored children and their benefactors and Godparents. As part of our on-going process of forming and sustaining relationships we asked the kids to write letters of appreciation to their sponsors (you can see images of them below). The response was amazing. Not only did the kids do a great job but also their parents joined them in this beautiful effort. We have over 50 sponsored kids now and below is just a small example of the content of letters written by the children and their families. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did while working on this project.
From Marisol to the sponsors of her children, Zaida, Jose and Freddy:
"I am grateful from the bottom of my heart to you for the help you provide to me and all the families. I was in a bad situation in which I had no idea of what to do, I had beside me a bad man who did not treat me and made me feel very small. He would say things like I was useless, he ignored me and his children and he didn’t love them. When I met Debora our lives changed completely. She taught me to value myself and not to be afraid. I am very grateful to my children’s godparents because with your help we could make it. My children eat better and have a better home. Thank you very much for all the support you offer us and God Bless you. Because of you my children are studying and will have a better future!"
From Zaida to her Godmother Lisa,
"Hello Godmother Lisa, I hope you are great. Thank you for your support. I would like to tell you that I like to study and I want to learn English and that I like dogs. We have a little puppy and I love her very much, her name is Panchita (NOTE: This is Debora she named her dog after our golden retriever named Panchito! Isn’t that cute?). I want to know you and I would love if you can send me a picture of you. I am happy because our mom loves us very much. God bless you and take care of you forever. Saying goodbye to you with lots of love."
From Keyla to Godparents Michael and Michelle:
"Hello, How are you, I hope you are doing great, the reason why I am writing to you is to be grateful for all the help you have been giving me and my family. God bless you, I love you very much and I hope you like my letter ~ Keyla Camey."
From Dona Consuelo to Keyla's sponsors:
"I am very grateful for the help you are giving us. Before they were in a very precarious situation and now that is not the case anymore because of the help received by you. I am very grateful also the Integral Heart Foundation and to all the sponsors who support families.
Keyla is happy because she can be studying and she also can bring juices to the school and food because of the help of her Godparents. She hopes no to disappoint you in her studies and God Bless You. Dona Consuelo."
And, as always, all of here at The Integral Heart Foundation want to express how grateful and honored we are by all of you, our loyal sponsors without whom all this work and smiles would never be possible. Thank you.
The following is a postcard from Lydia Sorensen, GlobalGiving's In-the-Field Representative in Guatemala, about her recent visit to Integral Heart Foundation.
Like any proud mother, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes for the pictures of Doña Ana’s daughter (Yesica) to come out. Yesica is an only child (a rarity in Guatemala) and the apple of her mother’s eye. We see pictures of Yesica as a toddler, Yesica winning the school pageant, Yesica graduating primary school. Sitting there in Doña Ana’s house, on the couch next to the bed that she and Yesica share, it’s obvious that like all mothers Doña Ana would (and does) give everything so that Yesica can have a chance at a better future.
And yet it’s not enough. She tells us that before Yesica got a sponsorship through the Integral Heart Foundation the best she had been able to hope to do was help Yesica complete sixth grade—there simply wasn’t the money for more. Even public school in Guatemala isn’t free, and as the World Bank estimates that almost 58% of the population here have incomes below the extreme poverty line (which is defined as the amount needed to purchase a basic basket of food), school is just a dream for many children. Despite the fact that Yesica’s father isn’t in the picture, and Doña Ana has only been able to find work doing various odd jobs such as taking in laundry, she was committed to giving Yesica the highest level of education she could afford.
Today when we visit Doña Ana in her home, she is alone. With the help of her sponsor Yesica is in high school where she dreams of becoming a teacher. She attends the critical thinking/philosophy class held by the Integral Heart Foundation every week, and studies hard for all her classes. All in all, she is a model student and her mother couldn’t be prouder.
We leave Doña Ana’s house and I wonder, how many other Yesica and Doña Ana’s are out there, hoping against hope for a better future that they cannot achieve alone.
The school year began and all of our bright students returned to our class. The main school holidays in Guatemala last for three months from October to January and we wanted to make sure that they used some of their time away from class in deep questioning, reading, and thinking. To do that, we assigned them a unique homework assignment. We asked them to read “Philosophy Is Not A Luxury” by teacher and philosopher, Jeff Carreira, and to write a one-page report of each of its 12 short chapters. This book is based on the philosophy of the American Pragmatists and has many deep points.
We were greatly honored when over 70% of the class returned with very extensive reports on the book. They loved the book and many of them asked us if they could keep it in order to read it again. The most amazing story was that of Emily, whose face, attitude, smile and self-confidence had improved so much that we hardly recognized her from last year. In her own words: “This book to me was like talking one on one with a therapist. I learned that I am not who I always thought I was because others convinced me that I was a different person. Now I want to work at knowing myself and I know that with my actions and choices I can choose to be whoever I want to be.”
We are very excited about this New Year and all the new possibilities that it opens. As part of this program we are already working on an invitation of a very well known teacher to visit us and our students later in the year as part of our Wisdom Speakers Series. We are also planning to expand the curriculum and will be offering more books of great depth to our dear students. The Integral Heart Foundation is deeply grateful to all of you, our donors, who make this work possible and as always, we are open to all your suggestions, comments and ideas.
Much love to all of you,
The Integral Heart Foundation Team
A very warm hello from Guatemala,
Before we get started with our report on this project let me first say that, today Tuesday 3rd of December, starting at 12.00pm (noon) Eastern Time,Microsoft will be mathcing all donations to us (up to $1,000) by 100%. So just after that time, not before, and no later than 12.30 or 1PM (because the matching funds will eventually run out) please click the donate button for this project and help our education/sponsorship programs get matched well and good! And, now the report. It’s often difficult to summarize a year in a few short paragraphs. We tend to like to incorporate stories and make it more than just a numbers game J. So we will our best to keep it brief, informative, as well as from the heart.
Our sponsorship program has 2 main objectives. First and foremost, to allow the children to study, as education is the primary focus of Integral Heart Foundation. But along with that, we strive to create a connection between the sponsor and their sponsor child. The form of help that allows the students to keep studying varies from situation to situation as well as age range. We now have 60 sponsored kids and teens from the ages of 3 up to 21. Generally with the younger ones, the aid is in the form of food and/or school supplies. This helps the family be able to afford for their children to go to school.
The older students, the ones who are studying at a higher level of education; the sponsorship goes directly towards their studies as almost all schools charge a monthly tuition. Without this extra help, these students would not be able to continue studying and pursue their educational goals and dreams. This help, coupled with the Critical-Thinking/Philosophy classes are allowing these adolescent and teenagers to thrive. Most of them are opening their minds and doing very well! The personal connection comes in the form of notes, cards, and emails. As well as sending updates on the students progress in school with their report cards. And when possible, skype chats to have as close to a face-to-face interaction as possible. As of the end of this year we have 34 families that have at least one sponsored child, some have two, and some three. Our total number of sponsored children, adolescents, and teenagers is 60. We estimate that the number of family members that are also benefiting from the sponsorship is well over 100. It is hard to get an exact number as often there are numerous members of the extended family living in the same house. Liz Flinn, our Director of Programs along with her co-worker, Family Liaison, and Guatemalan native, Marisol Hernandez, we stay in touch with the families, get them the supplies when needed, visit their homes regularly, and often are a listening ear for the mountain of struggles that come along with living in poverty. When appropriate we offer counsel, more than anything we try to help them see that they have the power to change things if they so choose.
Additionally, for the first 8 months of this year, we operated a preschool program that served fourteen children. But after the first year of operations we struggled to find new children to attend and as well, to find sufficient funding to keep it open. So at the end of August of this year we had to close the doors. The families were very sad, the parents saw the same improvements in their kids that we did. They were behaving better with other children and at home. They were well nourished and the parents knew that they were in a safe place and well cared for while they were working. Fortunately, we do have at least one sponsor in all the families so we are maintain contact with them and providing them with a monthly food basket. Liz also spent some time this year getting to know other organizations and exploring partnership opportunities, because right now we don’t have our own facility and so we have been exploring the use of other sites. We are very grateful to Ixquic Spanish School which has allowed us to use their space for meetings with some of the families as well as provide a weekly place to hold an English class for 2 of our sponsored students and also to Iglesia Del Camino for allowing us to use their space for the CT/Philosophy classes. We also had a donation from a private donor who wanted to show some Charlie Chaplin movies in a soup kitchen for homeless people here in Antigua. The donation was for the use of our projector and was able to help out in our sponsorship program. I will be continuing to seek out partnerships and opportunities to better serve our families.
Thank you so much for all your support and we look forward to a wonderful future,
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Panorama, Antigua Guatemala,
Salt Lake City,