As the school year ends in Guatemala and the kids are out of school from the end of October until the beginning of January, we, at the Integral Heart Foundation, are focusing our attention in visiting the families.
As part of providing the skills and training to the children and teens in our program that they will need to be successful in life, it is also important to us to nourish the connection we have with their families and to let them give us their suggestions, and to hear their worries and dreams. We want to make sure that they are listened to and that they feel an integral part of our big family.
The home visits are also important because they allow us to get to know the younger children who are not yet in our program and to encourage the parents to value eduation by sending them to our classes.
And, even though the normal school year is over for the year, our weekend study / homework class is continuing to grow. This class is led by one of our top, long-term student, Juan Carlos who just graduated as a teacher with the help of your support. This class is supervised by our social worker Marisol and, even though it's on a Saturday, what started with three youngsters earlier this year, has now grown to nine, and all are voluntarily attending.
Besides the learning environment, these ten are also are building a strong heart connection that brings them together and makes them excel at the normal schoolwork. Below you can see the whole group from last week.
During the month of November, we also have the honor of having with us a guest teacher from the United States who came, by his own expense, to reinforce our education program. We visited him some of the sponsored family homes and it was a very touching day for all of us. Below you can witness some of the moments we shared together.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to all of you who made this possible: all our donors, advisers, staff, lecturers, and, of course, our students. And please, have a wonderful and love-filled Holiday.
The Integral Heart Foundation.
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
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Panorama, Antigua Guatemala,
Salt Lake City,