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,
We hope that this report finds you well in your late summer activities, whether you are enjoying the end of the summer season holidays or continuing on with daily life.
Here in Guatemala we are into the rainy season and thankfully it hasn't been quite mild so far. Though the rain is needed for crops, we are grateful that there haven't been any big storms which can affect our families.
As a supporter of our preschool/kinder program here on GlobalGiving, we would like to update you on some important happenings (and some specific news on Luis, Jimena & Chente in relation to these changes in this program). First of all, on behalf of the children, their families, the staff and Integral Heart Foundation, we are extremely grateful for your continued support of this program and the kids. As you will see from the photo below, there have been noticeable improvements not only in the interactions of the kids as a result of daily supervision and time with kids their own age, but also in their complexion and energy due to the regular care and nutrition they have been receiving. The change that is happening this year is that we are integrating the Kindergarten program kids into our Sponsorship Program. In preparation we are also looking at other preschools in the area as options for the parents to send their kids to, if they are willing. Under the supervision of our Program Director, Liz Flinn, we will be maintaining contact with the family of each sponsored child as we do with the other 50 adolescents and children in the Sponsorship Program.
At the second preschool/kinder location, which has been operating since 2011 within one of our partner non-profit locations in San Mateo, the kids there have been integrated into existing programs there and are attending on a daily basis. Again, we will be maintaining regular contact with the families of the individually sponsored children in San Mateo. As these children are set for now with daily care in the local programs, our help continues to be in the form of a monthly food basket, school materials, shoes and medicine as needed for each of their families And, as many of you will recall, the entire pre-school/Kindergarten program got started with Luisito, Jimena & Chente back in January of 2011 (you can read their story here http://www.integralheartfoundation.org/kindergarten.program.htm). They continue to live in their own house on their grandparent’s property. They are still attending that local project where they receive at least one meal and one snack per day. So, our direct involvement with them is now based on two things; food and lodging. We, thanks to your support, are able to buy them a monthly food basket and the grandmother, Julia, comes into town so we get a chance to visit with her and see how things are going. The last time we did this, she told us that the kids are doing well and they are always excited when she goes to get the food as she buys the food that they like :). We are also continuing to pay for adult supervision for them during the nights. Jimena & Chente's aunt stays with them in the night.
Thanks so much for your continued support of these three. As you have seen, they have come a long way in their interaction both with kids their own age as well as with adults. They have food, clothes, shelter and most importantly love, which is more than they had when we first met them. Thanks to your involvement we look forward to how they will continue to thrive and do better. Again we would like to say thanks for your continued support! We can't do what we do without you. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.
The IHF team.
A big hello to you!
It's hard to imagine, but those of you who are parents know it all too well. They grow and they are suddenly on to the next thing. When Debora and I were approached by the wonderful director of Semilla de Esperanza y Amor, Lys Flores back in 2011 with the idea of helping three tots who were basically abandoned, we thought 'Kindergarten'.And, with your help over the past 2 years we have provided for these initals three, Luisito, Chente and Jimena. The numbers grew and grew at this location and soon Lys moved it to her new building and with a full time teacher who was paid for by the Integral Heart Foundation a trip to the 'kinder' somedays provided hugs from ten, eleven or even twelve little smiling faces.
As you can see in the photos we also added some kids with disabilities to this program and they have faired really well with all the interactions and play time with their wee peers.
In the other photos you will recognize some of the tots who are now in school uniforms for now they have moved on to first grade. It is sad to see them go but then with all of our help they are a little more prepared.We would also like to express our great thanks to Lys Flores and all the staff at Semilla de Esperanza y Amor in San Mateo without whom this first kindergarten project would never have been possible.
Again, thank you so much and we look forward to a wonderful future for all.
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Panorama, Antigua Guatemala,
Salt Lake City,