Nikte is one of the 35 children with whom Mil Milagros works in the community of Chutinamit. This very special young lady has overcome incredible obstacles to reach sixth grade where she is a top student in her class. Nikte's family, along with 21 other families, has been homeless since Tropical Storm Agatha ravaged their community in May 2010. The families were forced to leave their mountainside village and set up shelters in a windblown field. Mil Milagros had been working with the community for three years when they become homeless. To help mitigate their very difficult circumstances, we expanded our school-based nutrition program year round and incorporated all the young children into the program too. We rented rooms in a weavers’ cooperative to recreate the children’s school, and funded a “vacation school” so the children would have enrichment activities during their November and December recess. We funded portable gardens so the children could grow radishes, beans, and cilantro. And we secured much needed medical care for the community.
Like most of the 1,000+ children with whom Mil Milagros partners, Nikte plans to continue studying once she graduates from sixth grade. She wants to become a nurse so that she can “help others who need help.” Not surprisingly, she is drawn to mathematics and natural sciences and says she wants to learn all about cellular systems. In addition to her passion for math and science, Nitke is also a gifted artist. She and both her siblings were among the six winners of this year’s Mil Milagros drawing contest at the Chutinamit school. Her winning drawing was incorporated into the beautiful mural that she and her classmates painted outside the front door
Last month, we were thrilled to join with the community, the Sisters of the Holy Eucharist, and our partners from ConstuCasa to break ground in the new Chutinamit. Nikte says the houses that are at long last being built are great. She is especially excited that her new home will have cement floors (instead of dirt) and that she will have a bathroom with a shower.
When we asked Nikte if she had a message to share with Mil Milagros’s “amigos,” she said, “Thank you for the books, the food, and the fruit so that we can study, play and be happy.”
Dear Amigos of Mil Milagros,
We at Mil Milagros are excited to update you on our work with nearly 600 mothers and grandmothers and 55 teachers with whom we partner to prepare 1,056 meals each school day. Once a month, 50 mother and grandmother leaders participate in nutrition workshops with MM’s Nutrition and Hygiene Coordinator. They learn about nutrition, how to adapt traditional menus to make them healthier and more “colorful” (by adding more veggies), how to ensure good hygiene in the school kitchens, how to be effective leaders, and how to train their mother and grandmother peers. While the teachers help with food purchases in some of our partner schools, increasingly it is the mothers who are assuming responsibility for shopping and securing high-quality food products at reasonable prices. Our team of staff works with the mothers to adjust the menus to take advantage of fruits and vegetables when they are in season and more affordable. In the Guatemala Highlands, peaches and apples are now in season and the children love them.
One of our most noteworthy accomplishments has been working with the mothers, grandmothers, teachers and the children to cultivate a habit of drinking water. Due to the widespread contamination of the water supply in Guatemala, there is no culture of drinking water. In fact, soda is commonly referred to as “agua.” Thanks to the generous support of Water Charity, we have been able to install water filters in each of our school kitchens and in every classroom. The children in each of our partner schools now drink water with their lunch – and throughout the day. Poco a poco, we are seeing the children’s diets replace sugary drinks with clean water and a piece of fruit.
While the children eat nourishing meals each school day and drink more and more water, we are also working with each school to improve the children’s health and hygiene. Through our partnership with the Ministry of Education’s Healthy Schools Program, we have implemented a hygiene curriculum in each school. Thanks to the generous support of many friends and donors, we are able to provide each child with a new toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap every three months along with a fluoride varnish twice a year, toilet paper, deworming medicines, and lice shampoo. As one visitor to our schools recently commented, “The Mil Milagros children are much healthier and cleaner than the children in most other schools.”
Every child deserves to be healthy and clean, to be well fed, and to become literate. With your help, Mil Milagros is making this possible for some 1,000 children in six rural communities. With your continued support, we will be able to reach many more. Mil gracias!
Dear Mil Milagros Amigos,
The new school year began on January 16 and Mil Milagros was delighted to celebrate "inaugural" events in each of our six partner school communities and to welcome our newest partner: the Enrique Gomez Carrillo public school (afternoon session) in San Juan la Laguna. This colorful village along the shores of Lake Atitlan is known for its Maya painters and weavers - and cleanliness. We are thrilled to be working with 280 school age children, 50 young children, 200 mother and grandmother volunteers, and 21 teachers in this school community that was on our waiting list for four years. Here, all of our community gatherings are conducted in both T'zutujil and Spanish.
When we launch a new school partnership, we begin with a healthy snack program for a "probationary" period of a year. The innovative teacher and mother leaders at th Enrique Gomez Carrillo school have turned the "snack" into a modest lunch serving chicken soup one day of the week, scrambled eggs and beans another day, fruit cocktail, and chicken salad sandwiches. Upon successful completion of the "probation," MM will work with the school to implement more robust meals next year.
Each time we visit the school - which we reach by boat - community members stop us on the street to thank us for coming to their community. Whether they have children in the school or not, they express their gratitude for our support of their community's children. Several mothers have shared with us, tears streaming down their faces, how much the food makes a difference to their children and to them, explaining that they cannot afford to feed their children the way we do at school. School leaders already reporting improved attendance and class participation as the children now attend school more regularly because they get fed at school.
This year we are excited to be partnering with the Ministry of Education to implement the Ministry's "Healthy Schools" curriculum in each of our six schools. This curriculum will strengthen our existing school-based health and hygiene program to improve children's health and prevent disease by supporting the children with essential hygiene education and materials, and by working with the teachers to ensure clean school environments. Schools that successfully comply with the "Healthy Schools" curriculum and requirements earn certification - which can take as long as two years. We are exited to be working with each of our partner schools to achieve this important certification.
MM is happy to be working with over 500 mothers and grandmother volunteers to serve 1,050 meals each school day. Mil gracias for helping us to feed our children.
Dear Mil Milagros Amigos-
As we approach the end of 2013, we are thrilled to share an update on our progress. Over the last three months, Mil Milagros staff and partner communities have been engaged in planning meetings, school graduations, and our annual gathering of mother and grandmother leaders.
With your help this year, we fed 829 children, worked with 459 mother and grandmother volunteers to ensure a healthy meal each school day, helped instill healthy hygiene habits, provided fluoride varnish treatments to all school-aged children with the help of 30 mother volunteers who we trained to apply the varnish, reduced the likelihood that over 200 babies and small children will suffer from chronic malnutrition, and launched classes to teach our teachers how to teach English to their students.
Because Mil Milagros’ goal is to ensure that all children in Guatemala graduate from sixth grade healthy, literate, and prepared to continue their education, attending graduations in October (the school year in Guatemala is from January to October.) is an exciting time for MM and our partner communities. According to USAID, only 40% of Guatemalans graduate from sixth grade. Over the last three years, 96% of sixth graders in MM’s partner schools have graduated.
In late October and early November, Mil Milagros staff organized meetings with our partner communities to plan for a successful 2014. We met with parents, teachers, principals, and town council members to unite forces around our shared goal of improving the health and education of the children. In each community, we asked for recommendations and feedback. One mother leader responded, “Mil Milagros has helped our community a lot. There are a lot of children who don’t have anything to eat at home, but they come to school and get a healthy lunch and can learn better.”
Finally, last week we held a gathering of 53 of our volunteer mother and grandmother leaders to thank them for their partnership, to celebrate their dedication to their children and communities, and to think about how we can be as successful as possible in 2014. Mothers played games, created their own conflict resolution skits, learned new recipes, and shared their dreams for 2014. One of our mother leaders shared, “I want every child to be able to eat fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods. I want them to be able to drink clean water and be healthy.”
Mil Milagros thanks you for working with us to help make this dream come true.
Dear Mil Milagros Amigos-
Since our last update, Mil Milagros has welcomed a new staff member, taken board members and guests to visit our partner schools and communities, trained 14 mother volunteers to apply fluoride varnish to 525 children, launched weekly English classes for a group of 10 highly motivated teachers, and partnered with 459 mother and grandmother volunteers to provide a nourishing snack and/or lunch to 825 eager children each school day. We are thrilled to share our progress with you, the donors who help to make all of this possible for $1.00 per child per day
We are delighted to welcome Lucy Aj, our first full-time Nutrition and Hygiene Coordinator, Lucy, who is tri-lingual, is from Santa Lucia Utatlán, where three of our partner communities are located. She will be working with our mother and grandmother volunteers to continue to improve menu quality, cooking techniques, hygiene, and to help maintain excellent communication between Mil Milagros and our six partner communities. Lucy will also partner with teachers to implement the Healthy Schools program, which was developed by the Peace Corps and is endorsed by the Guatemalan Ministry of Education to promote healthy and hygienic environments in the schools.
Since it is important for children to be healthy and practice good hygiene habits, Mil Milagros takes oral health very seriously. Many of the children never had a toothbrush before Mil Milagros arrived in their schools and the oral health problems were severe. Earlier this year, Kathy Held, a professor from the Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine, came to Guatemala to teach MM staff and mother volunteers s how to apply fluoride varnish to the children’s teeth, protecting them against cavities and decay. In July, we received a generous donation of 600 Embrace fluoride applications from Pulpdent, a Boston-based worldwide distributor of dental products. Since then,we have trained 14 mother volunteers to apply the varnish at three “clinics” in our partner schools. After her son received the fluoride varnish, one mother said, “Thank you for doing this. Our children have never had anything like this and they need it.”
In, August we began English classes for a group of 10 teachers from Mil Milagros’s partner schools. Last year, we conducted focus groups with the teachers to ask them what areas they needed more support and training. The teachers asked for help teaching Englishas they are required to teach it twice a week and have no training in English. After spreading the word for several months that we were looking for anEnglish teacher, Evelyn Hurtado, a phenomenal educatorr at a local private school, told us that when she came to Guatemala from New Mexico last year, she had hoped to be to do teacher training with local educators. For Mil Milagros and our partner teachers, it was a perfect match. The teachers travel two to four hours round trip every Friday to learn English and new teachingtechniques. After the first class, one teacher commented, “I really like this class because she (Evelyn) is teaching us great strategies to use in the classroom.”
Mil Milagros continues to partner with amazing mother and grandmother volunteers in six communities to provide a healthy snack and/or lunch to 825 hungry children each school day. The mothers in our partner communities are true leaders. As oneight-year-old child in one of our partner schools said, “I’m so proud of my mom because she comes to the school to help make my lunch.” We, at Mil Milagros, couldn’t be prouder of our mother volunteerss and everything they do to ensure that their children graduate from sixth grade healthy, literate and prepared to continue their education.
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