Since our last update, the Mil Milagros staff team has been busy partnering with more than 500 mother and grandmother volunteers to implement our nutrition, hygiene, and education programs in our partner schools and communities. The children recently shared that the meals that they receive in school allow them to eat nourishing foods that they don’t have access to in their homes. They often cite chicken, for example, as something they love and only get at school, thanks to Mil Milagros. In addition, we inaugurated two new school kitchens and bathrooms and worked with the communities to equip them.
Lucy, our Nutrition Coordinator, works closely with 28 mother and grandmother leaders teaching them new recipes and training them to give talks to their peers on a range of nutrition topics. The leaders then create their own props and materials and share their knowledge with the other 500+ mother volunteers. The leaders learn not only about nutrition and hygiene but develop public speaking and leadership skills. Manuela, one of the mother leaders, told us, “Thanks to Mil Milagros, I am learning what is good and bad for our children, so they can be healthy. And now, I am sharing that knowledge with other mothers, too.”
We are delighted to see these mothers and grandmothers blossom as leaders in their children’s schools and communities as they share their knowledge with others. As one mother leader said, “We have a responsibility to share the information that we learn with the other mothers, our families, and our communities, so we can give our children a better future.” We couldn’t agree more and we know that with partners like these incredible mother and grandmother leaders, and with your help, we can help give these children the future they deserve.
As the new school year begins in Guatemala, it is a joy to see so many of our old friends in their new classrooms—and also to meet some new ones. As we celebrate inaugurations in our partner schools, the year has brought us 89 new first graders. Each of these children, along with hundreds of their other school mates, will receive a nutritious lunch each school day prepared by teams of mother and grandmother volunteers. Training of the mothers and grandmothers and food products are funded by MM donors. In addition, each child will receive a textbook and hygiene supplies including soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and toilet paper. For many of these first graders, it will be their first toothbrush ever. Last November, we hired our first ever Health and Hygiene Coordinator who will train mothers to lead workshops that teach the children how to properly use their toothbrushes, among other important hygiene topics to keep everyone healthy.
Kevin is one of our new first graders. He is seven years old and says that school is exciting, not scary. He loves going to school because his teacher, Mrs. Lety, is fun, and knows so many things that she teaches them every day. For example, this year she is going to teach him how to read all by himself. When he grows up and finishes school, Kevin wants to be a police officer. He isn’t quite sure what police officers do all of the time, but he wants to be able to catch bad guys and put them in jail. He has big dreams for such a little guy!
It is always a busy process to prepare for the start of each new school year. During the months since our last report, we held our annual mother’s retreat with 34 mother and grandmother leaders from our schools who joined to share their experiences and learn together. We met with teachers, mothers, members of the MM Boards of Directors in each partner school, and local elected officials to evaluate our 2014 programs and to plan for 2015. We also raised funds to build kitchens and bathrooms in two of our partner schools. In December, the office was busy as our coordinators developed new curricula for the mothers and grandmothers who participate in our nutrition trainings, hygiene workshops, and early childhood nutrition program. Now that the planning is finished, we look forward to implementing all of the activities we have prepared for a successful 2015.
October brings graduations in Guatemala. As the school year ends, we have been celebrating with the sixth grade students and their families at our five partner schools. Most students are joyful about achieving this important milestone, while others are sad to say goodbye in face an uncertain future. In a country where graduation rates are notoriously low—only 66% of school age children finish primary school—we are encouraged to see so many students finishing primary school. This year, 97% of our sixth graders graduated. Selvin is one example of that success. A 13-year-old graduate of our partner school in Nuevo Progreso, Selvin had perfect attendance and good grades this year. It hasn’t been easy. With seven brothers and sisters, Selvin and his family struggle to live with their father´s irregular income as he works as a day laborer in the fields whenever he can find work.
Selvin´s mother, Doña Andrea, believes strongly in the importance of education for her children. That is why she serves on the Mil Milagros Board of Directors at her children´s school. In this leadership role, she is in charge of organizing the other mother and grandmother volunteers and ensuring that they attend trainings, meetings and other events. She cooks at the school twice a week. Her commitment and hard-work have paid off. In addition to Selvin, she has three children who will graduate from high school next year, another studying in middle school, and three more still in primary school. She explains, “I would have liked to study, but with eight children, it’s too late for me now. But my children will be professionals.”
As for Selvin, he is a little nervous to go to middle school, but says he is excited to have new experiences. With a strong love of math, he wants to not only go to college, but get a doctorate degree in mathematics. His dream job is to work in a bank as an accountant. One of the things he loves the most about Mil Milagros is that we gave him a textbook so he can study not only at school, but also at home. He says that having a textbook means he can learn about things on his own that he never even imagined.
As the school year comes to an end, we are happy to report that with your support and the hard work of our 545 mother and grandmother volunteers, we were able to feed nearly 1000 children every school day in Guatemala. These children also received fluoride treatments, lice treatments, and deworming medications as they learned about hygiene. Last week, they received their final toothbrushes of the year to take home to use during the months that they will be on vacation. In addition, we collaborated with two other organizations to build a school in Nuevo Progreso and homes for the 22 families in another one of our partner communities who have been homeless for four years ago. We look forward to working with each of our partner schools and communities to plan for a successful 2015 school year!
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!
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.