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.
Mother’s Day is a special day in Guatemala when women are honored by their children for their hard work and commitment. It is also a special day for Mil Milagros because we get to honor and celebrate the mothers and grandmothers who work tirelessly to improve the lives of their children. Mil Milagros staff visited the 130 mothers and grandmothers who were preparing the lunches throughout the first week of May to present them each with a rose as a small token of our appreciation for their dedication, love, and hard work. Mil Milagros partners with over 400 mothers and grandmothers to prepare healthy meals for 830 hungry children at our six partner schools. They make over 150,000 lunches each year! Because of this special partnership, we are seeing healthier children who are better students, and a significant reduction in the dropout rate. Last year, 98% of the children supported by Mil Milagros graduated from sixth grade, compared to the Guatemala national average of 30-40%.
Depending on the size of the school, 2 to 10 mothers arrive in the morning each school day to start the firewood “stoves” and begin preparing lunch, which is served after classes between 12:00 noon and 12:30 p.m. The mothers work together with the teachers at each school to plan menus for the school year, including chow mein with fresh vegetables and chicken spaghetti with meat sauce, beef stew, chicken and rice, and a fresh piece of fruit on the side. The mothers and grandmothers constantly tell Mil Milagros how grateful they are. As one mother commented: "We can’t provide all of the different types of food that Mil Milagros provides for our children. If it weren’t for Mil Milagros, I don’t know what would happen to us. But thank God, you are here.” Another mother told us: "Honestly, I have seen that the lunch helps a lot because food costs a lot and there are eight people in my family. Three of my children get lunch at school and I don't have to worry about how I am going to feed them every day. I can save that money to give them something to eat in the afternoon. The program helps a lot. Thank you."
Many of the mothers and grandmothers also participate in workshops to designed to teach the mothers about healthy local foods and to strengthen our efforts to prevent malnutrition in our young children. The workshops are organized and delivered by our partners from the Wuqu’ Kawoq health care organization. In some communities here in the department of Sololá where Mil Milagros works, as many as 80% of the children are malnourished. The most recent series of workshops focused on the most nourishing local foods to eat when pregnant and lactating, how to treat nausea, and best practices for breast feeding. The workshops begin with a raffle of prizes (intended to encourage attendance) and conclude with a delicious snack. Every three months, our mother volunteers weigh and measure the children, and distribute a month’s supply of “chispitas”, which are nutrient-rich supplements. Mothers often give us updates on how their children are doing: “Thanks to this nutrition program, my child is growing and is no longer malnourished. She looks like she is six years old and should be going to school, but she is only four years old.” Wuqu’ Kawoq is providing us with an analysis of the children’s height and weight data so that we can track progress and make sure that children and families who need it, get individualized attention.
We at Mil Milagros are grateful for our mother and grandmother leaders. We also give thanks to and for our Amigos for your generous support and steadfast commitment. Together we are changing the lives of over 1,000 children each day in Guatemala.
Please continue to follow the children's progress and growth by viewing photos on Tumblr, following us on Facebook, and staying connected as a Mil Milagros supporter and amigo.
Dear Mil Milagros Amigos -
Thank you for helping us to exceed our goal in 2012 and for your continued support into the New Year! We are thrilled to join the GlobalGiving network after participating in the Winter Open Challenge last year and are in awe of all the amazing connections we made for our children with donors through our project page.
This New Year has already been an exciting one for Mil Milagros! The new school year in Guatemala began on January 14th and we welcomed 830 excited children, 43 teachers, and 400 mother and grandmother volunteers back to school. Mil Milagros now partners with six schools and communities to work to improve education, literacy, nutrition, health and hygiene, and to prevent chronic malnutrition in the babies and young children. In 2013, we welcomed our sixth partner school, Nuevo Progreso ('New Progress'). The children at this school are very excited -- when asked about what Mil Milagros' mission is, they replied: "To help us kids and make sure we graduate!” We love to know that the children are enthusiastic about having Mil Milagros at their school and that is why we continue to partner with schools and actively seek opportunities for expansion of the MM program.
Over 200 mother and grandmother volunteers from another community, Pahaj, have been enjoying their newly renovated school kitchen, made possible by generous MM donors. The renovations were completed during the school vacation period -- the roof has been lifted and walls have been heightened to help better ventilate the wood burning stoves, the kitchen workspace was expanded, and concrete floors were poured to improve cleanliness and sanitation (see attached photos).
During the back-to-school 'inaugurations' this year, MM staff gathered with the children, teachers, mother and grandmother volunteers and other family members to celebrate the beginning of another fun year of learning. The children always write cards and letters to MM staff and Board members when they visit each partner school. A student named Myron wrote: "Thank you, Mil Milagros, for the food you have given us, and for allowing us to fulfill our dreams and study". Another student, Ofni, wrote: "A thousand thank yous to Mil Milagros for lunch every day. We are growing healthy and strong. God bless you for everything you have done for us".
It is because of your support that these special children are able to enjoy a nutritious meal each school day, grow stronger, learn more, and continue their education. On behalf of Ofni, Myron and every other child served by Mil Milagros, mil gracias for helping them to grow into healthy, well-educated children with dreams for better lives.
Please continue to follow the children's progress by viewing photos on Tumblr, following us on Facebook, and staying connected as a Mil Milagros supporter and amigo.
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