Las Hermanitas - Mentoring in Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa, is a village about 20 minutes outside of San Pedro Sacatepequez, San Marcos, where Women Work Together works. This is a little town where all kinds of magic is happening. Dedicated teachers, passionate mothers, excited teens, and supportive community in general. And the girls are so into the Girls Club and the programs that come through our local partner, Mujeres Trabajan Unidas.
We came to Santa Teresa to hold a workshop about and with Las Hermanitas, a mentoring program we developed with our partners last December. Teens from our clubs mentor 8 or 9-year-old girls who are struggling to make it through 2nd grade. This is the most vulnerable age for girls to drop out of school, but not just because their parents decide that's enough schooling and they need to help at home. A lot of these little girls are lost academically. Their mothers don't read or write, so they get no help from home on their homework. Their grades are poor, they're discouraged, and they wonder why they're in school anyway.
Las Hermanitas pairs them up with junior high school girls who want to make a contribution to their community. Right now we're piloting this project in three villages, hoping to expand to two more. We invited five of the hermanitas to come to the workshop. We learned that all five had vastly improved their grades, had begun to love school and looked forward to being there. Plus they were mastering skills that they never did before. And they were very proud of themselves. They reported the following, in their own words:
We also asked them how they have changed since they began meeting with their tutors. Some of their responses:
We also learned some fascinating things from the tutors. Many of them had been torn about staying in school when they were young. Like so many American kids, they didn't like getting up early. Or they were uncomfortable speaking in class. No love for mathematics here. Yet, because their mothers taught them that without school their lives would be difficult, they persisted. And now they are communicating that to other girls and, most especially, to their hermanitas. They reported, in their own words:
Both tutors and Hermanitas said they loved their time together. Here are some of their reports on what they do:
In all, we are all thrilled with this program and plan for it to continue and spread to other villages. We're convinced that it makes a real difference for the 80 girls who are Hermanitas and the 80 girls who are their tutors. They see their futures differently and so do we.
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