Integral Heart Foundation

Our mission is to change culture from the inside out through person-to-person sponsoring and educational programs that include the development of mind, body, spirit and emotions. We see our work as the beginning of a multi-generational movement whose leaders are empowered to preserve cultural beauty and diversity and to embrace personal responsibility in a global context.
Feb 12, 2016

La Academia - The Beginning

La Academia
La Academia

It's been over 5 years since we first started our work in Guatemala. At the end of last year we had 3 different classes; Critical-Thinking for Teens, Teacher Training Program and our Homework Study Program, all going on in 3 different locations. It was time for us to get our own place.

Finally, and with great thanks for your help, we have the pleasure of opening our own school.

It will be called “La Academia” in honor to Plato’s Academia.

La Academia will be home to our Critical-Thinking (CT) Programs for Teens, which will be expanding to 2 days per week and our Teacher-Training Program with their classes in English, Spanish, CT and psychology. It will also be home to our homework study program for 10-15 year olds and for the future pre-school and junior sponsorship program classes. All of the staff are Guatemalans! How cool is that!!!

Our students, staff members and friends are helping out in cleaning, painting, carrying and doing anything needed to make this dream materialize as soon as possible.

We are also working with our sponsored families, inviting them to view the new school because, now that we have our own space we will be adding programs for our junior sponsored students.

We plan to open the first week of March. Standby for more news and photos.

Thank you to all of you that are making this possible.

We are still short about $5,000 for our first year so please help us sustain “La Academia”.

We will have 5 teaching rooms, office and dining.
We will have 5 teaching rooms, office and dining.
Loading up the desks
Loading up the desks
Staining the book shelves
Staining the book shelves
The Junior sponsorship kids visiting
The Junior sponsorship kids visiting
Dec 14, 2015

Fatima's Progress

Fatima 2011 (and Mick Quinn co-founder)
Fatima 2011 (and Mick Quinn co-founder)

Fatima is a lovely little girl who lives in San Mateo Milpas Altas, Guatemala. We have known her since 2011 and she is one of the long term sponsored children of the Integral Heart Foundation. She always was really shy, but curious, and she is a good example of what we hope to achieve by beginning a lifetime relationship based in sponsorship and education with the children of Guatemala.

Fatima has been sponsored by Christy and Vegar (last name omitted). She is one of our few students whose sponsorship has never changed; her godparents never stopped supporting her. And, for this, her grandmother, Dona Debora, is very grateful and always reminds us when we see her how important this help has been over the years for Fatima and her siblings.

Fatima, who was four years old when we first met her has already gone through some significant losses that have made her even more introspective. Her dad died when she was 3 years old. At that time her father, her mom and two siblings had been living in a house given to them by her dad’s parents. However, a year after his death her dad’s parents decided that they needed the space and that the family had to move out (unfortunately this is a common practice in Guatemala).

So Fatima’s mom moved with her three children to her own parent’s home. The kids were taken care of by the grandparents while she (the mom) went to work every day to earn what little she could to provide for them. Then, two years later Fatima’s grandfather died. This was an even worse loss for her and he had become the father figure for her, and now being a little older, she could understand and suffer this loss even more.

Since the beginning of our work with her family, our social worker Marisol, who herself is Guatemalan, visits them at least once per month and also delivers their food baskets. This constant support we can give because of your donations also means that Fatima is less shy and more open.

Then, just two weeks ago, after Debora and Mick visited her home with visiting teachers Renata and Kirstie, Fatima came to our “Wisdom Speakers Series” class with the rest of our Philosophy/Critical Thinking students and she had a great time.

Dona Debora, her grandma, was thrilled as she told us that she herself is getting older she doesn’t have the same patience as she did before to take care of the kids. She told us that sometimes she locks herself alone in a room in order to have some peace. We are very grateful to their sponsors for allowing us this opportunity of knowing and caring about this lovely family and giving some space to Dona Debora.

Our goal for next year is to be able to have our own space in which we can accommodate the younger sponsored children every day with classes, games, activities and learning experiences, all of these kids who currently stay at home or play on the dirt streets for long hours. Many families are in the same situation as Fatima, the parent(s) have to work and the grandparents take care of them, but as Dona Debora said: “ I am not getting any younger and the kids are growing and I need to rest”.

Thank you all for such an amazing year and for all the opportunities you allow us to provide on your behalf here in Guatemala with these beautiful families.

Much love to you all and have wonderful holidays.

Debora, Mick, Marisol and all the Families at the Integral Heart Foundation.

Fatima and her sister 2012
Fatima and her sister 2012
Fatima and her mom and sister 2013
Fatima and her mom and sister 2013
Fatima 2014
Fatima 2014
Fatima with Grandma 2015
Fatima with Grandma 2015
Fatima with Marisol and her sister 2015
Fatima with Marisol and her sister 2015
Fatima in meditation at Wisdom Speaker Series 2015
Fatima in meditation at Wisdom Speaker Series 2015
Dec 9, 2015

What Moves You

Sitting in group with Renata and Kirstie
Sitting in group with Renata and Kirstie

The end of the year is here and with it the end of our Critical-Thinking classes. As we do for the end of each school year, we invite guests to give a full day workshop to our students on topics related to awareness and deep thought in a event we have been running since 2010 called the “Wisdom Speakers Series”.

This year we had the pleasure of having invited guests Renate Keller (Germany) and Kristie Simson (USA). They did an amazing event called “What moves you”. This was a full day workshop on dialogue through the body and conscious relatedness.

Below you can find what they wrote after their visit and class with 30 of our students and sponsored children.

Thank you all for your support and being there for all of our families. Please have wonderful holidays and see you next year. Much love from Guatemala: Mick, Debora, Marisol and all the families at the Integral Heart Foundation.

‘Renata and I landed in Guatemala City last Saturday morning and were met by Mick Quinn, who drove us west through the packed and polluted city streets towards the distant hills and Antigua.

The town of Antigua is deservedly a world heritage site, nestled in a valley surrounded by high hills and dense vegetation. Indeed the whole place is verdant to the extreme, at least it was when we saw it post rainy season. Dominating the landscape around the town are three volcanoes, two of which are extinct – the third can be seen, especially in the clear of the morning light, to be puffing smoke from it’s summit. Usually as the day progresses the clouds amass over the tops of the volcanoes and we experienced afternoon downpours the last couple of days we were there.

For the first couple of days we explored the cobbled streets of the town of Antigua, taking in the mixed population of indigenous people dressed in the most incredible colored and patterned fabrics, who are living alongside a large presence of western folks. Antigua is a place that attracts tourists from all over the world, as well as many who are helping the local populations through various NGO’s and church foundations.

There are a number of functioning churches in town, but more striking were the many remaining skeletons of enormous churches that once dominated the place, their ruins a result of the numerous earthquakes that have struck the region over the past few centuries. They are a constant reminder of the fragile nature of life in this area of Guatemala, a country that is seismically active. The many monasteries and nunneries that surrounded the churches seemed mostly to have been transformed into classy hotels, restaurants, and put to various other usages. They retain an air of tranquility that invades the town despite the hustle and bustle of the many street vendors, cars, motorbikes, women and families selling their home spun and richly embroidered clothes and fabrics. It is an enormously colorful scene and all the people we met had the same disarming warmth that has been characteristic of the people we have met so far on our travels.

We had come to Antigua to teach a day workshop with the children and young adults that Mick Quinn and Debora Prieto are working with through the NGO they founded called The Integral Heart Foundation. They told us their touching story of coming to Antigua on vacation 6 yrs ago and seeing a group of children returning home from school one day. They saw an incredible potential in these young spirits, yet they knew that, because of their circumstances, it was unlikely they would be able to realize it. These children’s lives are mired in poverty that they have little hope of transcending without a great deal of help. Mick and Debora decided there and then to return to Antigua to start an NGO with the goal of giving these youngsters the possibility to grow and learn.

Suffice to say what we experienced in the two days we spent with them, both visiting the children’s homes, and working with them all for the day, is testament to the incredible work Mick and Debora are doing that is transforming young lives in and around Antigua.

Definitely the highlight of our time in Antigua was the two days we spent with them finding out about their work. We went with them on Tuesday to visit the families of the children we would work with the following day, in villages high in the hills surrounding Antigua. These families have very little indeed. For the most part they are large with anything from 4 to 7 children, often sleeping and living in one room, with an extra room for cooking. The poorest houses are simple structures created with corrugated iron, and dirt floors. Some of the ones we saw had an extra building that had been constructed for them by other NGO’s from town, affording them more hygienic living conditions. Despite their poverty the mothers we met had amazing warmth and dignity as they welcomed us into their basic homes.

On Wednesday we spent the whole day working with the young people in a large structure with a concrete floor, part of an American religious organization in Antigua. We had 35 children and young adults in ages ranging from 1 1/2 yrs, 5yrs, 7yrs, 9yrs up to 23yrs, some of whom we had met the previous day.

We were slightly apprehensive about working with such a diverse age group but we were in for a great surprise. In a word they were: extraordinary! I have NEVER in my life worked with a group of young people who were so seriously focused, open, receptive and willing to try anything. In the opening circle we asked them all what moves them and we got an impressive range of answers including; concern for the environment; animals; philosophy; studying; meeting new people and situations; Guatemalan traditions and culture; art; music; history; and wanting to better their country! We were so impressed and also deeply moved by these young people.

Even the younger ones joined in all the physical exercises and sat with us in the dialogue sessions, maintaining a focus that can be rare even in some adults. We wondered if it had anything to do with the fact that these children have had little exposure to television or other technologies to distract them from their lived experiences.

Again it was clear that Debora and Mick are doing exceptional work with them, giving them a safe space, encouragement, rigor and discipline that is supporting their learning and grow. And indeed the potential that they first saw in them six years ago is beginning to shine – we found them to be exceptionally bright, intelligent and engaged. It was an honor to meet and work with them.

And all of this is happening in the context of lives that are often fraught with suffering and pain. We heard some of their life stories that were traumatic to the extreme. This made the joy we saw manifesting in their faces as we moved together, and the attentiveness and respect they gave to each other as they listened to the dialogue sessions seem truly extraordinary and poignant.

All in all we had a fabulous day together, and we hope to be able to return to Antigua in the future to see how the foundation is progressing and what these young people are coming to in their lives.

We left Antigua yesterday at midday, saying goodbye to the astounding beauty of a very special place that had been our home for six days.'

Kirstie, Debora and Renata
Kirstie, Debora and Renata
Home visits the day before with Renata and Kirstie
Home visits the day before with Renata and Kirstie
What Moves You with Renata and Kirstie
What Moves You with Renata and Kirstie
What Moves You with Renata and Kirstie
What Moves You with Renata and Kirstie
What Moves You with Renata and Kirstie
What Moves You with Renata and Kirstie
Jessica paying attention!
Jessica paying attention!
Mario pays attention
Mario pays attention
Claire enjoying What Moves You
Claire enjoying What Moves You
Saida in practice
Saida in practice
Kirstie at work during What Moves You day
Kirstie at work during What Moves You day
Renata coaching the younger ones!
Renata coaching the younger ones!
 
   

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