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Jul 1, 2019

Nutrition For the Whole Family

Sandy prepares for her next round of workshops
Sandy prepares for her next round of workshops

When Sandy leads nutrition trainings in schools, she often focuses on childhood nutrition: what kids need to eat to grow up healthy and strong. But she is also invested in helping students’ parents and grandparents stay healthy. That’s why the second workshop she developed for the summer 2019 project cycle focuses on nutrition tips for adults of all ages. Sandy will lead this lesson for participating students and their mothers, who will bring their new knowledge home to share with adult loved ones.

“The human body is vulnerable in different ways at different times in our lives,” Sandy explains. “We can protect our bodies and keep healthy by eating nutritious foods.” Sandy’s next workshop will provide nutrition recommendations for adults of three distinct age groups: 20-40 years old, 40-50 years old, and older than 50.

When it comes to adults under 40, Sandy says, there is something of a divide in today’s Santiago Atitlán. Some younger adults continue to do the daily physical labor that their families have done for centuries, like cutting firewood and harvesting crops. However, today’s younger adults are doing more and more sedentary work.

Sandy wants to impart that for those who do hard physical labor, it is important to provide the body with consistent energy and hydration. She recommends eating five times throughout the day and snacking on fruits—their high water content is a great way to stay hydrated! For those who spend a lot of the day sitting down, she recommends getting some exercise a few times a week and avoiding highly processed foods. “Exercise doesn’t have to be in a gym,” she says, “but even walking is good for your body, and it’s important that your children learn this healthy habit, too.”

What about middle-aged adults? When we reach our 40s, Sandy says, we need to eat plenty of fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and legumes that provide consistent energy and promote good digestive health. Middle-aged adults also need plenty of calcium to strengthen their bones and should keep on exercising and drinking plenty of water.

Older adults should steer clear of fried and processed foods to avoid large amounts of fat and cholesterol, which can cause heart problems, Sandy says. They should also continue to—you guessed it!—continue to exercise and hydrate often.

The bottom line? Sandy wants to teach the importance of learning and sustaining healthy habits from childhood through adulthood. “All of us need exercise, water, and a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and few processed foods,” she says. “There are important things to remember at each phase of life, but the most important lessons stay the same.”

This month, Sandy will lead this workshop in each of our five partner schools, where her nutrition lesson will be followed by a hands-on cooking class. The dish she plans to make with participants? Lentil burgers! The dish is both high in fiber and a big hit with eaters of all ages.

Your donation equips our Guatemalan project partners—young and old—with the tools they need to live healthier. Thank you for believing in the power of education to improve lives. Your support fuels our success!

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Jun 19, 2019

Teaming Up With Moms

A mother participates in the workshop
A mother participates in the workshop

Johanny and Sandy are the team behind the Primary Education Scholarships project. They work with families who are determined to give their children the opportunity to study in spite of considerable social and economic obstacles.

Each year, Johanny and Sandy host a series of workshops for parents of students sponsored through the project. They decided to focus this year’s sessions on a topic relevant to our partner communities: school dropout and how to prevent it.

On Wednesday, June 12, Johanny and Sandy were setting up for a workshop in Panabaj, one of the four neighborhoods of Santiago Atitlán where sponsored students live and study. As they dragged chairs into place, mothers of sponsored students arrived one after another, some with younger children in tow.

The facilitators began the session by introducing the day’s theme. “We want to hear from you,” Johanny continued. “What factors contribute to school dropout in your community?” The participants’ answers ranged from bullying at school to economic concerns to a lack of support from teachers. Sandy wrote down each answer on a large wall display.

Then, Sandy asked the mothers, “What can we as parents do about these problems? How can we make sure our children have the support they need to stay in school?” The participants had plenty of ideas, questions, and frustrations to share. One mother suggested regular meetings with the child’s teacher. Another countered that her child’s teacher has been uninterested in even talking with her. Johanny proposed, “If your child’s teacher is not helpful, try speaking with  the school principal—you have every right to request support from your child’s school.”

Sandy and Johanny also urged parents to promote gender equity in their homes. “It is important that our sons and our daughters have the same opportunities, including the opportunity to study,” Johanny told participants, “and this starts at home. Our daughters shouldn’t be the only ones helping to sweep and wash and cook—our sons can help too!” Teaching children that girls are just as smart and capable as boys will help them to succeed in school despite obstacles, she explained.

After many rounds of questions, answers, suggestions, and follow-ups, the facilitators shared a snack with the participants and the mothers set off for home once again. Johanny and Sandy packed up their materials and headed back to the office. Now that they have wrapped up their workshops in all four communities, they will interview participating mothers to see what they learned and what our team can do better next time.

Johanny feels that she gains as much from facilitating these workshops as the mothers do from participating. “It’s important that the mothers we work with feel they can trust us, and these sessions help us build rapport,” she says. “When we show that we’re listening, that we’re here to help, the mothers are more likely to reach out to us when their children are having trouble in school.” It is this dedication to individual mothers, students, and families that makes Johanny and Sandy such valuable allies. Your support of the Primary Education Scholarships project makes all of this possible: greater understanding, stronger collaboration, and smarter problem-solving that keeps kids learning, growing, and attending school!

Johanny facilitates the discussion
Johanny facilitates the discussion
Mothers of sponsored students attend the workshop
Mothers of sponsored students attend the workshop
Sandy listens to a participant
Sandy listens to a participant's suggestion
A mother and her young daughter look on
A mother and her young daughter look on
Johanny and Sandy after the workshop
Johanny and Sandy after the workshop

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May 29, 2019

Performing New Pathways to Literacy

Students portray the seven dwarves
Students portray the seven dwarves

Rebeca was thrilled to receive an invitation to an International Book Day celebration at Patzilin Abaj Primary School earlier this month. An educator herself, she enjoys any opportunity to celebrate learning. But she was especially excited to see the students and teachers at Patzilin Abaj bring their library to life.

Two years ago, Rebeca and the rest of her Pathways to Literacy team started their work at Patzilin Abaj. They have worked with school administrators to build a library from the ground up. They have filled it with books and delivered electronic tablets loaded with educational games and literacy-building tools. They have selected and trained a librarian and led professional development workshops for teachers, introducing them to the many ways they can use the library in their classes. There's still a year left before the school begins to manage the project independently, but the faculty of Patzilin Abaj have already done a lot to integrate the library into the lives of their students.

The school’s International Book Day celebration certainly put that hard work on display. Students, teachers, and administrators worked together to perform dramatizations of two books that can be found in the school library.

The first performance was a dramatic rendition of a classic fairy tale: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”. Students dressed as trees, flowers, and woodland creatures filled the school’s large outdoor multipurpose space, transforming it into the forest where Snow White escapes her evil stepmother to live with the seven dwarves. School librarian Clara Eugenia played the role of the evil queen quite convincingly!

The second play was based on the children’s book Un Elefante Buscando Amigos (“An Elephant Looks for Friends”). In the story, an elephant struggles to make friends with the other animals in the jungle, until he finds friendship in the unlikeliest of places. While the other animals complain about how big and slow he is, the ant accepts the elephant for who he is despite their differences.

The other students watched the performances attentively. One of the teachers narrated aloud into a microphone, reading his role straight from the pages of each book! A few parents had gathered to watch too, smiling and laughing at the performers’ antics. At the end of the performances, Principal Caín addressed the whole audience. “Thank you for coming to today’s event, and congratulations to all of our performers,” he said. “And most importantly: you can find both of these books in our school library, so if you liked what you saw, go and check them out today!”

By bringing these books to life through performance, the teachers of Patzilin Abaj paved a pathway to literacy for their students. The next year of their collaboration with Pueblo a Pueblo will no doubt inspire an even deeper love of reading, writing and storytelling among students at Patzilin Abaj!

Narrating the stories
Narrating the stories
Librarian Clara Eugenia plays the evil stepmother
Librarian Clara Eugenia plays the evil stepmother
Students watch the plays
Students watch the plays
Parents had plenty of fun too!
Parents had plenty of fun too!
Rebeca and Principal Cain at the event
Rebeca and Principal Cain at the event

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