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Jan 15, 2019

Christmas Baskets and a Happy New (School) Year!

Students with their new backpacks
Students with their new backpacks

For our Primary Education Scholarships team, the holiday season isn’t just a time for celebrating at home with family and friends—it’s also a time when they celebrate with sponsored students. And January isn’t just the beginning of a new calendar year—here in Guatemala, it is also the first month of a new school year! With plenty to do and so much on the horizon, it has been a busy and joyful month here at Pueblo a Pueblo.

Our team spent early December hauling box after box of fruit, rice, cooking oil, and other foods into the office. They arranged the items in large baskets for sponsored students to take home for the Christmas holidays, a time that can be stressful for families whose income is already stretched thin. The baskets full of staple foods will relieve some of this economic pressure as families prepare a traditional Guatemalan Christmas eve meal of tamales and celebrate the holiday together.

The afternoon of December 13, students and parents arrived at the office for the project's annual end-of year gathering. After some opening remarks from project manager Johanny Quiejú, the team passed out Christmas baskets to each student. Johanny then ended the gathering with a few announcements about the fast-approaching school year.

January brings a change of pace for kids who have been working, playing, and helping out at home since school let out in October. The first week of the new year, Johanny and her team were back at work, filling up backpacks with pencils, notebooks, rulers, and all of the other tools that sponsored students will need to succeed in school this year. In Santiago Atitlán, students must bring their own supplies to school; when families are unable to afford to buy everything students need to complete assignments, their academic performance suffers. And so, on January 10, Johanny and her team passed out a backpack to each of the sponsored students in attendance.

Here in the state of Sololá, where one of every three adults cannot read or write, the barriers to receiving even a primary school education are many, but the Primary Education Scholarship project helps students succeed in spite of those challenges. Behind every sponsored student is a sponsor who believes in her. A monthly donation of $30 provides a primary school student with the resources they need to thrive all year long. Consider sponsoring a student’s education today!

*If you are interested in beginning a new sponsorship, send us an email at communications@puebloapueblo.org.

Preparing Christmas baskets for sponsored students
Preparing Christmas baskets for sponsored students
Sponsored student Maria del Rosario and her mother
Sponsored student Maria del Rosario and her mother
Johanny hands out forms at back-to-school meeting
Johanny hands out forms at back-to-school meeting
Marza is ready for school!
Marza is ready for school!

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Jan 10, 2019

Reimagining the Fight Against Childhood Malnutrition

Participants at a healthy cooking workshop
Participants at a healthy cooking workshop

Thanks to donors like you, Pueblo a Pueblo has provided thousands of meals to students in primary schools across the Lake Atitlán region since the launch of its School Nutrition project in 2008. For the past ten years, we have worked to support schools with the economic resources they need to provide nourishing meals to students each day. Our efforts began as a direct response to a lack of funding for school lunches in local public schools, which translated into hunger, malnutrition, and poor academic performance among students. For many years, providing meals directly has been one of the best ways for us to make an impact in the lives of students throughout our partner communities.

In 2018, however, the Guatemalan government increased its support of school lunch programs, and our partner schools began to receive consistent school meal subsidies. Rather than duplicate a service now being provided by the government, we have taken this opportunity to pursue a more sustainable project model exclusively focused on improving students’ nutritional intake at home in the long-term. This updated model consists of educational activities in two areas already central to Pueblo a Pueblo’s programming: home agriculture and healthy cooking.

Our new Educational Organic Garden will be used to conduct workshops that introduce local students and their teachers to gardening techniques they can use to grow nutritious organic vegetables at home. Rather than being located at any one school, the new garden will allow many school groups access to the same educational space. This garden will also act as an incubator for new home agriculture techniques, encouraging a culture of collaboration and innovation among local home gardeners.

Our model of school-based nutrition trainings, developed by our team during the past two years, provides parents and students with the knowledge they need to turn home-grown vegetables into nutritious meals for their families. Project staff also impart the importance of a healthy diet and lead participatory demonstrations of recipes that incorporate nutritious foods in ways that are new for participants but easily replicated at home. Staff also teach food safety practices to help participants protect their families from food-borne illness.

Together, these two educational projects equip families to use the environmental resources present in their communities to improve their nutritional outcomes and overall wellness. Now that students in our partner communities receive a nutritious school lunch, we can focus on making sure they eat well all day long—and into the future! Thank you for supporting Pueblo a Pueblo as we fight malnutrition here in rural Guatemala.

A local mother at a healthy cooking workshop
A local mother at a healthy cooking workshop
Packing seeds for the educational garden
Packing seeds for the educational garden
A student in the educational garden
A student in the educational garden

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Jan 8, 2019

Celebrating Another Year of Education and Advocacy

Rebeca leads an activity at the end-of-year party
Rebeca leads an activity at the end-of-year party

December means many things for the Maternal Child Health project. In addition to conducting regular home visits and reflecting on a year’s worth of women’s health education and advocacy, Vilma and Rebeca always have one more event on their calendar: the Maternal Child Health end-of-year party! Every year brings participating mothers new challenges as they advocate for their own health and the health of their children, and every year, our team is there to support them. The project provides not only concrete economic resources but also education on topics related to  reproductive health and child development so that mothers have the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their families’ health. When our team gets together with participating mothers at the end of the year, they have a lot to celebrate!

On December 5th, all but two of the project's 22 participants gathered in a sunny, grassy park, most of them with their infants or toddlers in tow. After Vilma gave some opening remarks, Rebeca led a series of games that quickly got the women smiling and laughing. During one game, Rebeca challenged each team to pass an orange from player to player without using their hands. During another, pairs of women carried water balloons between their foreheads. They played soccer and basketball and relaxed in the grass with their little ones, taking in the sun. On any given day, these women shoulder a lot of responsibility—they care for their children and older relatives, cook and clean for their households, and earn income for their families—but for a few hours on this sunny Wednesday, they simply enjoyed each other’s company.

Lunch was served, and once everyone was relaxing in the shade, Vilma and Rebeca took the opportunity to recognize the participants who showed the greatest dedication to the health workshops given throughout the year—women with near-perfect attendance who brought attention and energy to each training. Two project participants gave presentations on topics relevant to all of the mothers: Concepción spoke about patient empowerment in doctor’s visits, and Lilian spoke about the importance of vaccination. Vilma and Rebeca then distributed Christmas gifts to each participant—a hygiene kit and new Tupperware container for each mother and a pair of shoes for each child.

Finally, shifting everyone's focus to the year ahead, Vilma read out the lists of the new workshop groups. Participants are grouped for health workshops according to the age of their new child, so each year brings the shifting of groups as infants become one-year-olds and three-year-olds turn four. The first workshop of 2019 will take place in just three weeks, on January 29th. Here’s to another year of education and advocacy. Thank you for helping Pueblo a Pueblo provide spaces for mothers and their young children to learn and thrive!

Participating mothers play a game
Participating mothers play a game
Project participant Concepcion addresses the group
Project participant Concepcion addresses the group
Participating mothers look on with their children
Participating mothers look on with their children
Participants
Participants' children with their new shoes

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