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Mar 9, 2018

Opportunities for the Next Generation.

This month the world celebrates International Women's Day, a day to shine a light on the situation of women all over the world.  As we approach the day the news here in Mexico is full of stories about women.  The vast majority about how the femicide rate has skyrocketed over the past years and other forms of violence against women are on the rise.  There are some stories about women having improved situations, and most of these are about women from rural areas working for change,  We would like to highlight two women who have worked hard to give their daughters a different life. 

Last weekend we had a visit from a foundation which supports our work.  When we host visitors, we like to drive out to the villages where our students are from and meet their families. We pile into our fifteen passenger van and drive out narrow country roads to visit the families.  The visits are an excellent opportunity to connect with the family, the students' home community and understand where they come from.  This past week we went out to the village of San Miguel, about an hour drive from Juchitan (if you take your vehicle). San Miguel is the municipal seat for a vast area of cloud forest, mostly uninhabited, in Eastern Oaxaca. We have two students from the village. 

Aided, 16,  is a high school student who has been at Centro de Compartimiento for two years. She´s from a small family, the oldest of two children.  Her father is an agricultural worker and her mother is a housewife, or as you say in Spanish, ama de casa, which means master of the house, a much more apt title.  Her father has a field outside of town where he plants corn, and on his small plot in town, the family has four different kinds of bananas, green beans, and several other fruit trees.  They grow enough to eat and to sell a bit for cash.   He would like to grow more but is limited by being dependant on rain.  Aided has a maternal aunt who is confined to a wheelchair because of illness.  Her mother, grandmother, aunts, and uncles worked hard to take care of her aunt and pay for cousin´s college education so that her cousin could have a good enough job to work and take care of her mother in the future.  Today her cousin, also a CDC graduate, is working full time she not only helps to cover the costs of her own mother´s care she but also convinced Aided´s family to send her to CDC so she could improve her own chances.   It is taking the effort of three generations of women to put Aided through school, but all know that it is worth the effort.  

Bris, 18,  is the third of four children she is in her first year studying to be a lawyer.  Her two older sisters are married with children of their own, neither graduate from high school.   Her father gave up farming several years ago when the land he worked no longer produced well due to draught. He works gathering firewood in the mountains.  Because of deforestation, he has to travel several hours on horseback to bring out four bundles of wood.  Two bundles he keeps for his family oven, and two bundles he sells for $2.50 USD a piece.   Bris' mother is from a village far back in the mountains, so far she says that as a child she never came into town.  There was no school and she met and married her husband at the age of 14.   She has had a hard life and looks in her mid-sixties,  but since she was married at 14 and her oldest daughter is 35 we have to guess she is closer to 50.  Every day she makes over 200 tortillas by hand, which she sells for one peso a piece.  Her daily income is about ten dollars.  She told us when she has a chicken she will make tamales to sell and once a month she makes sweet corn tamales to sell when the government education grants are given out in town.  The family sends half their weekly income to Bris for her tuition, school supplies and transportation costs.  Without Centro de Compartimeinto, they tell us, Bris would not be able to attend school.  

We are so honored to go and meet these valiant women who are working so hard to change the lives of their daughters.  We thank you for supporting these families in their struggle to keep their daughters in school.  Every donation given through the Global Giving platform goes to support our students.   We hope that you consider a donation to our program this month in honor of International Women´s day.  The platform also provides an option to become a monthly sponsor.  With a gift of $50 USD, you can sponsor the nutritional needs of one student for a month. 

Thank you.  Together we are improving our world, one girl at a time. 

Dec 11, 2017

Getting Back on our Feet

No more violence against women!
No more violence against women!

It has been three months since an earthquake, 8.2 on the Richter scale assaulted our region causing tremendous damage and taking almost one hundred lives. We have had time now to take stock of the damage and start thinking about the future. Our property in Juchitan had comparatively little damage, our multipurpose room and student home were undamaged, just our property walls suffered. Our property in El Espinal fared worse and is for the moment unusable.

For over a month our residential students went home to their villages. The schools closed down as most were damaged and with the chaos in town we felt it was better to have them at their homes, and their mothers agreed. In late October word started getting around that some of the schools would be opening at alternative sites. Some full time, and some only one day a week. We brought our students back. Our front wall in Juchitan was still not repaired, and our program center in El Espinal is too damaged to use, so we had to find alternative housing. After strong aftershock in late September, most of the population moved out of their buildings and into their yards. No one wanted to be indoors, so we got a donation of tarps and set up a temporary home for the students who started school. In the day they used our executive director’s kitchen and other facilities, and during the night they stayed on the patio surrounded by tarps. Mid-November is the beginning of the windy season here in the Isthmus and with the high winds those who could moved back indoors. Many organizations have come to our region helping families who lost their homes with temporary shelter. CDC was given ten tents, and soon our students became experts in pitching tents as we found families in need.

We decided not to get into the massive aid effort; there was no lack. There was a flood of donations and moral support right after the quake, but most of the out of town groups have left. It is up to us, locally, to rebuild. Since the quake we have been working on just that, we have no skill at demolition and rebuilding, but we do have a lot of experience with listening and helping people tell their stories. For a long time, we felt like the front wall of our property, propped up and just barely standing. But slowly supporting each other, we are moving forward. Our doors have been open to our students, women, and neighbors to come in a have a safe place to talk about our experiences. Sharing our stories, fears, and frustrations helps us to get through the harder days.

Life is far from normal. Half of downtown Juchitan was destroyed. Our market is now located in our main square and many stores no more. In our WhatsApp groups it is common to see the question, “Does anyone know where the _____ is now?” It is very hard to get around town, next to the piles of rubble that line the streets are now joined by piles of sand and gravel for rebuilding. Our roads have become one lane, no parking zones, every day a new street is closed due to demolition and some people just block their street because they don’t want the traffic. Going into town is a drain on the spirit. So we take it slow and do as much as we can.

Thanks to our donors we were able to rebuild the front wall at our Juchitan student home. The students moved back two weeks ago. Not all is normal; we still do not use the second floor, everyone sleeps on the first floor in hammocks or inflatable mattresses. The constant construction around us had brought new challenges. Two homes across the street were demolished and are being rebuilt. As our young women exit our property, they are subjected to wolf whistles and stares. Our interventions with the owners of the property and the construction company have brought little change, since it does not happen when any staff is around. To keep the students safe, we keep an extra staff on site during the day and make sure that multiple adults, especially males, make visits. Telling the workers who are from out of town, these girls are family, and we will not tolerate their behavior. November 25 gave us an opportunity to remind our community that ongoing violence against women is a problem and invite them to join us in working on prevention. We painted a section of our new wall with the words; No More Violence Against Women and Girls.  We all added our handprints in bright orange to show our commitment. It got the construction workers attention. Each month on the 25th we plan to have an activity around the theme of stopping violence against women.

In two weeks we will all go to our families to celebrate the holidays. We hope to return next year refreshed and ready to work. We all want to get away from the aftershocks for a while (we are at 12,000 and counting). We would like to thank you for your support this year and wish you and your families all the blessings of this holiday season. Ndaayatu’. We are grateful to have you as partners in this project of walking with our young women as they reach for their dreams. Please remember our program in your holiday giving.

Propping up the walls
Propping up the walls
Sharing our stories
Sharing our stories
Building a temporary shelter
Building a temporary shelter
Over 30,000 homes lost or damaged
Over 30,000 homes lost or damaged
Sep 11, 2017

Earthquake aftermath: Safe but with a long road ahead

Damage at the Espinal Student House
Damage at the Espinal Student House

Hello dear friends,  I just wanted to send you a brief letter to keep you up to date with our situation since the earthquake last Thursday night.  As you may have seen our region was hit by an 8.2 earthquake last Thursday night at 11:50 PM. First and most importantly all the students, staff and former students who are in Juchitan, Oaxaca and surrounding communities are safe. Our two student buildings withstood the quake, but both have some damage.

I was home asleep with my two girls when the quake hit, We were out on our balcony sleeping semi outdoors to beat the summer heat.  We were startled awake as the whole house shook and swayed and made our way down the stairs with much difficulty and outside, while the world shook and roared around us.  Without cell service or electricity, we quickly got in our car and drove to the student house in Juchitan to check on the girls.  We passed many damaged homes in Juchitan, and everyone was on the street, it was a nerve wrecking 10-minute drive, wondering if the students were okay.  They were, and the house seemed to be okay save for a leak from the cooking gas tank on the roof, so we evacuated them to El Espinal to our director´s home.  We have sent them home for at least a week as they are mostly from outlying areas that were less affected by the quake and aftershocks.  

The aftershocks are many and strong, as I write this I have gotten up once and left the building for what used to feel like a strong quake.  Tomorrow we will have someone out to evaluate the two student buildings, and we are waiting for word from the schools.  One high school where our students attend ready sent word that the school is damaged and asked families for help on Monday clearing rubble once they know the remaining structures are sound.  Meanwhile, Juchtan, our home town has no water, scarce electricity and is in chaos, The historic center, town hall, 16th-century church and many of our traditional homes were destroyed.  Over 5000 homes destroyed and 61 lives lost in Juchitan alone.  

We have not yet assessed the cost of the damage, but the student buildings will need repairs, we will need financial help to get the structures back to living conditions.  It looks like the Juchitan house will need fewer repairs, the cooking gas tank, bathrooms, water delivery system all need repair, and our property wall on one side is leaning dangerously and will need to be torn down and replaced.  Unfortunately, the house in El Espinal has more damage, and we need to get it evaluated and see how to rescue the living spaces.   We will keep you informed over the next few weeks, but any donation can help to get us up and running again so that the students don´t lose this school year.  

We will keep you informed over the next few weeks, but any donation can help to get us up and running.  Please consider donating to help us through this crisis.  Looking at the main page of GlobalGiving I see so many natural disasters this week we can only leave it to you to consider what is most urgent, but I ask you to consider giving generously to us here and Centro de Compartimiento so we can get up and running soon.  

Thank you for the support you have given to us, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers,

Kristin Lietz

Program Director

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