Jun 6, 2018

Indirect Beneficiary

Supporting one another in hard times
Supporting one another in hard times

When an organization fills out a request for a grant, the grant maker always asks how many people will benefit from the program.  Usually, the direct beneficiaries are easy to count.  You write something like; we will have 100 students in reading circles over the next year.   The next question is a bit harder, it asks about indirect beneficiaries. How many people will your program effect indirectly?  With our program, we usually count the parents of our students because they will have a decreased financial burden because of the support we give in housing and food. Those numbers are hard to predict, and it is even harder to predict how people will benefit yet sometimes those effects are amazing. 

The names and family data have been altered to due to the sensitive nature of events.   

Elena wants to continue her college education, last month her family told her that there was no way they could come up with the money to support her, even with the help of Centro de Compartimiento.  It would not be impossible find someone to give Elena a scholarship to cover the costs of her education, but we have found that it is vital to keep the family involved and responsible for their daughter's education.  So we set out to help Elena look at her options.  During this time one of Elena's younger sisters, Chelo, a middle school student, decided to run away with her boyfriend.  Chelo is 14, her boyfriend 17.  On hearing this Elena went back to her village and persuaded her parents to go and talk to her sister and bring her home.  They went to the home of the young man and asked to talk to their daughter.  Chelo told them she regretted her decision and wanted to return home.  When they informed the young man he stated plainly, "But I have already used her."  His claim was that he had already had sex with her, therefore, she was his.  Virginity is extremely important in the local culture and the implication was that no one else would ever want her now.  Thousands of cases of rape and sexual abuse go unreported every year because no family wants the world to know their daughter may not be a virgin. 

This dilemma paralyzed the family with fear for their daughter's future, but they took her home anyway. Something, not all families will do.  Then Elena suggested the unthinkable, tell even more people. "Let's go to Centro de Compartimiento, tell our story and see if they have any ideas." Amazingly they came.  Elena came back with Mom, Dad, and Chelo to where she felt safe to talk about her life and the difficult issue the family faced.   Mom and Dad were open enough to talk about the problem, they had nowhere else to go, no one else to talk to, no one else to trust.  We were honored to sit and listen to the family and support their decision to take Chelo back.

Today Chelo is with her family and in school, the hard road is not over, it is just beginning,  She has to live in her the village where people know her mistakes, of course, this is only a problem for her, not her boyfriend.  As an indirect benefit of having Elena in our program, the family could recover their daughter from a situation that would normally have lead to a marriage and feel supported in their decision to break with tradition and deal with the stigma in the village for now.  Chelo came last weekend to hang out with her sister and the other students Centro de Compartimiento and soak in the environment and Elena has been going home on other weekends to be with Chelo and help her.  Chelo has been able to talk about the difficulties in the village and the stress in her home because of her parent's marital problems.   Our only message to her, we care about you, you are loved. 

An unexpected turn is that one of Elena's aunts has decided to support her to continue college, Mom and Dad agreed to try and find some extra cash as well.  They were impressed at Elena's maturity and poise and decided that her decisions were sound.  

We cannot tell from one year to the next where our young women are going.  We can't say Chelo is home to stay and won't continue to make mistakes.  We all make mistakes, hopefully, we get back on track and try again.  Our project has the short-term goal of helping young women stay in school.  But our long-term goal is to support them to make good decisions about their lives, in the future give back to their community.  Elena is on a good track, now a mentor and example to her younger sister.

Without your support, we could not do this work.  We thank you on behalf of the young women whose lives you help to improve.  Over the summer we hope you think about our young women as they go home for break, and consider a donation to help with the new school year.    

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
 
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