Dec 27, 2016

Housemother at CDC, not the job I expected.

Ofelia
Ofelia

My name is Ofelia Flor Diaz Alavez. I am 26 years old and I graduated with a degree in Communication for Social Development from the Ayuuk Intercultural Institute, a Catholic College for indigenous students in my home town of Jaltepec de Candayoc, Oaxaca. I am an indigenous Mexican of Ayuuk (Mixe) descent; in my hometown we still use our native language on a daily basis as well as Spanish.   I work for Centro de Compartimiento (CDC) as a housemother, living with the young women in the residential program.

In 2014 I started working at CDC. It was not an easy decision to make because I did not understand the project very well.   After my first interview with CDC I thought that my job would be like most others, that is, to comply with a schedule and a list of duties. There are many boarding schools in our region for children from rural villages so I thought I understood what the job was going to be like. My second interview involved staying overnight at the house with the students and I realized then that CDC was a different type of job. CDC was less of a boarding home and more of a family. A place that not only meets the basic needs of each residential student but also where we get to know the heart of each person, their dreams and that which lies deep within.

I took the job I was excited about helping the students in their personal growth, what I did not realize was that I also needed to go through the process. The process of sharing and getting to know each other in order to heal is not easy for anyone. To teach the steps to make deep changes in their lives I also had to take them. I began without truly understanding. Sometimes I resisted, I despaired and even got angry. It took us a while to get used to each other. I was not much older than the students and it was hard to establish my authority. Some of the things I was asked to do I did not understand. Many times I wanted to leave.

I think it is easy to work with reports, software, cameras, and projects, etc., but working directly with young peoplewho have different personalities, different characters and stories is not easy. I often can not find a way to describe it. Every situationcan be a challenge when it is vital to care for the wholeness, peace and education of each student.  In college we do not learn to hug. We do not learn the words to comfort a sad, angry or tired heart.I was not taught how to wipe away tears and know why “things” happen in the lives of our students. When I realized that we were more like family I began to treat the students as I would younger sisters, yet being the youngest child and only girl in my family this too was new to me but each shared moment also taught me. I learned that I too have things that I need to learn and change.    The other staff members, Adela and Kristin, helped me along the path to grow, and I took the CDC Servant Leadership course for adults to understand better the ideas behind what CDC is doing.

Now I have been working for more than two years at CDC, apart from developing professional skills, I have learned different ways of relating to people, different ways of working as a team, in addition to knowing my self better. In the field of communication one is constantly involved in research, writing and witnessing social movements. We are taught to find and report the bad, unjust and corrupt. One can often feel angry and impotent. There is even danger if a journalist is not prudent with what they cover. Instead I feel very happy to be in a place where you can give good news, where, even though slow and small, steps are made to make positive change in our communities. Perhaps we do not drastically change the situation in our world, but seeing someone continue to fight for their dreams and seeing how they have grown as a person and as a citizen of thiscountry that needs us so much is the best reward. Working in CDC is a challenge every day, it also teaches me to constantly look for opportunities for service and learning.

The staff and students at CDC want to thank you for all your support this past year and wish you a very happy holiday season and blessing in this New Year. Our work is ongoing, in January the students will return for the second semester of this school year. We hope that you will consider giving again as the year draws to a close, and continue to give these wonderful young women a chance to learn, discover and grow.    

Thursday night reading groups with students
Thursday night reading groups with students
CDC staff and volunteer corps
CDC staff and volunteer corps
Sep 26, 2016

Difficult Adjustments

Nereida - returning for 3rd year of college
Nereida - returning for 3rd year of college

Another summer has come and gone and we are back to work here at Centro De Compartimiento for the new school year.  Most of the students spent their summer holiday, one month, with their families in their home villages although our college students did have to spend some extra time in town for summer pratica, so the house in Juchitan never really closed down for the summer.  It is nice to have a full house of students once again after a quiet summer.  The new school year is always interesting, blending the new students in with the returning students and seeing what dynamics develop.  We are one month into the new year and all seems to be going well and all are integrating well. Some home sickness but the returning students are always a great support for the new ones. 

In an interesting turn, much of our focus on adjustment has not been spent on our new students, but on two of our students who left the program in the summer at the end of high school and are having a hard time adjusting to life outside the project.  Both have the dream to continue on with college, but neither family has the resources at this time to pay for their studies.  They decided to work for a year to earn some money to start college and both went to extended family to live and work in a larger city than Juchitan.  After less than a month each was contacting us to say they were miserable and were having a hard time adjusting.  They experienced similar problems.  The family they were with treated them like second class citizens and the jobs they found seemed like good  pay but with unreasonable work  rules and employers who did not treat them with respect.  In one case our student was employed at a grocery warehouse, checking in and out the products that arrived and were sold.  In the afternoons the owner would bring his young son into the ware house and the son, not more than seven year old, would order the staff around to meet his own needs calling the employees with the word "gato" or "gata", which means cat in Spanish.  Our former student did not like being ordered around by a seven year old and wanted to talk to her boss, but her fellow employees warned her off, telling her just to do what the child wanted and get back to her work.   She was amazed at the level of fear the employees had in the work place and how little the employers cared for the workers.  Lateness arriving for work or coming back late from break was punished with two days loss of pay.  Our student told us she worked for three weeks and recieved less than 1/3 her promised pay due to being docked for various reasons including for forgetting to punch in in the morning, and being ill for a half a day.  She began to communicate with us on a regular basis becuase the home where she was staying were also very disorganized and the married couple fought almost every day.   The young son in the family even demonstarted the most effective way to put her fingers in her ears so that she would not hear them fight.  Out of unexpressed anger and frustation she found herself acting out in ways that could be dangerous such as staying out late on the streets at night to avoid being in the home. 

Our focus in the program is not only getting the students through school, but to teach them to live in a harmonious supportive way.  After three years in the program the two students found it very hard to adjust to life in thier strife filled extended families.  Karina has returned to the program to study cosmetology, she tried living with her cousins in another town where the school was less expensive but the negativity in the home and lack of moral support was too much.  We have adjusted the program to allow Karina to work part time to pay for her cosmetology program here in town.  We have not had students who work and study at the same time due to the fact that their studies or house particiaption often suffers.  We shall try again with Karina and see how it goes.  Perla is a harder case as she still dreams of college and her family can´t afford it.  In the mean time we are trying to work with her to keep her dreams alive so that she will make good decisions in her life now and not succumb to the chaos of her extended family.  

We hope that these young women will be able to bring some of the peace and social skills that they have learned here at CDC to their home communities but it is proving a challenge and we need to add something into our program to help them with the adjustment  back into community.  At least now, we are very very pleased that they both recognized the toxic enviroments as such and reached out to us for support.  That is a giant step foward. 

With your support we can continue to have the quality programs for our students and also increase outreach to our former residential students.  We thank you for your support this past summer and hope that you will consider giving a donation to help us start out the new school year.  Our goal for October is to raise $4000 towards this school year..  We have been on the Global Giving page for two years now and have doubled the donations that were given during the first campaign to get us on the site.  Through the site we have been able to reach new donors and increase our donor base, but we do need past donors to continue to give.  We invite you to make a donation to Centro de Compartimiento this month if you can increase your 2014 donation by a minimum of $10 we can cover the increased costs due to inflation over the years since our initial campaign.  I am no marketer but we will use the catch phase of Match +10. If you are a new donor we invite you to match + 10 your most recent donation.  Thank you again for all your support of the wonderful young women here at Centro de Compartimiento.  Our doors and email are always open for questions and conversations about the program.  

One final note of great news.  We found out this week that our former student, Aurelia Martinez has passed her national licensure exam as a lawyer.  We are very proud of her accomplishment.

Aided - joining program to begin high school
Aided - joining program to begin high school

Links:

Jun 28, 2016

Maylit, fufulling her dream

Spring reading circle graduates
Spring reading circle graduates

Dear friends it is wonderful to write to you again about our  residential program here at Centro de Compartimiento.  We are at the end of the school year here in Juchitan, Oaxaca and most of the students have gone home for the summer to enjoy time with their families and take a well earned break.  Summer vacation is shorter here in Mexico than in many parts of the world with high school classes finishing only this past week and middle and grade schools still with three weeks to go on the school calendar.  As you may have heard in the news Mexico and our state,Oaxaca, are going through turbulent times.  The teachers unions in the country, but especially in Oaxaca, continue to protests the educational reform passed by the federal government several years ago.  With corruption rampant on all sides it is diffcult to see if students and families will benefit from  the changes to the system either side is proposing. For now the children in preschool through middle school have been without classes for the past month with no end to the strike in sight.  We are doing our best to help small groups of local school children occupied for short times during the day.  This week we will start a three week reading program for children ages 8-12 run by volunteers and residential students.  The groups will focus on reading skills and comprension and also relaxation techinques to help the kids cope with the stress of the violence and upheaval around us. Above is a picture of students who were involved this spring in similar reading circles.

This year we are proud to say that all of our students enrolled in our residencial program have sucessfully completed another level of school  We have three graduates this summer.  Perla is graduating from high school and has applied at  two different universities to study sustainable development.  The Mexican system of college enrollement has students recieving their accpetance to programs in mid July so we are waiting for Perla to inform us about her final decision.  Karina is also graduating from high school this month.  She has enrolled in a cosmotolgoy program in a neighboring city and will being classes in the fall. 

Maylit graduates from nursing school this July. Mayit is from a small village in eastern Oaxaca, she was raised by her grandmother and grandfather after her mother contracted Trichanosis when Maylit was a toddler.  Maylit's mother survived the illness, but is confined to her bed or a wheel chair and cannot easily leave the home.  The village is a two hour drive from any medical facility and no physical therapy was available to help her recover.  Maylit came to CDC two years ago when, after supporting her through two years of college, the family could no longer afford to help her stay in school.  Despite having lived on here own since highschool Maylit fit into the CDC program well and became a mentor and friend to many of the younger students.  This past winter Maylit became the second CDC student to finish our four month adult Servant Leadership course which we offer to women in our community.  Her fellow students and the women in the group were able to support her emotinally this spring when her grandmother died of cancer.  Maylit has always known that as an only child she will be responsible for the care of her mother in the future and she has worked hard to be able to have a career that will help her have the skills and income needed to care for her mother.   This next year she will be giving her year of national service as a nurse, most likely in a small rural village much like her home town.  Her family has banded together to promise her that they will continue to care for her mother as she finishes this final phase of her training.

This past month she showed her understanding of the Servant Leadership model when the women in her class stated that they wanted to support her family in creating ramps in her village home for her mother so that wheelchair access would be easier.  She spoke about the prospect to her family and friends in the village and they decided that it was a project that the community could support and the local men and women donated cement and labor and built the necessary ramps in her grandparent's home.  She then could asked the women in her group to help with the repair needed for her mother's wheelchair, a skill which no one in the village could provide.  She helped mobilize the talents of two groups to help her mother get around the home more easily in the absence of her grandmother.  A true example of Servant Leadership in practice.

With out your support Maylit would not have been able to continue her education. We thank you for all the support you have given to CDC in the past years and hope you will continue with us as we walk with these remarkable young women.  I urge you to engage in dialog with us about Servant Leadership and our CDC community and  we ask you to keep our young women and region in your prayers as we go through this time of social turmoil. 

Maylit
Maylit
 
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