Oct 1, 2015

New school year new challenges


It is the beginning of the new school year here in Juchitan, Oaxaca, Mexico. Our students are all returning from summer vacation. Some spent vacation with their family some spent vacation in practicums. The beginning of the new school year is challenging for all students and in the state of Oaxaca here in Mexico we have the additional challenges of ongoing teacher strikes and turbulence in our educational system. Although the education system in Oaxaca is highly dysfunctional most of the challenges our students face are personal. One student, 21, who has been with us since she was 15 years old has faced family resistance every step of the way of her struggle to get a higher education. Her family pulled her out of school after third grade and sent her to work. Her father, who now lives out of the country, wants her to stay home and work to provide an income for her mother and three younger siblings, especial now that she has finished high school. Her mother does not seem to want to work. This summer when she went home for a visit she had to deal with her father, who from a distance, wants to kick her mother off of the family property, and siblings who are in emotional and legal trouble. Her father has sent family members to threaten her mother, and her mother who has long lived in domestic violence does not have the skills to cope with the situation. Our student had to deal with family protective services, legal services, and human rights services and her own families reluctance to cross their father, with only frequent phone calls to get support from our program. She comes back to us with the ongoing stress and worry about what is going to happen to her family while is studying. Even though she knows, deep inside, that living with her family will not solve any of their problems, as her mother is the one who needs to take charge of her own life, she cannot completely let the emotional stress go. This is a struggle that she faces every day. Nominally our program is to help young women to get an education, to get ahead in life, but our experience and now studies have shown that there are many factors in poverty-stricken families that do not have anything to do with finances that prevent young people from getting ahead even if they're offered the opportunity to study. Studies have shown that young people from impoverished situations often have not developed the skills to reach out for help and have poor decision making skills. (This American Life, Ep. 550, Three Miles, March 15, 2015). Our residential program no only provides access to education for young women but also we are providing ongoing emotional and spiritual support so that they can learn how to deal with the problems that are thrown at them. We are available to the students 24/7 to talk, encourage and support. In US colleges this type of support has been called intrusive advising here we like to call it "family". We thank you for helping us provide a healthy family environment for young women, we consider you to be our extended family and hope you will continue to support these wonderful young women as they walk the road to a different life.

Jun 2, 2015

Lucy, Poised to take her next step

Lucy, on our visit to Chiapas
Lucy, on our visit to Chiapas

Centro de Compartimiento is a program that focuses on getting young women further along in school and helping them with personal development so that they can make better choices about their lives and have more opportunities after they leave the program. As each student nears the end of a level of education they have to make a decision about their next step. We work closely with each student to walk with them in the decision process.   Lucy is at one of these points in her life. This June she will finish high school, and she had to make a choice about her next step. Lucy has used her time well at Centro de Compartimiento, and has learned about her strengths and weakness, improved her communication skills and learned to live in community. At this point in her life Lucy is not in love with academics, she loves learning but she is not a strong student and understands that university will possibly be a struggle for her. She feels she is not ready to take that step, but does not want leave her community and work and live on her own. She is passionate about social justice, loves music,gardening, learning new skills, teaching and working with young people.

            This past spring we took the students in the program on a Learning Exchange trip. The idea was to take to the students to see other programs that also work with indigenous young people. We live on a sea level plain where our temperature never gets below 70 F, and we have eight months of the year with no rain fall. We drove out five hours and up to two thousand meters above sea level to the city of San Cristobal in the neighboring state of Chiapas. There we found cool pine forests, rain and temperatures in the mid 50's. In San Cristobal the indigenous cultures are strong but very different from the ones in our region. This was the first time out traveling out of the state for most of the students (and we are only one hour away from the state border).

            We visited a program that does not focus on academic but on vocational training. The program supports over one hundred residential students, mostly middle and high school age, to learn a vocation to take back to their villages to work. Lucy was impressed with the program and after living in Centro de Compartimiento she began to wonder if a good next step was to volunteer for a time at this program helping younger students and learning some vocational skills to better decided if college is the right path for her. During our visit she spoke to the director of the program, and upon returning home she found that several of the staff at her high school know of and are impressed with the program. She is using skills learned at Centro de Compartimiento to make a choice about her future, and her current choice is to give a year of service to others as she finds her own path.

            Thanks to all of you, Lucy had the opportunity to finish her high school, learn valuable decision making skills and now is poised to pass on to others what she has learned. The gift you gave to Centro de Compartimiento does not just support a group of students to keep going in school, but to help young women to make good choices about their lives and forge new paths for themselves and others. We all have time, talent or money that we can share in our world. You gave a financial gift and now Lucy is planning to match your gift by giving of her own time and talent. Truly a wonderful multiplication of gifts. We are excited to see what is next for Lucy as she takes this next step in life, we hope you will continue to travel with us in supporting these wonderful young women.

Next month Global Giving is having another matching day and each donation will count  for more.  Centro de Compartimiento has just reached the Leader level on Global Giving and donations on July 15th will be matched at 40%.   Stay  tuned from more information as we draw nearer to the date.

Mar 3, 2015

Perla, Giving an Excellent Student a Chance

Perla in her school uniform
Perla in her school uniform

It is hard to believe that we have been on the Global Giving site for six months. We are pleased with the results and donations keep coming in at a steady pace, although we are still working to learn to use the all the Global Giving benefits to increase our effectiveness. We thank you for your ongoing support of the young women at Centro de Compartimiento. We currently have eleven students in the program, two new students joined at the beginning of this semester due to extensive travel times from their homes to their schools. The new students are classmates of current program students who found out about our program from a classmate or family member. Although we will be spending the next several months doing radio interviews and sending flyers out to school, students mostly find us though a recommendation by a community member or student who has been through our program. We already have applicants for next year who heard of the program from a friend. Unfortunately in Mexico the trust level of the people for any system is extremely low. One our student´s fathers said when he first heard about the program he was skeptical, and researched the program to see if we were genuine. “It is not easy,” he said, “ to entrust your daughter to strangers, but when I looked into the program I heard nothing but good comments.”

The students finished their first semester of the school year with good results, the students did well passing the semester. Perla, who is in eleventh grade, did exceptionally well this semester bringing home the equivalent of an A+ average. Her family is very pleased with her progress. Perla is from a small village of about fifty families in the Chimalapas region of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. It is an area of constant land disputes between the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas and at times the roads to her village are blocked by one side or the other in the dispute that has lasted over sixty years.   Perla is the oldest of three children. Her father organizes a resin farming cooperative in their village and her mother is a house wife and raises chickens for extra income. Neither mother nor father has an education beyond middle school. Perla´s mother told us that she had the chance to leave the village to study when she was younger, but she had never left her home village and was too scared to leave and take the opportunity. Instead she got married at fourteen and had her first child at fifteen. Even though her parents married young they have a good loving relationship, and work hard to provide for their children. Since Perla´s father leaves the village a lot for his resin farming group, Perla´s mother also began to travel out of the village. She decided that her children would not have her fear of leaving the village and took Perla on as many trips as she could. Perla was an A student in grade and middle school and when offered the chance to study she did not hesitate even though it meant leaving her village. Many of our students travel home at the end of the month to visit their family, but Perla lives too far and can only go home over the long school breaks at Christmas and Easter. Perla says that it is hardest to be away from her little sister who is only six.

In Mexico the students begin to specialize in a field of study even in middle school. High school graduates can apply for a certificate as a technician in their fields, a certificate that, only a decade ago, was quite valuable in the work market.   Today most students think of it as an early start on their college career and they choose a specialty based on what they want to major in in college. Perla has chosen public heath as her specialty and although she is not sure about her college studies she is leaning toward medicine or nursing. She is concerned that the people in her village have to travel too far for medical services and thinks it would be beneficial to have a full time nurse in her village. Last month her sister suffered from strep throat and the family had to travel three hours for medical services. At Centro de Compartimiento we are honored to walk with Perla as she makes plans for her future and we are grateful for the support of our donors who make her continuing education possible.

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