Aug 4, 2016

Over 200 Students Gather for Annual Youth Summit

Youth participants at the annual summit
Youth participants at the annual summit

More than 200 Common Hope students gathered for the 5th annual Youth Summit at the Antigua site. This year’s summit was extra special, with youth from all four sites (Antigua, New Hope, San Rafael, and San Miguel Milpas Altas) participating in the activities. The main goal of the summit was to have a space for Common Hope youth from different communities come together to share their experiences and build a sense of community as part of one organization.

All of the young people who participate in Common Hope’s youth support programs receive similar forms of assistance, yet they come from very different backgrounds depeneding on what community and region they live in. Some live in urban areas, others in rural communities; some are indigenous and Spanish is their second language, others come from families living in more severe poverty. The space they shared fostered free expression, allowing all of the youth to talk openly about their different life experiences.

There was no discrimination or negative interactions between the different groups of youth. Instead, everyone supported each other during the team activities. The activities, which were planned by the Youth Leadership Group, included volleyball, soccer, basketball, long jump, board games and jewelry making. Sports were a great way for the youth to interact and build relationships. In each game, teams were made up of youth from all four sites compared to past years when there was a lot of separation and resistance to interacting with youth from other sites. This year everyone was very open and willing to participate and get to know one another.

About the day’s activities, Azucena, an Antigua Youth Support staff member said, “I felt really great about the activities because we achieved our goal unifying the youth from all four sites. The Youth Summit worked to break down barriers and helped build one unified Common Hope.”

As the first generation born after a long civil war, the youth of Guatemala have shown us that they are not afraid to move forward, and they are optimistic that all of Guatemala can move forward with them leading the way. The Youth Summit serves as a place for young people to talk about their shared goals and dreams for the future of their families and their country. The Antigua Youth Programs Manager, Rigoberto reflected saying, “We are all from the same country, but have very different cultures and experiences. The Youth Summit brought us all together as one organization, one common hope.”

This year’s summit showed that when youth come together, powerful things can happen. United by their ideas and goals, the next generation has the tools, skills, and optimism necessary to build foundations for lasting change. Thank you to our generous donors who make important programs like our Youth Leadership Group possible. 

In what ways have you seen youth come together to make a difference in your community? Please share your stories with us!  

Fun and games at the Youth Summit
Fun and games at the Youth Summit
Ready to play some soccer!
Ready to play some soccer!
Creating beautiful jewelry at the youth summit
Creating beautiful jewelry at the youth summit
Teambuilding!
Teambuilding!
Participants of the 5th annual Youth Summit
Participants of the 5th annual Youth Summit
May 10, 2016

Early Childhood Program serves critical need

A mother and daughter participating in the program
A mother and daughter participating in the program

Early childhood education is virtually non-existent in Guatemala, a country where half of the population lives below the poverty line. Books are a luxury that many cannot afford and for some children, their first year of school is the first time they have a story read to them.

Knowing that the most crucial and influential years of education occur very early on in a child’s life (ages 2-4 years old), Common Hope’s Early Childhood Reading Program addresses the need for early childhood education.

Started in 2011 with only three families, the program has grown to serve 52 families from Antigua and the village of San Miguel Milpas Atlas in 2015. A program evaluation done in 2014 showed an increase in the frequency of parents reading to their children – parents went from reading with their children two times per month to two-four times per week. 

In addition, the program evaluation showed that parents are:

  • more likely to have a regularly scheduled reading time with their child
  • more likely to be able to name their child’s favorite book
  • more likely to have an affective bond
  • twice as likely to ask their child to look for a figure in the illustration or predict what might happen next (rather than just reading the story)
  • increase their use of the seven techniques for “reading through images,” from one to three.

This year, Common Hope will be making early childhood reading programs available in every community where we work. Not only will this ensure that children begin school with the skills they need, directly increasing first grade promotion rates, but it will also build a culture of reading in Guatemala.

The larger picture

By encouraging families to visit the Common Hope library and continue reading after they complete the program, Common Hope presents new opportunities to entire families and communities. In 2015, there were more than 2,700 visits to the library and over 3,600 books were borrowed or checked out.

Social workers who work very closely with the families are seeing the benefits of this program for the children and the parents. So much so that one mother who participated in the program was inspired to go back to school and is working to finish her primary school education.

“The program changes the way our families think about reading from something that is a chore to something that can be fun and creative,” said Alma, a social worker in San Miguel.

Ultimately, the program exposes every child and family to a new way of thinking about reading and getting ready for school. It’s MORE THAN just reading a story – families begin to see the world in a different way, creating a deeper, stronger, and more loving bond between them.

Your support makes it possible for Common Hope to deliver this critical program to all the families we serve. Thank you to all of you who have donated! You are helping to prepare children for scholarly success at a young age. 

Do you have questions about Common Hope's early childhood education programs? Send us your questions and we will respond as soon as possible. 

 

Father and son reading together
Father and son reading together
Feb 12, 2016

Jose receives specialized care, stays in school

Jose and his mother Maria
Jose and his mother Maria

Jose is 13 years old and was born with Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome, a neurological disorder caused by tissue attachments that limit the movement of the spinal cord. When Jose was 4 months old he received an operation to repair the spinal cord, but this caused secondary symptoms of other neurological issues, including deformations in his legs and feet. When Jose was five years old, he became affiliated with Common Hope and was able to receive support from our medical clinic. Specifically, Jose needed special leg braces called ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) to help him walk. Jose’s mother, Maria, said that these AFOs were very expensive and without medical support from Common Hope’s Healthcare Program, they would not have been able to get them.

In the fall of 2015, Jose came to the Antigua medical clinic for a checkup and the doctors realized that he had grown out of his AFOs and was having trouble walking as a result. Common Hope helped get Jose fitted for new AFOs and ordered special shoes tailored specifically for his condition. Now Jose is walking without any problems. Dr. Walter Estrada, the Antigua Clinic Director, described the day Jose received his new AFOs;

“It was indescribable to see the happiness on Jose’s face now that he can walk well again, and Jose’s response of gratitude was to give me a big hug. These are the priceless moments.”

The medical care Jose has received is helping to remove a barrier that might otherwise have kept him from staying in school. Jose has been affiliated with Common Hope for eight years and just started 7th grade in January. Jose’s favorite subject is math and he wants to be an agricultural engineer when he grows up. Thanks to new AFOs, he’s well on his way to achieving his goal.

Donations from supporters like you make it possible for Common Hope’s Healthcare Program to provide MORE THAN routine checkups and medications. You have allowed us to go beyond, providing specialized medical care for students like Jose. Thank you for helping students and their family members stay on the path to reach their dreams for the last 30 years.

We receive many questions regarding the extent of services our Healthcare Program provides to students and families. Do you have any questions for our Antigua Clinic Team? Please feel free to leave a comment or question! 

Jose's new AFO
Jose's new AFO
 
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