Sep 8, 2020

Adult Education from a Distance

As schools all over the world struggle with re-entry plans for their students, we're reminded of how much we miss in-person learning with ours. With just over two months left in the Guatemalan school calendar, the government recently mandated remote learning for the rest of the year. For Creamos' teachers, this means a few more months of video calls and tutoring sessions over the phone. While we value these safety measures, we can't wait to be together in the classroom again.

In March, just three months into the inaugural year of our Adult Education Program, we were sadly required to cease in-person class sessions for all 129 of our students due to the onset of COVID-19. But just because we’re stuck inside our homes doesn’t mean we’ve given up on our studies! Our Adult Education team is finding creative solutions to keep our students on track to successfully complete their school year. Each month, our teachers create homework packets for their students, which they (safely) deliver every two weeks. These homework packets are returned to our teachers, who grade them, and call each of their students to discuss their progress. In addition, we've paid for all students to have WiFi on their phones so they’re able to receive weekly pre-recorded video lessons, engage in video tutoring sessions, and send pictures of homework that they’re having a hard time with. Our teachers and students alike have expressed their sadness in not being able to learn from each other in a group setting, but they’re finding ways to stay in touch and maintaining as much normalcy as possible given extensive logistical and technological challenges. 

No matter how accessible we try to make it, studying from home is hard - especially when you have an average household size of 7 people, and you’re responsible for helping your children and siblings complete their homework - not to mention daily cooking, cleaning, and child rearing responsibilities. But our students (like Juana, pictured) continue to demonstrate an eagerness to learn. Since the transition to at-home learning, we’re proud to report that we’ve maintained a 100% student retention rate. 

Our adult education program provides an opportunity for our community that many never thought they’d have - the opportunity to pursue a high school degree. Many are working full or part time, and the vast majority are parents. Our program provides the flexibility and support that this unique population requires. Education is the key to economic success for our participants within our community, whether they’re teen moms graduating from high school, or our eldest participants earning to read and write for the first time. One of our adult learners, Juanita, began working in the garbage dump when she was 9 years old. Now a 27-year-old mother of four, she walked through Creamos’ doors last year seeking emotional support. After learning about all of our program offerings from our Psychologist, she decided to begin studying. In January of 2020, Juana attended her first day of school. She recently told us the following: 

“In Creamos' education program I am really happy. Even through these [COVID] circumstances, I continue to study and receive support from my teacher. It’s my first year studying, and yesterday I got my first report card ever, with an average of 87%. It has been a beautiful experience, my teacher is so caring and thoughtful and so willing to help us learn. I’ve never studied before so there are many things I don't know, but my teacher has helped me feel confident. My son is in the same grade as me, so we do our homework together. I am grateful to the institution of Creamos for this opportunity".

Like Juana, we remain as grateful as ever for the support you've provided in the past, and for your ongoing belief in our mission. Together, we are unlocking opportunities for a committed cohort of adult learners.


May 12, 2020

Unpredictable Times Call for Creative Solutions

The Sewing Team making masks.
The Sewing Team making masks.

Unpredictable times call for creative solutions, and our Sewing Team has risen to the challenge. Last week, they returned to their workshop (under strict distancing protocols) to begin producing masks, which are being dispersed to their friends, family, and neighbors living in the settlements surrounding the garbage dump. Using their skills to create something useful for their community - something that could even save lives - has renewed their sense of purpose. Social distancing is a privilege that many communities around the world, including ours, cannot afford. But by producing these masks, our Sewing Team is doing what they can to decrease risk and make sure one of our country’s most vulnerable populations isn’t forgotten.

Like many across the globe, our community here in the Guatemala City garbage dump continues to confront major economic obstacles brought on by the virus. Food and water shortages persist, while stay-at-home orders require our participants to spend more time than usual in their often overcrowded homes. And it shows no sense of slowing down, with recent estimates indicating the country won’t reach its peak caseload until early June. 

We're deeply grateful for the ongoing support of our network of Creamos donors, which has allowed us to provide emergency food assistance to our Creamos participants and their families on a biweekly basis since this crisis began. To date, we've hosted 3 food disbursement events during which we've provided all 205 of our families with food vouchers to a local supermarket. These gatherings have the dual value of both allowing us to provide vital relief for our families, and to bring our community together, safely, during such a tumultuous time. Capitalizing on the chance to have all of our participants in one place, these gatherings have doubled as an opportunity to check in with our participants, disseminate vital community updates, and discuss contingency plans for the coming weeks and months.

While much remains uncertain, one constant is the unwavering dedication of Creamos' network of supporters. Thank you to all who have sent us donations and well wishes during these difficult times. We could not accomplish any of this without you. 

From all of us in the Creamos family, we're thinking of you, wishing you and your families well, and looking forward to continuing our work together. 


Jan 13, 2020

A New Place to Learn

With the new year comes a new and exciting program for Creamos - Adult Education! This month marks the transition of the Adult Education program from Safe Passage (our sister organization) to Creamos. Far from a pilot program, Adult Education has been implemented by Safe Passage since 2006 and has supported hundreds of adult learners on their paths towards elementary, middle and high school graduation. Through a recent restructuring of organizational priorities, these two organizations made the decision to transfer oversight and implementation of the adult education program due to its strong alignment with the Creamos mission. We’re honored to provide this important program for approximately 60 community members - both women and men - many of whom have been prohibited from pursuing their educational dreams due to the economic pressures of the garbage dump community.

Working closely with the Guatemalan Ministry of Education, Creamos’ new education department will teach traditional elementary, middle and high school classes in addition to a variety of independent and culturally relevant courses. These courses, including financial literacy, functional literacy, English, university preparation, computation, and a “Reading to Your Children” program, are intended to complement the traditional subject matter offered through the government-mandated curricula. Further, acknowledging the tumultuous nature of our community and the likelihood that our adult learners may be required to take breaks from their studies on occasion, we’re also excited to provide a tutoring program. This program will provide essential one-on-one support for all participants who request it. Through this multi-layered approach, we’re hopeful our students will be better prepared to achieve lifelong financial, emotional and physical stability for themselves and their families.

While we’re thrilled to be able to provide this vital opportunity for the women enrolled in our programs, we’re excited to expand our reach and invite other community members to further their studies with us. Recently, a group of men in the community have expressed an interest in continuing their studies in order to obtain formal employment. In response, we’ll be restarting an all-male evening class for approximately 15 men eager to continue their studies. In partnership with an external organization, we’ll also offer Gentle Masculinity workshops through which our male students will explore healthy and respectful ways to express themselves. Further, we are looking forward to partnering with another local NGO to recruit teenage moms in the community who’ve been drawn away from their studies due to parental responsibilities. And last but not least, we remain committed to providing educational opportunities for our senior population, most of whom never had the opportunity to study at all. These women, who have been with us since our founding, have demonstrated their commitment to ongoing education and setting an example for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. While they may be too old to work in the formal sector or return to a traditional school setting, these women continue to show up each week with an unwavering dedication to personal growth. By providing a safe space for non-traditional learners, we’re committed to making sure no one in our community is excluded from achieving their dreams. 

Creamos enters this chapter with a refreshing combination of new and veteran team members, all of whom have demonstrated a great amount of enthusiasm for the integration of adult education. As an organization, we enter this year with humility, and an open mind to learn from our participants how to further grow the education program. 


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