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Apr 6, 2020

Reading at home & staying at home

Oliver and Misael reading at home
Oliver and Misael reading at home

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting the globe, the Guatemalan government has put precautions in place to limit the spread of disease. This has obviously affected our work at Cojolya and Mano a Mano por el Desarollo. Schools have been canceled for our students and we are doing our best to work from home. There are also daily curfews that limit the hours people are outside their homes. Our daily rhythms have changed and we are doing our best to keep up with community efforts, and above all, the students that we help through our Mano a Mano program. 

So what are we doing? We are encouraging our students to continue learning from home during these uncertain times. Since none of our students have access to the internet and computers at home, online learning is not a possibility. Instead, we have given students reading comprehension exercises to practice from home. Without the support of our program, many students wouldn’t have a lot to do at home right now. By providing homework, we are seeking a way of continuing our work with them so that they can continue their learning. We don’t want our students falling behind in their studies! This also serves to take care of their mental health and routine in the face of changes caused by this disease. 

Our students are happy and motivated with these at-home activities. They are having to do one reading per day, often doing it together with their family. Two of our students, brothers Misael and Oliver, are practicing their reading together and having fun with the activities. Oliver has had a little trouble managing fluent reading, and for this reason, this activity has been especially helpful in making sure he continues to improve and learn. 

Though these times have brought unexpected restrictions, it has also resulted in unexpected solutions to problems. With many students out of school, we are hoping to continue these homework exercises so students do not fall behind in their education. 

Happy to have work at home!
Happy to have work at home!

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Feb 28, 2020

Learning English for a Better Future

Students learn by playing games and laughing
Students learn by playing games and laughing

Guatemala is a multilingual and multicultural country, in which 25 languages are spoken. The Garífuna language, Xinca, 22 Mayan languages, including our own Tz'utujil, and Spanish. Guatemala's rich cultural heritage draws many visitors to our country each year. Unfortunately, however, in Guatemala, only 5% of people speak English, and at a very low level, so only a few have the possibility to communicate with visitors. It limits people in how they share their culture and learn from others. Conversely, knowing English can greatly expand one's employment opportunities, especially as we see that Guatemala's tourism industry is not slowing down soon. 

If everyone had the opportunity to communicate in the English language, everything would be easier, right? People would have better job opportunities, because there would be more possibilities to create a business, be a guide for tourist groups, or be a master of some type of crafts. There is so much beauty in the diversity of language, but there is also beauty in a common language that allows for the sharing of ideas across the world.  

Because of the increased opportunities that English can provide, our goal for children of Mano a Mano, children of our artisans, is to increase their access to language learning. We hosted a language class this month so students can take the opportunity to improve their English, hoping that one day they will be well prepared to cope with and interact with people from other countries. Personal development through language and academic preparation is key to creating a good future for them. 

Studying in Guatemala can be difficult due to the economic sacrifices a family has to make in order to make it possible. Even once graduated, there is no promise that a student will find gainful employment, help support their family, or rise above poverty. The case is often even worse for girls, as only a quarter of indigenous girls over the age of 16 are still enrolled in school. 

That is why we want to change the fate of the children of artisan weavers. In the future, they could represent their family by creating a business, seeking to amplify the work done by their parents and siblings. People who know how to speak more than one language have greater job opportunities, for example, people who speak the mother tongue Tz’utujil and Spanish, are often engaged in commerce all over Guatemala and are better suited to excelling even in their home community. Simply put, in Guatemala, bilingual and trilingual people live better, so let's make that easier for the next generation by continuing language development programs for children. 

Having fun learning numbers and greetings
Having fun learning numbers and greetings

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Feb 6, 2020

Educational barriers for the children of artisans

Why is studying complicated for the children of artisans? 

There are several barriers in place that complicate the education of local artisans' children here. These complications can include: 

  1. The fact that they do not have much guidance or assistance with schoolwork at home, because their parents did not have the opportunity to study, which can cause them to have much lower grades and even drop out. 
  2. Children have to help their parents with household chores and are unable to dedicate themselves fully to their studies. 
  3. They do not have access to technology resources that could aid them in their school work because their parents can’t afford these expensive tools. 

In order to help these children and teens with their education, Cojolya is doing everything possible to improve the situation and school performance of the children of artisans, through tutorials and workshops that focus on relevant school subjects and study skills. We also provide resources such as access to the internet and a computer, so they can study without any difficulties. 

In the month of January, Chonita, our Social Programs Coordinator, held a workshop in which students received training on the development of formal written work. The goal of the workshop was for the students to learn the characteristics of a complete written work and then execute their own project. This training was based on the weakness that the students demonstrated in 2019. Chonita noticed slipping grades due to formal aspects of the how schoolwork was turned in, rather than the actual work demonstrated. 

Firstly, Chonita explained the importance of writing a clear and professional index for written work. She explained the process of how to write an index using a PowerPoint presentation and examples on the whiteboard. Then, the students decided to develop their example around the subject of nouns and their classification. As a class, they planned out an outline for the example index. After the class, it was time to put it into practice! Students of both primary and secondary levels worked together to create an index and clear outline for a written work; this model can then be replicated when they have school work to turn in the future. 

Hosting these workshops allows for our students’ study skills to improve. They work on computer skills, teamwork, and collaboration. Above all, they get the extra help they need in order to improve their academic performance in school and continue to excel in the future.

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