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Nov 6, 2018

Reading for Different Perspectives

Level 2 students read about Guatemalan Olympian
Level 2 students read about Guatemalan Olympian

Since launching Mano a Mano para el Desarrollo in April, we organized a series of workshops to respond to the educational needs behind the program. Since then, every two weeks, we do a special activity with the children, siblings, and nieces or nephews of our artisan associates. José meets with the kids in the office of Cojolya every second Sunday, and conducts an educational workshop for about 2 hours. Every week is different, as we alternate the style of the classes every time between informative classes on more traditional academic subjects, thematic playful art classes, and dynamic group reading activities.

We try to respond as much as possible to the interests of the children and to their academic deficiencies at their respective schools. Many children do not have access to individualized attention nor do their schools prioritize the importance of creativity through art or creative writing.

The reading activities have so many positive impacts on the way our students relate to learning. Aside from helping them practice reading, they learn new words, open up their imaginations, work on their concentration skills, develop their capacity for empathy, improve their ability to enunciate, expand their knowledge about the world, and (hopefully) make them think of reading as a fun activity to pursue in their own free time!

We orient our groups’ developing reading skills on two phases. Level 1 consists of students in first, second, and third grade of primary school focuses on basic reading, and Level 2 works on reading and writing skills for students in the fourth grade and up. In our last reading activity, we not only wanted the texts to be dynamic but also specifically chose writings that would help our students in both reading groups feel represented.

The students in Level 1 read the text “Let’s go to the River,” and their goal was to help the characters named Pepe and Tita clean the contaminated river in the text--a topic close to home considering the pollution of Lake Atitlán. The objective of this activity was that the students identified problems narrated in the text and came up with possible solutions. After identifying problems such as people throwing their garbage in the river, our students Hadasa and Diego offered their points of view surrounding how to best care for the environment and wrote down their ideas for how the characters Pepe and Tita could clean the lake. After finishing their analysis of this text, our Level 1 students read poetry written by indigenous media collectives that discussed themes such as nature and womanhood. 

The kids in Level 2 focused on the perspective of the narrator in an activity called “What is the author telling me?” The name of the text was “Olympic Medalist,” which was about Erick Barrondo--Guatemala’s first Olympic medalist and most famous athlete of indigenous descent. Each student read Barrondo’s inspiring story silently, then all together, and then each student read a certain part of the story aloud on their own for one minute in an activity we call the Reading Pyramid. Through the Reading Period, we evaluate their individual ability to read fluidly according to their level in school. The Reading Pyramid activity makes practicing reading aloud into more of a game for the students, and they have a fun incentive to perform well and reach the top of the pyramid.

During the second part of this activity, we discussed the text as a group to ensure that the students had a thorough understanding. Our goal was that the students learn to think critically while reading in order to reflect on author’s intention in different kinds of texts so that they can develop key reading skills such as discerning nonfiction from fiction. At the end of the activity, one of the students was still not in agreement with her classmates about the key message and purpose behind “Olympic Medalist” as she believed the text was more creative than informative. While she ultimately agreed with her classmates that the author intended to inform the readers, this discussion was an important part of recognizing different perspectives which touches upon the critical thinking and development of empathy that we prioritize in our reading activities. Something that we see in our students during all of our workshops is that each mind holds an entirely different world, and we will each leave a text we have read with different conclusions or points of view.

In all of our reading lessons across this school year, we could not afford to provide individual books for each of our students. In spite of this difficulty, we had sufficient motivation to look for ways to have reading materials for this activity. As you can see in these images, we could only use paper booklets, but we are convinced that these workshops provide key support to the students. According to our observations and the results we have seen in the students’ progress, many of them need to have their reading skills reinforced and developed with more individualized attention.

Providing each student with their first individual book that suits their reading level--likely the first they ever owned-- would be an incredible gift. As of now, we have only been able to provide half of the resources we need in our academic center, but we are motivated by the fact that we have helped our weavers’ families save $6,513 Quetzales ($844.47 USD) through our center’s Computer Access Program.

We remain committed to our work. Please consider donating so that we can continue improving our educational activities, and offer our hardworking students all the learning materials they deserve!











We hope to give each student their own book
We hope to give each student their own book
Manuel and Pedro love our Reading Pyramid game
Manuel and Pedro love our Reading Pyramid game
Level 1 students read about caring for the river
Level 1 students read about caring for the river

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Oct 5, 2018

Diego, David, and a Mother's Love

Diego sneaks a smile during our art workshop
Diego sneaks a smile during our art workshop

Brothers David and Diego are only 12 and 11 years old respectively, but they have been working since they were even younger. In their home, having a true childhood in which they could simply play and go to school was difficult because they had to help with the family income to compensate for their father’s alcoholism.

Their mother, Juana, makes accessories made out of colourful beads. This artisan craft is a very common trade in Santiago Atitlán, that is (apparently) easy to learn, and requires very little budget to acquire the materials. Juana is a very hard worker, but her income as an artisan is insufficient to support her 4 sons to go to school.

David and Diego are the oldest brothers of the family and play a significant role in supporting their mother with her work and everyday chores. Everyday, they go to school in the morning, and come back in the afternoon to work until night to make accessories with their mother. Putting their forces together, they work in the hope of having a more financially secure and stable family.

Almost twins, David and Diego are in the same grade at their public school, and finishing the school year is a significant achievement for them. Their greatest dream is to be able to attend University and become professionals.

Like many mothers in our community, Juana’s first priority is her childrens’ well-being and progress no matter the sacrifices that supporting them may involve. Without financial support from her husband, she serves the role of two parents all year long, doing whatever she can to make sure her sons can stay in school.

At Cojoyla, we work to create employment with just wages for local women in Juana’s position. We aim to empower families and help them develop their vocational skills so that we can work together to better their quality of life.

Cojolya and its social program Mano a Mano para el Desarrollo are essential institutions for the artisans of Santiago and their families. We hope to offer children like David and Diego with the necessary emotional and academic support to stay in school, reach their goals, and access opportunities that have been systematically limited in Santiago Atitlán.

We believe David and Diego can become role models to both their younger brothers and other members of the community. Their mother’s love and dedication along with their hard work, resilience, and ambitions motivate and inspire us everyday to strengthen and improve our social programming.

We dream of a day where children like David and Diego won’t have to work in order to afford to go to school. Dream with us.

With your donation, help us build our program and empower the kids in our community to stay in school!











David drawing his favorite games at the town fair
David drawing his favorite games at the town fair
Headshot of Diego on our roof
Headshot of Diego on our roof
Headshot of David on our rooftop
Headshot of David on our rooftop
Sep 4, 2018

Art Classes and the Importance of Creativity

Mano a mano director Jose and a painting he made
Mano a mano director Jose and a painting he made

6 months ago, Mano a Mano officially launched the weekend activities with the kids! We have worked very hard to build this tutoring program so that it can be as useful as it is interesting and fun for the participants. We recently evaluated the results of our objectives and looked into the the children’s feedback more closely. Since then, we have adapted our agenda and revised our workshop’s framework.

Our program’s coordinator, José, has incredible artistic talent, which he has been developing as an artisan and painter since a young age. We all agreed that it would be ludicrous not to take advantage of his natural aptitudes for the benefit of the children of Mano a Mano! Therefore, along with the magisterial classes and reading classes, we decided to include thematic art classes to our program. So far, the children are loving it!

We believe that adding art classes to our curriculum brings many benefits to the children and offers a great way to learn differently than at school. Introducing art activities to the kids helps them develop their creativity, makes them practice their problem resolution skills, challenges their patience, encourages determination and dedication, all the while improving their self-confidence.

In our first art workshop, we saw the immense enthusiasm that the kids had for learning and discovering their artistic abilities, and we were very happy to see that the students were both interested and participated energetically in this new area of the program. Our first workshop was introductory, so our topic was “Painting techniques.” Not all the participants have had the opportunity to paint, trace, or draw before. We taught them a few techniques such as drawing and combining shapes to make a landscape so that they can express their imagination, but the best part of this first workshop was discovering that some of the children do have immense artistic ability and would only need some support to develop their talents. It would make us so proud to see a future where a few of the kids become professional painters because painting, along with weaving, is also an important artistic tradition for our pueblo.

We could only use the materials and resources that we already had at our disposition, which ended up being just enough pieces of paper for each student and some colored pencils. Yet, something that struck our attention was that we were able to work with the few materials that were available to us. Unfortunately, our program lacks the resources to create a more robust arts program, but we are convinced that art not only has the capacity to motivate our kids to stay in school but also can help them discover their creative talents. In spite of the challenges, we are dedicated to developing our arts workshops.

We need your help to afford art supplies for all the children! With your donations, we wish to purchase color pencils, paint, brushes, and canvas that can be use over a year-long workshops series.

Please consider donating! <3



Hadasa draws next to her giggling sister Damaris
Hadasa draws next to her giggling sister Damaris
Jose Miguel shows his work to the class
Jose Miguel shows his work to the class
 
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