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Nov 27, 2018

Our 1st Graduate: Maria becomes a Teacher

Maria at her graduation
Maria at her graduation

In Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, our school year ended in November. This time of year is full of excitement for students and families alike. For families whose children are graduating from advanced levels of study, this is also a season of immense pride as higher education remains inaccessible for many young people in our community.

As the year comes to an end, Cojolya’s team is thrilled by the progress our Mano a Mano para el Desarrollo students have made this year, in large part thanks to our supporters. María Isabel is one of the thirteen students in our program who graduated with a degree in teaching early education in October. María was one of the first three students to participate in our program beginning in April 2017, and she is the first student to graduate with a secondary degree as a professional teacher.

Financial barriers are a primary obstacle impeding students in our community from continuing their education. Many students manage to finish primary and elementary school, but only 24% continue studying in what is called “The Diversified Level” (el nivel diversificado) in Guatemala. Helping students and their families overcome this financial hurdle is a key focus for Mano a Mano.

Though María could have gotten by through her hard work and determination, in a family of five with only one primary income from her sister’s weavings at Cojolya, financially supporting herself through school would have been incredibly costly. Thanks to your donations on our GlobalGiving fundraising campaign, we were able to support María this schoolyear through school supplies and usage of computers. As her family cannot afford neither computers nor Wi-Fi, she was able to come to our office to conduct necessary research and print her homework in order to offer the necessary didactic materials to her students as she worked as an assistant teacher this year as part of completing her teaching degree.

In our year-end oral and written evaluations of the Mano a Mano program, she explained how Mano a Mano helped her most, “Before the program existed, I could get by, but I had to spend plenty of my own money and do artisan work in order to support myself.” Rather than resting or studying after her school day, María worked as an “urdidora” (a thread warper) which is a time consuming and physically demanding form of artisan work. “Studying and working full-time is very difficult,” she said.

Her last year studying to become a teacher was the most academically demanding, and she was relieved to receive substantial academic and material support, “From the bottom of my heart, I am so grateful to all of those who donated and hope they continue supporting the other students in the Mano a Mano program.” María is thrilled to receive a job that will support herself, her siblings, and her dreams, “I am so happy I achieved my goal of becoming a teacher, and I am so excited to work with kids.” Yet, the work is just beginning for our young program and for María herself as she hopes to be able to afford to attend university as well.

Our multi-generational, local vision for Mano a Mano is that the thirteen students in our program can achieve their goals and become professionals to help our community develop. Your continued generosity would help us continue to provide necessary resources for the sons, daughters, and siblings of Maya weavers. This is all the more possible if we reach our $10,000 fundraising goal for the following schoolyear. Empower our students to follow the example of María Isabel so that their dreams become realities.

Maria, her sister, and brother-in-law
Maria, her sister, and brother-in-law
Maria Isabel with her sister, our student Lourdes
Maria Isabel with her sister, our student Lourdes
Maria will teach Early Education with her degree
Maria will teach Early Education with her degree

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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

Links:

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
 
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