Feb 11, 2020

Watha Well Building Underway

We started the well construction a bit late. This has totally interfered with our initial planned date. It has been raining heavily and all roads were impassable in the village. However, the engineer is currently on the ground with his drilling rig team. I will keep you informed of any progress.

COMMUNITY MOBILIZATION AND SENSITIZATION/MEETINGS

The following meetings were held:

On 1/8/2020. The project leader had a meeting with the local community with the Engineer. The agenda of the meeting was to introduce the Engineer to the entire community and give a date for the project to start.

On 1/21/2020. The project leader had a meeting with the community. The agenda of the meeting was to appoint the water project committee for them to understand their roles. This was done in the presence of area chief and other local leaders.

On 2/3/2020. The project leader had a meeting with the local community at the project site.

Jan 24, 2020

Annual year-end holiday event & Multiplying your impact

"Welcome to the FOCOPI gathering"
"Welcome to the FOCOPI gathering"

Dear friend,

We hope this new year is bringing you joy. We wanted to share two updates from the Community Finance Program. First, although the holidays might be over, it's not too late to revisit a little Christmas festivity and joy with a recap of our annual year-end event. Second, we thought you might be excited to read about an innovation we are piloting in order to increase cash flow to the groups and expand the impact of your donations.

Maya community principles and our year-end holiday event

The annual holiday "convivio," or get-together, is the only time of year all members of all 19 of the savings groups (FOCOPIs) are invited together, to get to know one another and share experiences and successes from their year. Some groups have been around for awhile--a few now finishing their fourth one-year cycle--and others are just a few months old. By sharing they strengthen one another and create a sense of being a part of something bigger than their isolated communities.

Community leader, Ortencia, gave a talk on "values that strengthen our community work," highlighting four principles from their indigenous cosmovision as principles that are shared by the work of Community Finance. They are (translated from their native language of Kaqchikel):

  • Pa K'ex: The exchange of ideas and knowledge within the community
  • Pa komon: Sharing within the community
  • Pa q'uch: Community solidarity
  • Pixa': The giving and receiving of counsel

Although these values are a cultural inheritance, there is a greatly felt sense that they are being lost in Maya communities. However, they manifest in the collective nature of Community Finance, and demonstrate how the program has been shaped by local ownership and cultural context. Ortencia spoke of how these values help to maintain harmony and community resilience. She ended by noting that central principle of these values is LOVE, and encouraged the women to question cultural barriers around freely and openly expressing love. A beautiful moment of camaraderie and openness ended the talk when as a practice of expressing love, Ortencia invited everyone to share hugs with those around them.

The convivio continued with fun games, a gift given to each woman, and a delicious meal shared by all. Leaders from several of the groups expressed sincere and heartfelt gratitude and warm holiday blessings to GRACE Cares and all who have supported the program.

Directly investing in our savings groups to multiply impact. 

Some of the women's savings groups of Community Finance give so many loans their cash box is virtually always empty. Because funds are always in circulation, the interest earned on savings in these groups tends to be very high. So, we saw an opportunity to both help these groups have access to more cash and to earn a little bit of interest to go back into supporting the program. 

Here’s how it works: Community Finance becomes a member of an existing savings group and deposits an amount that won’t destabilize the group’s equilibrium, typically Q1000 (approx. $125), to be used as seed money for loans in the group. The group continues normally throughout the year. At the end of the year, the group shares out their savings back to all their members. The Community Finance program gets their Q1000 plus any interest earned on that Q1000.  

Through this innovation your donations can go further, the women have more access to cash, and they have an opportunity to support the program through the abundance they are creating in their groups. So far, it's a win-win-win. We are piloting this idea with a few of our longest-standing groups who were enthusiastic about participating, and will be providing the option to participate to more groups over time. 

 

 

Building bridges at the year-end holiday event
Building bridges at the year-end holiday event
Ortencia gives a talk on community values
Ortencia gives a talk on community values
Jan 2, 2020

Update #5 - From the Executive Director

Practicing giving a presentation on hand-washing
Practicing giving a presentation on hand-washing

Once again I find myself feeling so proud of our staff and students for creating an environment prime for not only academic learning, but also personal realization and expression. In an area where women often feel isolated, I find it so beautiful when a group of strangers can come together and find emotional support & encouragement that they don’t usually have. I know you’ve already read some of the wonderful stories that have come from this group of ladies, but there were a few others that I’ve heard and wanted to share.

  • We often visit communities and leaders in order to get information and stay connected, and during these visits we are often offered lunch (which sadly we usually have to decline). On one such visit Juana, the CHL Coordinator and Training Assistant, was chatting with one of our current students, Milagros, and as usual was invited to stay for lunch. Milagros proudly assured Juana that since the class on nutrition she is cooking differently, so that her food has less grease and is healthy. It might seem like a simple thing, but we’re always SO excited when our students apply what they learn to their daily habits. Milagros is truly transforming herself into a leader, and we’re hopeful that her neighbors will be following her example.
  • Miguelina, who we introduced you to in our first report, doesn’t know how to read or write very well, but she wasn’t going to let that stop her from empowering herself, so we didn’t either. In order to give Miguelina a fair chance at passing the final test (which is pretty challenging, even for those who are literate), we turned it into an oral exam for her. Manuela, our WASH Program Coordinator and a graduate of the CHL course, read each question to Miguelina and transcribed her responses. In the end, Miguelina earned an 86/100, demonstrating her clear understanding of the topics covered throughout the course.
  • Towards the beginning of the course one of the women initially registered had to withdraw due to medical issues her son was facing. But she had encouraged one of her friends to attend the class. This friend is Rosa, and she decided to stick with the course. Rosa is an inspiration to me because of the investment she made in order to participate. She actually doesn’t live in Baitoa – she lives in the neighboring municipality of La Vega, about 45 minutes away from our office. In order to get here, she had to take a motor-taxi and a bus (guagua). We cover students’ transportation costs up to 200 pesos per class, but Rosa had to spend 400 pesos each week. Yet she attended consistently, never missing class and was always on time. This dedication alone is an indicator of how valuable the CHL course is. Rosa was so inspired by what she was learning that she was spending time at her local public health clinic in order to gain more practice in giving shots and taking blood pressure, and since completing the course has even registered to start studying nursing!

We're so grateful to all of you who created the initial foundation for these stories - truly without y'all none of this would have happened.

 
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