Oct 5, 2020

Our Lifesaving Vegetable Distribution

This week marks the end of the State of Emergency in Guatemala after over six months of lockdown and enforced curfew. For the mothers of our Club de Madres these have been six incredibly arduous months where they and their families have strived to survive with the scarce resources that they have. Due to the restrictions put in place by the government prohibiting gatherings of people we have had to put our workshops on hold, other than continuing our education in Casa Jackson, but that does not mean we have stopped working hard for our mothers in the Club de Madres and their families during this time.

 

During the COVID pandemic La Asociación Nuestros Ahijados has been distributing vegetables, fruit, pizza and clothes to over 350 families in our Club de Madres and our two schools to ensure that every family has a lifeline that they desperately need to keep going. The families come from all over the region and, more often than not, are extensive families with many children. A significant number of these families also pertain to a single mother who has to work to earn money and food as well as care for her children. Something that is even more challenging during a global pandemic.

 

Our distribution works on a three-week cycle, meaning that each mother receives vegetables and clothes every three weeks. This allows us to ensure that every mother receives enough food to last them and their families until the next distribution. It also means that we can give vegetables to more families and can adhere to strict protocols when distributing to ensure the safety of our families and our staff. We relocated our distribution from the Dreamer Center to our Santa Madre Homeless Shelter to make it easier to follow the protocols and ensure social distancing. There is a temperature check, obligatory mask wearing and gel for everyone who enters, and our staff also wear gloves.

 

In addition to our vegetable distribution we have also identified a number of families who are unable to come to us and so we have been delivering vegetables and pizza to them. These are families who are immunocompromised or who are unable to travel and so we go to them to make sure they have enough to survive.

 

Now that the State of Emergency has been lifted in Guatemala we are tentatively planning to return to a new normal. We hope to begin our workshops again for our mothers as well as continuing to distribute lifesaving vegetables to our mothers. We will have to wait and see how the reopening of the country affects the number of cases and if it is safe to start meeting with larger groups again.

Sep 22, 2020

Educating the Children During a Global Pandemic

In these unprecedented times, schools all over the world have had to adjust their pedagogy in order to be able to support their children and further their learning. As we arrive at the 7th month of school closures due to the State of Emergency in Guatemala, our own Dreamer Center and Scheel Center Schools have had to answer the same question as every other school: how do you educate children during a global pandemic?

For many schools around the world, the change from learning in the classroom to learning at home was not too drastic, even seamless for some. Schools simply switched from learning in the classroom to learning online, with classes through Zoom, school intranet, and email. Children continued to see their teachers, albeit through a screen, and make progress in their learning.

However, this is simply not an option for the children in our schools. Our Guatemalan families do not have the technology available to them to access websites or Zoom calls. In fact, many families do not even have secure electricity in their homes to access any technology at all.

At first, when people were not able to leave their homes, our teachers sent worksheets and school work to the families through the medium of WhatsApp. The teachers created guides with work for the week and sent it from their homes to the schools’ directors to then forward on to the children. The families provided us their phone numbers or the number of a neighbour who could pass the work on to them, received the work and then sent it back to the schools through their phones. It was noted, though, that this was still an extremely difficult process for many families who did not have mobile phones, or the ability to pay for mobile data to receive and send their schoolwork. Furthermore, many families had no way to print the work or download it.

The schools therefore had to rethink how they could best support the learning of their many families, and arrived at the current system. Now, rather than sending the work to the families, the families come to the Dreamer Center and pick up their schoolwork. We have set up a way for families to receive their schoolwork while adhering to stringent safety and hygiene protocols. There are strict social distancing measures in place, and people who enter are required to have a temperature check, wear masks, and use antibacterial gel. They receive their work one at a time and at a distance from the directors and teachers. The children take the school guides, which have work for two weeks at a time, and complete the work at home. Then they bring it back and receive the next school guide.

Is it a perfect system? No, of course not. Many families struggle to complete the work at home as the parents of the children have never received a formal education themselves and so are unable to help their children. For this, we have directors and teachers available to the families to provide support and plans to make it easier for the families, either through phone calls or socially distanced chats. Ideally the children would return to school as soon as possible, but the security measures put in place by the government mean that this is not currently possible. These measures do seem to be working, however, as the number of active cases in Guatemala has been steadily falling.

As we arrive at the end of the school year in October, it seems more and more likely that schools will remain closed until at least the start of 2021. We will continue to monitor the guidelines put in place by the government to best prepare to provide quality learning for our many schoolchildren so they can stay on track to advance to the next grade.

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Jul 27, 2020

A Home To Call Your Own

The López family has now had a place to stay for 6 months, but they certainly haven't had a home. Where they were living could hardly even be called a house. It was on the front porch of another house with two sheet metal walls and two blanket 'walls'. The family was exposed to the elements and at serious risk of illness.

 

We have been supporting the López family for a number of years now. First, when they arrived at our Santa Madre Homeless Shelter in late 2018. Then when the two youngest daughters, Heidy and Eva, were child-patients in our Casa Jackson Hospital for malnourished babies from February 2019 to July 2019.

 

This year, Omar, Damaris, Cristian and Heidy are all studying in our schools. Omar is in the Scheel Center, Damaris is in the Hermano Pedro Special School and Cristian and Heidy are at The Dreamer Center. Although the COVID-19 pandemic forced school closures, we are still providing distance learning to our students. The children's mother, Doña Eva, is a member of the Club de Madres (Mothers' Club) and regularly receives vegetables, clothes, and an 'Amor en Caja' box of food supplies during the current pandemic.

 

During the COVID pandemic we received a donation big enough from a generous donor to allow us to build a ‘Casa Azul’ house for a family, and we chose the López family because they had the greatest need. Right away, we began preparations to build them their very own house.

 

The day our building team arrived to being construction, you could see the excitement in the eyes of the children. Our Guatemalan staff worked as a solid and experienced team through the sun and rain to build the Lopez family their house in just 2 days, while the family's children helped as our team’s ‘building assistants’ by delivering the correct tools when needed. At the end of the second day, the family painted the house with our signature blue. It was hard work but completely worthwhile as together we worked to change this family's life for the better.

 

The Lopez’s were finally going to have a place they could call their own and take pride in. No longer would they have to worry about braving the elements while trying to sleep at night or about their homework getting ruined.

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