Girls Mentoring Girls in Guatemala

by Women Work Together
Aug 13, 2013

Big Sisters - A "Magic Ingredient" in Little Sisters' School Success

In preparation for this posting, I asked Nancy Fabiola Pérez Orozco de Navarro, who runs Las Hermanitas in 5 of San Pedro’s 13 rural middle schools, to pass along some news about the relationships she’s seen develop between some of the Big and Little Sisters in the program.

Two of these stories follow, alternating paragraphs in English with the original Spanish to share Nancy’s personal voice here, too. Nancy grew up in San Pedro Sacatepéquez and persevered in school herself to earn a degree in psychology. Skillful at engaging with children and adults, she is married to an agricultural engineer and is the mother of 3 young boys (including twins!). Nancy is a terrific role model for the girls, just by being who she is and doing what she does.

From Nancy… How your generosity and caring is changing lives:

A couple of weeks ago we went to the different primary schools to monitor the younger girls’ progress. We met with the primary school teachers in San José El Cedro who mentioned that the girls had made a lot of progress and that they were achieving at grade level. We made several visits to the girls’ homes and we learned that the Big Sisters are doing great work.  The mothers are very grateful to their daughters’ tutors because they have seen the academic improvement.

Hace dos semanas nos fuimos a las diferentes escuelas de primaria a monitoriar el avance de las niñas.  Encontramos a las maestras de la escuela de primaria de San José El Cedro, las cuales mencionaron que las niñas han avanzado muy bien y que ganarán el grado. Realizamos algunas visitas domiciliares a las casas de las niñas y nos dimos cuenta que las señoritas están haciendo una gran labor.  Las madres de familia están muy agradecidas con las tutoras de sus hijas porque han visto el avance académico.

In El Cedro there are two cases that really get my attention. One is Karen (Karen Elisabeth Fuentes Velásquez).  A little girl who did not like to study, Karen went off to school at 8 AM and during 10 AM recess she ran away and went home, saying that she didn’t like it. Her mother, when she would see her arrive home told her, “Clearly you’re going to be like your brother who was in his first-year of middle school and dropped out because he didn’t like school.” But since Yeyli (Yeyli Rutilia Lopez Miranda) is coming to her house, the little girl, like magic, no longer runs away from school, rather she attends all her classes. It’s still hard for her to make good grades, but at least she’s now consistent and we hope she will catch up and achieve at grade level. Last year she was promoted as a matter of convenience and reading and writing are still hard for her, so her tutor had to start teaching her from the beginning.

En el Cedro existen dos casos que me llaman mucho la atención.  Uno es el de Karen, (Karen Elisabeth Fuentes Velásquez). Una niña que no le gustaba estudiar, Karen se iba a la escuela a las ocho de la mañana y a las diez a la hora de receso se escapaba y se iba a su casa, diciendo que no le gustaba.  Su mamá por su parte cuando la veía llegar le decía: “De plano va a ser igual que su hermano que estaba en primero básico y se retiró porque no le gustaba la escuela.” Pero desde que Yeyli  (Yeyli Rutilia Lopez Miranda), está llegando a su casa, la niña como “arte de magia”, ya no se escapa de la escuela sino que recibe todas sus clases.  Todavía le cuesta sacar buenas calificaciones pero ahora ya está constante y esperamos que se pueda recuperar y ganar su grados. El año pasado ganó su grado por conveniencia y todavía le cuesta mucho leer y escribir, pues su tutora le tocó enseñar desde el principio.

The other case is Elicela (Elicela Francisca Velásquez Pérez), a little girl with physical disabilities who in a way has been discriminated against by the rest of the boys and girls. (In the photo you can’t appreciate it very well, but one of her legs is shorter than the other.) Ever since Carmelita, her tutor, came to work with her, the little girl has realized that she can achieve many goals, and now she is one of the best in her class. Eliclea’s mother is very happy with Carmelita since she has seen such a big change in her daughter. The teacher also remarked on the little girl’s improvement and the consistency that Carmelita has shown in the content of what she is teaching.

El otro caso es de Elicela (Elicela Francisca Velásquez Pérez), una niña con una deficiencia física, que en cierta forma ha sido discriminada por sus demás compañeros y compañeras. (En las fotos no se aprecia muy bien, pero una de sus piernas es más corta que la otra.) Desde Carmelita, su tutora, llegó a trabajar con ella, la niña se ha dado cuenta que puede alcanzar muchas metas, y ahora es una de las mejores de su clase.  La madre de Elicela está muy agradecida con Carmelita, pues ha visto un gran cambio en su hija. También la maestra explica sobre la mejoría en la niña y la constancia que Carmelita ha demostrado en los contenidos que se enseña.

With Guatemala’s 2013 school year ending in October, Women Work Together’s program director, Wendy Baring-Gould and evaluation director, Theresa Preston-Werner, will be in San Pedro Sacatepéquez September 14 – October 6.  Along with celebrating the accomplishments of the girls who participate in each of our programs and conducting program evaluations, they will be working with local staff to prepare for expanding Las Hermanitas (and our other programs) from these 5 to all 13 rural middle schools next year. More on this trip in our next update.

Your donation will help us accomplish this expansion and bring Las Hermanitas to over 1,000 Big and Little Sisters, their mothers and teachers. Remember what Nancy said, “Your caring and generosity changes lives!”


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Tracy Ehlers
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