Greetings from Guatemala,
We are very proud to announce that we started 2023 with a new school, designed to provide secondary education. Our new “Centro de Oportunidades CDO” (Center for Opportunities) would not exist if it were not for the support and trust that our donors have constantly given us.
This building represents dignity and hope, it gives young Guatemalans a modern, clean, and safe space. We want our students to experience an education that provides them with useful skills for their professional lives. We believe that if we want to create a real impact, we have to provide them with everything from a decent infrastructure to healthy spaces for learning so they can have what they need to accomplish their dreams and believe there is nothing they can not do.
In this new school, our main concern is how to educate at-risk teenagers that are struggling in life. These students have received almost no education for the last 3 years because all public schools were shut down in Guatemala as a response to COVID-19. Many students were adversely affected by the violence in their homes and on the streets, the lack of financial resources in their families, and mental and physical health issues and abuses. Some of our students are already mothers as a result of the aforementioned. Thus, trying to keep them in school and motivating them to graduate from high school is one of the biggest challenges that most of the countries in Latin America face. This challenge made us question our current educational methodologies. We work with the teaching team and students so we can achieve a methodology that is inclusive and can reach every student positively and effectively. Our investigation into project-based learning strategies made us notice that with these educational approaches, we can help hundreds of teenagers develop skills that increase their access to decent jobs. We have been applying this approach in the new school since day one.
The first months at the new school have been a little difficult. Dealing with a new educational approach that teachers are not familiar with takes time. But so far, students have responded in a very positive way to the new strategies. Most of them say that they are enjoying their learning process more this way. With the variety of workshops we are offering this year, we have been able to empower our students by letting them choose what they like and discover what they did not know they could be good at. We partnered with some successful entrepreneurs in Antigua, Guatemala, and learned about what were some of the basic features they were looking for when hiring staff. We are using this information to help prepare our students to be ready and become good candidates for the job opportunities around our community. Thanks to that, some of our students are graduating and already have a decent job. Students in Guatemala often have to drop out of school to support their families economically at a young age. Thus we know focusing on creating more job opportunities is one of our biggest concerns. We want our students to graduate from school and stay in Guatemala to support themselves and their community.
Currently, we offer the following workshops, each one has about 20 to 50 student members:
- Barista Training
- Computer Programming
- Visual Arts
- Public speaking
- Graphic design
- English Club
- Recreational arts
- Chess Club
- Traditional kites
- Music Production
- Reading Club
- Debate Club
Our psychologist and the three interning psychologists are addressing special needs in the classrooms. They have noticed an increase in the need for sexual education since the beginning of the pandemic. Based on this, our team began to formally teach a professional program in sexual education. They started with subjects like anatomy, the rights around sexual consent, birth control options, and the risks of teenage pregnancies.
Due to Guatemala's lack of safe places to manage menstrual hygiene as well as lack of education to access menstruation-related products or information, we have witnessed that when people are unable to adequately manage menstruation in school, their school performance suffers. So for the first time, we organized for all the young ones in our school a morning in which we offered workshops with information relating to menstrual products as well as increasing awareness through artivism, health, and care information. The students learned how to create their own reusable menstrual pads. This type of content allows our students to be empowered and make informed choices about their bodies.
We also reinforced our support program for young moms who attend our school. By now we have supported our four young moms with clothes for their babies, vitamins, nutritious meals, medicine, and diapers. With the support of a nutritionist the babies that are suffering from malnutrition are taking home the supplements and the special diets they need to overcome the difficult situations they are struggling with. Sadly most of them do not count on support from the baby’s fathers or their parents. The only help they receive is from the team at the school.
We are very happy to announce we have provided 21,163 food plates in the last three months. In the last 3 months, we have 440 students to whom we have provided 235 psychological therapies and our doctor has provided them with 89 medical consultations.
Little by little we have been trying to find a way to make our secondary school work the best way we can. The results have been positive. Seeing some students leaving at 6 to 8 pm, just because they feel safe and loved in their new school makes us feel like we are on the right track. We have been working hard to make all of your donations create a big impact in Guatemala. We are dreaming big and we know over the years we will keep building more and more El Patojismo’s schools around Guatemala.
We are very grateful for your constant support and the trust you have been showing us over the years. And, for the new donors, we promise to make you feel very proud about the donations you have made and for the ones you will keep making!
Without your support, El Patojismo wouldn't be possible.
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
The final months of this incredible and challenging year were amazing for the students and their families. Thanks to your generous support, the educational team was able to successfully accomplish our goals for the community: to provide an education and enable the seniors to graduate, to provide access to food, art, sports, technology, to assist our students with our mental health programs, as well as help the students find job opportunities.
Approximately 13,000 plates of food were served (respecting the covid regulations) to our students and participants. The average number of students through the year was 350 (all levels) and the mental health and medical programs served 480 students and family members.
We are so happy to share with all of you that three new projects for the students (all of them run by project-based learning strategies) were launched: The Coffee Academy, Art School and Technology classes.
Our coffee program is working so well that we have already participated in a local Art Latte Competition where Cristian (2021 graduate) won 2nd place and inspired the rest of the students of the 2022 graduating class to work hard and dream big. Lester and Sylvia (both seniors) are currently studying at our project and working in “Siena Luz”, a Coffee Shop based in Antigua. They are guided by Cristian. So, we are proud to say that dreams come true and the idea of providing education and job opportunities to our local kids, is now a reality.
We have also started the Cooking School program. The first step to accomplishing one of our biggest dreams is The Student Restaurant. We are well on the way to opening the restaurant with our fully equipped teaching kitchen. Local Chefs will be assisting us to give our students the best possible training.
The Technology program has also been effective. Twenty-five students have been attending programming and web coding classes and through our partners, we have acquired 30 new Chromebooks. We are working very hard to reduce the gap of technology in our town Jocotenango, and now, we are ready to officially start in 2023, the Technology Academy in our brand-new school, Centro de Oportunidades.
We are working with local businesses to provide jobs and/or internships to our students with many already working.
In the name of the students, the families, the educational team and our community we say: MUCHAS GRACIAS for all the love and support in this unforgettable 2022. We hope to receive your support in 2023 so we all can keep changing and transforming our community through love, education and opportunities.
With gratitude and friendship,
In 2018, with the help of international donors, we purchased land and began planning for a new secondary school. With the advice and guidance of international and national partners, we designed The Centre of Opportunities School. It is not just an institution, but rather a learning and practising school where our students will broaden their horizons in our computer laboratory, teaching kitchen, barista learning bar and coffee grading school. Along with continuing education in the basic curriculum, accompanied with strong English classes, we are giving these students the opportunity to pursue a career path that will help them find employment upon graduation.
In September 2022 we held our first open house at the new school. Hundreds of people attended, along with our team, students and families.
Our team of educators, happy and enthusiastic about the new opportunities for their students.
Four of our graduate students who worked every day on the construction, learning new skills from carpentry, plumbing, electricity, and bricklaying.
Lester joined us at 5 years of age, he grew up in the Primary School. He is now in Grade 10. Despite coming from a very large family with limited resources, he has grown into a confident and mature young man. He loves to play soccer with the school team and as well has been keen on learning how to cook and bake with the culinary team.
Our success has only been possible because of the loyal and generous support of our many international and national donors.
On behalf of Lester and hundreds of other children and their families, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
INCREDIBLE THINGS WE HAVE ACCOMPLISHED WITH YOUR SUPPORT!
Our school is still teaching our kids in groups since the government has not given us permission to fully open. We recently implemented a take-home meal program. In elementary school, kids can not stay in the school till lunchtime since the high school program starts at 1 PM, so kids are taking their lunch home in their own tupperware. Since February, we have provided 7,850 free meals in the project. Thanks to our new wellness program and our psychologist, we have provided over 40 therapy sessions and, thanks to our supportive doctor, 50 preventive health treatments have been provided.
The construction of our new secondary school is progressing very well. We are hoping to open the new school in the summer of 2022. The construction is now fully funded and we are working on the budget to equip the school. It will be one of the best schools in the region, complete with a teaching kitchen, computer lab, music/recording lab, art studio, and an English learning centre. This safe space for teens will allow us to expand our schedules in the actual school so we can have more space for new activities and time to attend to our children from 4 to 14 years old.
Our education program is not happening just inside the school, our team is helping our high school seniors to find job opportunities and experiences that help them in their career development. We have built relationships and trust with local businesses that have opened their doors to our high school seniors so they can start their professional careers.
Michelle gives us hope.
After many years as a student, she graduated from the Los Patojos school with a diploma for 11th Grade (the culminating grade in Guatemala). Her life was not easy growing up. She lost two brothers to illness and violence. She stated in our interview that Los Patojos had saved her because she found comfort in knowing she was not alone. While at the school, she met others who were experiencing similar difficulties. Upon graduation, she secured employment in a local cafe/bookstore in the nearby town, Antigua Guatemala. She is helping her family financially, which has changed their situation drastically. Where there were hardships before for her parents, now there is some semblance of hope. In a country where women are not treated equally, this was a big change for Michelle, the ability to transform her family despite her gender. Michelle is improving her English through online learning and is in the process of applying for university, which she can start next year.
None of our successes would have been possible without the loyal support we have received from our donors. We are very thankful to each and every one of you who are changing hundreds of lives in Guatemala.
WE ARE BACK IN ACTION!!!
Our school is open to in-person classes, we managed to organize all of our students in groups, so they can come twice per week to participate in all of the activities we offer. As yet, our government has not given us permission to fully open. We have been preparing for months to give our students the best welcome back to school. Our teachers are creating innovative programs to capture the interest of all the students and keep them on the path to being educated.
Some of our senior students.
Our team has interviewed, personally, every student and separately their parents. We were very disturbed to learn that 20% of our students have been seriously affected by the pandemic, including malnutrition, psychological and physical abuse, and of course economic hardship. In response, we have developed a Wellness Program to assist our students in their recovery. We hired a Psychologist who will create and implement not just personal help to those most severe cases but also create and deliver workshops in groups for the children, for the parents, as well as for the teachers.
Gabriel Rosales, a former student and now a teacher of our team interviewing a mother of our program.
Our students are very excited to come back to school, some have been knocking on the door to see if classes had already started since the first days of January. Paolo is one of them, he came to the school every day even though classes had not started, our school is a safe haven from the tough reality he goes through every day at home. He started to attend El Patojismo in 2017. Paolo is very energetic, compassionate, and always willing to contribute to any school activity. In his own words he needs the school as here he feels safe, he can participate in art which he loves, as well as sports.
Paolo 13 years old a 7th grader with Nelson whose been with us since he was 3 years old.
IT WOULD HAVE BEEN IMPOSSIBLE TO HELP THESE KIDS IN THE WAY THEY DESERVE WITHOUT THE INCREDIBLE SUPPORT WE HAVE RECEIVED FROM OUR FAITHFUL DONORS; WE THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS.
MUCHAS GRACIAS, JUAN PABLO AND THE TEAM AT LOS PATOJOS, DREAMS, AND IDEAS IN ACTION.
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