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Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico

by Centro de Compartimiento, A.C.
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Damage at the Espinal Student House
Damage at the Espinal Student House

Hello dear friends,  I just wanted to send you a brief letter to keep you up to date with our situation since the earthquake last Thursday night.  As you may have seen our region was hit by an 8.2 earthquake last Thursday night at 11:50 PM. First and most importantly all the students, staff and former students who are in Juchitan, Oaxaca and surrounding communities are safe. Our two student buildings withstood the quake, but both have some damage.

I was home asleep with my two girls when the quake hit, We were out on our balcony sleeping semi outdoors to beat the summer heat.  We were startled awake as the whole house shook and swayed and made our way down the stairs with much difficulty and outside, while the world shook and roared around us.  Without cell service or electricity, we quickly got in our car and drove to the student house in Juchitan to check on the girls.  We passed many damaged homes in Juchitan, and everyone was on the street, it was a nerve wrecking 10-minute drive, wondering if the students were okay.  They were, and the house seemed to be okay save for a leak from the cooking gas tank on the roof, so we evacuated them to El Espinal to our director´s home.  We have sent them home for at least a week as they are mostly from outlying areas that were less affected by the quake and aftershocks.  

The aftershocks are many and strong, as I write this I have gotten up once and left the building for what used to feel like a strong quake.  Tomorrow we will have someone out to evaluate the two student buildings, and we are waiting for word from the schools.  One high school where our students attend ready sent word that the school is damaged and asked families for help on Monday clearing rubble once they know the remaining structures are sound.  Meanwhile, Juchtan, our home town has no water, scarce electricity and is in chaos, The historic center, town hall, 16th-century church and many of our traditional homes were destroyed.  Over 5000 homes destroyed and 61 lives lost in Juchitan alone.  

We have not yet assessed the cost of the damage, but the student buildings will need repairs, we will need financial help to get the structures back to living conditions.  It looks like the Juchitan house will need fewer repairs, the cooking gas tank, bathrooms, water delivery system all need repair, and our property wall on one side is leaning dangerously and will need to be torn down and replaced.  Unfortunately, the house in El Espinal has more damage, and we need to get it evaluated and see how to rescue the living spaces.   We will keep you informed over the next few weeks, but any donation can help to get us up and running again so that the students don´t lose this school year.  

We will keep you informed over the next few weeks, but any donation can help to get us up and running.  Please consider donating to help us through this crisis.  Looking at the main page of GlobalGiving I see so many natural disasters this week we can only leave it to you to consider what is most urgent, but I ask you to consider giving generously to us here and Centro de Compartimiento so we can get up and running soon.  

Thank you for the support you have given to us, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers,

Kristin Lietz

Program Director

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Heydi, finishing her second year of high school
Heydi, finishing her second year of high school

I am not sure exactly whaI am not sure exactly what Socrates meant when he said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” I looked it up briefly online and got too many ideas to sort through. But I do know for sure that real growth and change happens in our students when they first start talking about their lives and then began a process of examination. In our students, this usually occurs about a year into the program when the feel safe enough to start looking at the hard parts of their lives. To foster this process, these past few months, we have been working on a personal growth exercise with the students. Each student was asked to write a two-page autobiography based on an outline that we provided. We asked the young women to write about their family, any significant role models or forming events in their life up to now, and their faith and spiritual environment while growing up. Staff and students wrote their autobiographies.


At our weekly group meetings on Thursday, a student or staff member was given a chance to read her autobiography out loud. The sessions were scheduled so that everyone knew when it was her turn. The responses from the students varied considerably. Some wrote only a short page, most wrote several pages, one seemed to have notes but just spoke free form about her life for almost an hour and one refused to write or read, allowing us to have a discussion on the value of sharing our lives with others. Not one session ended without tears and hugs.
It is amazing and scary to hear the stories of these young women´s lives. Common themes abounded; alcoholic families, fathers and brothers working abroad, abuse, community violence and lack of hope as girls in the community. These are all stumbling blocks for the young women to get ahead in life and if they do not face them, they can get tripped up and drop out of school.


We often visit the families of our students and in March we went to visit the family of one of our high school students whose father had injured his back at work, and the doctors had told him he would never walk again. He told us of his faith and conversion and what seems to be a miraculous healing. We were awed. His daughter told us a similar story but also shared how after his recovery her father took a new job where his co-workers drank a lot after work, how he fell into alcoholism and nearly left his family, and how her mother held the family together for years until her father got help and returned. She did not read, she just told us the raw story, crying most of the time, letting her pain and sadness flow out to the group to be shared and accepted. These are the precious moments in our program.  This is the beginning of healing that is needed for our young women to succeed.  


We thank you for helping us to provide a place where young women can come and heal as well as continue their education. We are closing out the school year now and looking forward to summer vacation.  We now have three opening available for new students next school year but already have five applicants. Our annual budget is around 60,000 USD, of which we have pledged around 40,000 USD from foundations and local donors. We invite you to give to the program over our summer break so that we can be sure to be fully funded for the upcoming school year.  

This summer on July 12, GlobalGiving is having a bonus day where donations will be matched.  Please mark your calendar.  Together we are making a difference in the lives of young women and their families here in Mexico. 

Sharing our stories.
Sharing our stories.
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Heydi with three generations of her family
Heydi with three generations of her family

Heydi is a 17-year-old from a small community in Eastern Oaxaca.  Thanks to your support of Centro de Compartimiento she is currently in her second year of high school studying public, she dreams of being a nurse.  As part of our program, we like to visit our student´s home communities, meet their families and hear their stories.  This month we had the opportunity to go and visit Heydi's community and it turned out that the date we had available was also her birthday.  We took our van with a contingent of students and some guests and drove out from town an hour to visit the family.  Heydi's grandfather told us how he moved down from the mountains with his family as a boy to find better farmland and how the community was founded.  Heydi's father, a cattle hand, told us about his work on a local ranch.  He leaves his family six days a week to work.  His salary is one thousand pesos a week, which today is worth a little over fifty US dollars.   He sends five hundred pesos a week to cover Heydi´s school costs.  He told us Heydi would not be in school if Centro de Compartimiento did to give her room and board, a cost that would be more than his weekly salary. 

Most importantly the students who accompanied us on this visit got to hear from a man whose faith and perseverance is amazing, and we found the roots of Heydi´s desire to become a nurse.  Eight years ago, while Heydi´s father worked on a ranch, the power went out in a wind storm.  His employer told him to climb the electrical pole to reconnect the power so that they could continue to watch TV.   Against his better judgment and after some protest he climbed the pole.  While attempting to reconnect the line he was electrocuted and fell to the ground injuring his back.  At the local hospital, he was told her would never walk again, leaving his wife to care for him and the children  He lived for a year lying on a wooden plank, traveling an hour to the hospital every week.  He found comfort with the support of a local church community and prayer.   He was granted his miracle 6 months into his convalescence when feeling began to return to his legs, it was another six months before he could walk, but he never lost his faith.  His journey inspired his daughter to be a nurse.  Today he is a leader in his church and an inspiration the people of his community.  

We at Centro de Compartimiento thank you for the support that you have given to Heydi and other young women in fulfilling their dreams for higher education.  Please consider making a donation this month to support these wonderful young women and their families.  Continue to show them that they are not alone, join us and their families to give them a solid base for the future

Heydi with some of her fellow students.
Heydi with some of her fellow students.
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Ofelia
Ofelia

My name is Ofelia Flor Diaz Alavez. I am 26 years old and I graduated with a degree in Communication for Social Development from the Ayuuk Intercultural Institute, a Catholic College for indigenous students in my home town of Jaltepec de Candayoc, Oaxaca. I am an indigenous Mexican of Ayuuk (Mixe) descent; in my hometown we still use our native language on a daily basis as well as Spanish.   I work for Centro de Compartimiento (CDC) as a housemother, living with the young women in the residential program.

In 2014 I started working at CDC. It was not an easy decision to make because I did not understand the project very well.   After my first interview with CDC I thought that my job would be like most others, that is, to comply with a schedule and a list of duties. There are many boarding schools in our region for children from rural villages so I thought I understood what the job was going to be like. My second interview involved staying overnight at the house with the students and I realized then that CDC was a different type of job. CDC was less of a boarding home and more of a family. A place that not only meets the basic needs of each residential student but also where we get to know the heart of each person, their dreams and that which lies deep within.

I took the job I was excited about helping the students in their personal growth, what I did not realize was that I also needed to go through the process. The process of sharing and getting to know each other in order to heal is not easy for anyone. To teach the steps to make deep changes in their lives I also had to take them. I began without truly understanding. Sometimes I resisted, I despaired and even got angry. It took us a while to get used to each other. I was not much older than the students and it was hard to establish my authority. Some of the things I was asked to do I did not understand. Many times I wanted to leave.

I think it is easy to work with reports, software, cameras, and projects, etc., but working directly with young peoplewho have different personalities, different characters and stories is not easy. I often can not find a way to describe it. Every situationcan be a challenge when it is vital to care for the wholeness, peace and education of each student.  In college we do not learn to hug. We do not learn the words to comfort a sad, angry or tired heart.I was not taught how to wipe away tears and know why “things” happen in the lives of our students. When I realized that we were more like family I began to treat the students as I would younger sisters, yet being the youngest child and only girl in my family this too was new to me but each shared moment also taught me. I learned that I too have things that I need to learn and change.    The other staff members, Adela and Kristin, helped me along the path to grow, and I took the CDC Servant Leadership course for adults to understand better the ideas behind what CDC is doing.

Now I have been working for more than two years at CDC, apart from developing professional skills, I have learned different ways of relating to people, different ways of working as a team, in addition to knowing my self better. In the field of communication one is constantly involved in research, writing and witnessing social movements. We are taught to find and report the bad, unjust and corrupt. One can often feel angry and impotent. There is even danger if a journalist is not prudent with what they cover. Instead I feel very happy to be in a place where you can give good news, where, even though slow and small, steps are made to make positive change in our communities. Perhaps we do not drastically change the situation in our world, but seeing someone continue to fight for their dreams and seeing how they have grown as a person and as a citizen of thiscountry that needs us so much is the best reward. Working in CDC is a challenge every day, it also teaches me to constantly look for opportunities for service and learning.

The staff and students at CDC want to thank you for all your support this past year and wish you a very happy holiday season and blessing in this New Year. Our work is ongoing, in January the students will return for the second semester of this school year. We hope that you will consider giving again as the year draws to a close, and continue to give these wonderful young women a chance to learn, discover and grow.    

Thursday night reading groups with students
Thursday night reading groups with students
CDC staff and volunteer corps
CDC staff and volunteer corps
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Nereida - returning for 3rd year of college
Nereida - returning for 3rd year of college

Another summer has come and gone and we are back to work here at Centro De Compartimiento for the new school year.  Most of the students spent their summer holiday, one month, with their families in their home villages although our college students did have to spend some extra time in town for summer pratica, so the house in Juchitan never really closed down for the summer.  It is nice to have a full house of students once again after a quiet summer.  The new school year is always interesting, blending the new students in with the returning students and seeing what dynamics develop.  We are one month into the new year and all seems to be going well and all are integrating well. Some home sickness but the returning students are always a great support for the new ones. 

In an interesting turn, much of our focus on adjustment has not been spent on our new students, but on two of our students who left the program in the summer at the end of high school and are having a hard time adjusting to life outside the project.  Both have the dream to continue on with college, but neither family has the resources at this time to pay for their studies.  They decided to work for a year to earn some money to start college and both went to extended family to live and work in a larger city than Juchitan.  After less than a month each was contacting us to say they were miserable and were having a hard time adjusting.  They experienced similar problems.  The family they were with treated them like second class citizens and the jobs they found seemed like good  pay but with unreasonable work  rules and employers who did not treat them with respect.  In one case our student was employed at a grocery warehouse, checking in and out the products that arrived and were sold.  In the afternoons the owner would bring his young son into the ware house and the son, not more than seven year old, would order the staff around to meet his own needs calling the employees with the word "gato" or "gata", which means cat in Spanish.  Our former student did not like being ordered around by a seven year old and wanted to talk to her boss, but her fellow employees warned her off, telling her just to do what the child wanted and get back to her work.   She was amazed at the level of fear the employees had in the work place and how little the employers cared for the workers.  Lateness arriving for work or coming back late from break was punished with two days loss of pay.  Our student told us she worked for three weeks and recieved less than 1/3 her promised pay due to being docked for various reasons including for forgetting to punch in in the morning, and being ill for a half a day.  She began to communicate with us on a regular basis becuase the home where she was staying were also very disorganized and the married couple fought almost every day.   The young son in the family even demonstarted the most effective way to put her fingers in her ears so that she would not hear them fight.  Out of unexpressed anger and frustation she found herself acting out in ways that could be dangerous such as staying out late on the streets at night to avoid being in the home. 

Our focus in the program is not only getting the students through school, but to teach them to live in a harmonious supportive way.  After three years in the program the two students found it very hard to adjust to life in thier strife filled extended families.  Karina has returned to the program to study cosmetology, she tried living with her cousins in another town where the school was less expensive but the negativity in the home and lack of moral support was too much.  We have adjusted the program to allow Karina to work part time to pay for her cosmetology program here in town.  We have not had students who work and study at the same time due to the fact that their studies or house particiaption often suffers.  We shall try again with Karina and see how it goes.  Perla is a harder case as she still dreams of college and her family can´t afford it.  In the mean time we are trying to work with her to keep her dreams alive so that she will make good decisions in her life now and not succumb to the chaos of her extended family.  

We hope that these young women will be able to bring some of the peace and social skills that they have learned here at CDC to their home communities but it is proving a challenge and we need to add something into our program to help them with the adjustment  back into community.  At least now, we are very very pleased that they both recognized the toxic enviroments as such and reached out to us for support.  That is a giant step foward. 

With your support we can continue to have the quality programs for our students and also increase outreach to our former residential students.  We thank you for your support this past summer and hope that you will consider giving a donation to help us start out the new school year.  Our goal for October is to raise $4000 towards this school year..  We have been on the Global Giving page for two years now and have doubled the donations that were given during the first campaign to get us on the site.  Through the site we have been able to reach new donors and increase our donor base, but we do need past donors to continue to give.  We invite you to make a donation to Centro de Compartimiento this month if you can increase your 2014 donation by a minimum of $10 we can cover the increased costs due to inflation over the years since our initial campaign.  I am no marketer but we will use the catch phase of Match +10. If you are a new donor we invite you to match + 10 your most recent donation.  Thank you again for all your support of the wonderful young women here at Centro de Compartimiento.  Our doors and email are always open for questions and conversations about the program.  

One final note of great news.  We found out this week that our former student, Aurelia Martinez has passed her national licensure exam as a lawyer.  We are very proud of her accomplishment.

Aided - joining program to begin high school
Aided - joining program to begin high school

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Organization Information

Centro de Compartimiento, A.C.

Location: Juchitan, Oaxaca - Mexico
Website:
Project Leader:
Kristin Lietz
Juchitan, Oaxaca Mexico
$70,795 raised of $75,000 goal
 
914 donations
$4,205 to go
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