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
Spring reading circle graduates
Spring reading circle graduates

Dear friends it is wonderful to write to you again about our  residential program here at Centro de Compartimiento.  We are at the end of the school year here in Juchitan, Oaxaca and most of the students have gone home for the summer to enjoy time with their families and take a well earned break.  Summer vacation is shorter here in Mexico than in many parts of the world with high school classes finishing only this past week and middle and grade schools still with three weeks to go on the school calendar.  As you may have heard in the news Mexico and our state,Oaxaca, are going through turbulent times.  The teachers unions in the country, but especially in Oaxaca, continue to protests the educational reform passed by the federal government several years ago.  With corruption rampant on all sides it is diffcult to see if students and families will benefit from  the changes to the system either side is proposing. For now the children in preschool through middle school have been without classes for the past month with no end to the strike in sight.  We are doing our best to help small groups of local school children occupied for short times during the day.  This week we will start a three week reading program for children ages 8-12 run by volunteers and residential students.  The groups will focus on reading skills and comprension and also relaxation techinques to help the kids cope with the stress of the violence and upheaval around us. Above is a picture of students who were involved this spring in similar reading circles.

This year we are proud to say that all of our students enrolled in our residencial program have sucessfully completed another level of school  We have three graduates this summer.  Perla is graduating from high school and has applied at  two different universities to study sustainable development.  The Mexican system of college enrollement has students recieving their accpetance to programs in mid July so we are waiting for Perla to inform us about her final decision.  Karina is also graduating from high school this month.  She has enrolled in a cosmotolgoy program in a neighboring city and will being classes in the fall. 

Maylit graduates from nursing school this July. Mayit is from a small village in eastern Oaxaca, she was raised by her grandmother and grandfather after her mother contracted Trichanosis when Maylit was a toddler.  Maylit's mother survived the illness, but is confined to her bed or a wheel chair and cannot easily leave the home.  The village is a two hour drive from any medical facility and no physical therapy was available to help her recover.  Maylit came to CDC two years ago when, after supporting her through two years of college, the family could no longer afford to help her stay in school.  Despite having lived on here own since highschool Maylit fit into the CDC program well and became a mentor and friend to many of the younger students.  This past winter Maylit became the second CDC student to finish our four month adult Servant Leadership course which we offer to women in our community.  Her fellow students and the women in the group were able to support her emotinally this spring when her grandmother died of cancer.  Maylit has always known that as an only child she will be responsible for the care of her mother in the future and she has worked hard to be able to have a career that will help her have the skills and income needed to care for her mother.   This next year she will be giving her year of national service as a nurse, most likely in a small rural village much like her home town.  Her family has banded together to promise her that they will continue to care for her mother as she finishes this final phase of her training.

This past month she showed her understanding of the Servant Leadership model when the women in her class stated that they wanted to support her family in creating ramps in her village home for her mother so that wheelchair access would be easier.  She spoke about the prospect to her family and friends in the village and they decided that it was a project that the community could support and the local men and women donated cement and labor and built the necessary ramps in her grandparent's home.  She then could asked the women in her group to help with the repair needed for her mother's wheelchair, a skill which no one in the village could provide.  She helped mobilize the talents of two groups to help her mother get around the home more easily in the absence of her grandmother.  A true example of Servant Leadership in practice.

With out your support Maylit would not have been able to continue her education. We thank you for all the support you have given to CDC in the past years and hope you will continue with us as we walk with these remarkable young women.  I urge you to engage in dialog with us about Servant Leadership and our CDC community and  we ask you to keep our young women and region in your prayers as we go through this time of social turmoil. 

Maylit
Maylit
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Naty with her mother and Adela Toledo.
Naty with her mother and Adela Toledo.

You help them find their wings, but then they fly away.  One of the harder parts of the work we do at Centro de Compartimiento (CDC) is when the students are done with their stay at the program and decide to move one.  Many of our students live with us for three to five years and although the goal is to get them out and be a productive serving member of the community it is emotional to let them go.   These past few months we have had two long term participants of the Centro De Compartimiento Program leave the program to start their lives in the community.  Both had been with CDC for seven years and the joy of seeing them take the next step is tinged with the sadness of loss.  

Naty came to us over seven years ago to study high school from a remote rural area.  She was the first in her family to attend high school and since that time her brother has followed in her footsteps.  Her older sister was the one to start her on her path as her father did not consider it worth while to educate a girl who was "just going to get married and raise kids".   She completed high school with CDC and decided to enter a nursing program.  Over the years she grew to find her purpose in life and began to change her relationship with her father for the better.  If high school was a hard pill for her father to swallow, college was even more difficult, but her top grades and dedication convinced him. Last summer she graduated from nursing school and was set to give her year of service in the nursing field. All graduates in the health sciences must work at a state or federal facility for a year, and the pay is often very low, Naty was going to get a stipend of $30 a month.  She stayed with us for several months of her service and then found that by covering shifts for full time nurses she would get paid the normal shift rate of $30.  With several shifts a month and her scholarship she found that she could make ends meet and live closer to the hospital where she is giving her service.   We are so pround of Naty and the progress she has made.  As every proud parent or mentor we are thrilled to see her in the community and see her working yet sad to see her leave.  

For us at CDC we have the new challenges of a younger group of young women.  Last year the average time a student had spent with us was about 4 years, now with the exit of two older students that shifts dramatically, the average time a student has been with is about 2 years.  As we approach the last quater of the school year we are recruiting new students and preparing the ones who are graduating.  

Thank you so much for your ongoing support of our program that makes working with young women possible.  Today we all can boast of two more young women out and serving their community.  With each success we can open the door  to another young woman ready to change her life and make her mark on the world.  We hope that you will continue to walk with us on this journey.    As I regularily mention in my reports, we are an open organization and we are very happy to answer any questions that you may have, recieve any visitors and dialog about our work.  

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Dilma and her reading group
Dilma and her reading group

We here at Centro de Compartimiento wish to thank all of our friends who have support our program this past year.  We are thankful for your support and hope that the support can continue this next year. We wish you all a very blessed holiday season and the best for this New Year.   We are headed for a year of changes, we have decided to combine the two program centers into one and house all the student at one location.  We have had two program locations for over 10 years, but we have recently felt that there was little contact and solidarity between the students of the two programs, because our program is set for a maximum of 24 students we decided that with new construction we can house all the students at one location and leave the other location for more community programs. So we will soon be looking for designs for the new dorms and funds to start building. We are very excited about having all the students together at one site. 

We are gratefull for all our our donors and hope to get more people involved in the program, our budget is small but we have a difficult time meeting it every year.  Unfortunately charitable giving is not a habit in Mexico, We are working to change this in our culture and starting with our own students in the program.  They of course do not have money to donate to the program, but we have the philsophy that you can give to your community at any time, with any level of income.  Funds are nice, but time is also a treasure to be shared.  Many of our students come in saying, I want to finish school, get a good job and then I will have money to give back to my community.  This attitude is common in much of the world, "When I have made it, I can give back".  What we teach our students is that they can give back right now. 

We ask each of the students to develop and implement a service project to benefit community members.  This past year we were able to get a grant to buy many books and the students were fianally able to learn a love of reading, now that materials are available.  They then decided that they wanted to share thier love of reading with a younger generation and sevaral students developed reading circles as their service project.  Students in 4th through 6th  grade from a local grade school were invited to join the reading circles.  The circles are made up of eight students who meet twice a week and choose a book to read together.  They sit in a circle and read out loud a chapter each session. The kids have fun with what they call "Lectura Robada", or stolen reading, there is no set turnover and a student may jump in and  take over the reading when they want to. This can get rowdy and fun, if no one takes over the group leader reads for a while until another student  feels comfortable reading.  Not only are the students exposed to reading, but the no judgement laid back atmosphere of the groups has helped many improve their reading skills.  

The favorite books this year have been, Malala - My Story and the Diary of Anne Frank.  We are always looking for great books for kids that are available for readers in Spanish, if you have any suggestions we would love to hear from you and keep increasing our young readers library.  

Thank you again for you support and bieng a apart of the CDC family.  We love to hear from you, please send us and email and tell us about yourself and share any thoughts you have regarding the program.  Have a great New Year.

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It is the beginning of the new school year here in Juchitan, Oaxaca, Mexico. Our students are all returning from summer vacation. Some spent vacation with their family some spent vacation in practicums. The beginning of the new school year is challenging for all students and in the state of Oaxaca here in Mexico we have the additional challenges of ongoing teacher strikes and turbulence in our educational system. Although the education system in Oaxaca is highly dysfunctional most of the challenges our students face are personal. One student, 21, who has been with us since she was 15 years old has faced family resistance every step of the way of her struggle to get a higher education. Her family pulled her out of school after third grade and sent her to work. Her father, who now lives out of the country, wants her to stay home and work to provide an income for her mother and three younger siblings, especial now that she has finished high school. Her mother does not seem to want to work. This summer when she went home for a visit she had to deal with her father, who from a distance, wants to kick her mother off of the family property, and siblings who are in emotional and legal trouble. Her father has sent family members to threaten her mother, and her mother who has long lived in domestic violence does not have the skills to cope with the situation. Our student had to deal with family protective services, legal services, and human rights services and her own families reluctance to cross their father, with only frequent phone calls to get support from our program. She comes back to us with the ongoing stress and worry about what is going to happen to her family while is studying. Even though she knows, deep inside, that living with her family will not solve any of their problems, as her mother is the one who needs to take charge of her own life, she cannot completely let the emotional stress go. This is a struggle that she faces every day. Nominally our program is to help young women to get an education, to get ahead in life, but our experience and now studies have shown that there are many factors in poverty-stricken families that do not have anything to do with finances that prevent young people from getting ahead even if they're offered the opportunity to study. Studies have shown that young people from impoverished situations often have not developed the skills to reach out for help and have poor decision making skills. (This American Life, Ep. 550, Three Miles, March 15, 2015). Our residential program no only provides access to education for young women but also we are providing ongoing emotional and spiritual support so that they can learn how to deal with the problems that are thrown at them. We are available to the students 24/7 to talk, encourage and support. In US colleges this type of support has been called intrusive advising here we like to call it "family". We thank you for helping us provide a healthy family environment for young women, we consider you to be our extended family and hope you will continue to support these wonderful young women as they walk the road to a different life.

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Lucy, on our visit to Chiapas
Lucy, on our visit to Chiapas

Centro de Compartimiento is a program that focuses on getting young women further along in school and helping them with personal development so that they can make better choices about their lives and have more opportunities after they leave the program. As each student nears the end of a level of education they have to make a decision about their next step. We work closely with each student to walk with them in the decision process.   Lucy is at one of these points in her life. This June she will finish high school, and she had to make a choice about her next step. Lucy has used her time well at Centro de Compartimiento, and has learned about her strengths and weakness, improved her communication skills and learned to live in community. At this point in her life Lucy is not in love with academics, she loves learning but she is not a strong student and understands that university will possibly be a struggle for her. She feels she is not ready to take that step, but does not want leave her community and work and live on her own. She is passionate about social justice, loves music,gardening, learning new skills, teaching and working with young people.

            This past spring we took the students in the program on a Learning Exchange trip. The idea was to take to the students to see other programs that also work with indigenous young people. We live on a sea level plain where our temperature never gets below 70 F, and we have eight months of the year with no rain fall. We drove out five hours and up to two thousand meters above sea level to the city of San Cristobal in the neighboring state of Chiapas. There we found cool pine forests, rain and temperatures in the mid 50's. In San Cristobal the indigenous cultures are strong but very different from the ones in our region. This was the first time out traveling out of the state for most of the students (and we are only one hour away from the state border).

            We visited a program that does not focus on academic but on vocational training. The program supports over one hundred residential students, mostly middle and high school age, to learn a vocation to take back to their villages to work. Lucy was impressed with the program and after living in Centro de Compartimiento she began to wonder if a good next step was to volunteer for a time at this program helping younger students and learning some vocational skills to better decided if college is the right path for her. During our visit she spoke to the director of the program, and upon returning home she found that several of the staff at her high school know of and are impressed with the program. She is using skills learned at Centro de Compartimiento to make a choice about her future, and her current choice is to give a year of service to others as she finds her own path.

            Thanks to all of you, Lucy had the opportunity to finish her high school, learn valuable decision making skills and now is poised to pass on to others what she has learned. The gift you gave to Centro de Compartimiento does not just support a group of students to keep going in school, but to help young women to make good choices about their lives and forge new paths for themselves and others. We all have time, talent or money that we can share in our world. You gave a financial gift and now Lucy is planning to match your gift by giving of her own time and talent. Truly a wonderful multiplication of gifts. We are excited to see what is next for Lucy as she takes this next step in life, we hope you will continue to travel with us in supporting these wonderful young women.

Next month Global Giving is having another matching day and each donation will count  for more.  Centro de Compartimiento has just reached the Leader level on Global Giving and donations on July 15th will be matched at 40%.   Stay  tuned from more information as we draw nearer to the date.

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Organization Information

Centro de Compartimiento, A.C.

Location: Juchitan, Oaxaca - Mexico
Website:
Project Leader:
Kristin Lietz
Juchitan, Oaxaca Mexico
$68,889 raised of $75,000 goal
 
910 donations
$6,111 to go
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