Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women

by Highland Support Project
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Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women
Opportunities & Hope for Guatemalan Maya Women

Community organizing is about building personal-psychological power and competencies, building organizational strength through networking and resources, and building community power by developing the capacity to meet member needs and aspirations. There are many different types of power. We like to focus on the power of together and gain access to opportunity.

John Gavantes introduced the powercube as a training tool for International Development in 2003. The powercube assists us in understanding how power is developed and distributed. The cube helps us analyze power internationally, national, local, and community level. A critical aspect of the powercube is the differentiation between closed, invited, and claimed spaces. Closed spaces are places like congress or a corporate board meeting where one has to be elected or have sufficient financial resources to be included. Invited spaces are places like press conferences or community consultations. Claimed Spaces are spaces in which relatively powerless or excluded groups create a space for themselves.

AMA began nearly thirty years ago as a claimed space for Indigenous women excluded from professional opportunities and social organizations. AMA is more than the "development" projects realized in a year. AMA is a growing regional organization that provides authentic participation and voice to women on the margins of society. It serves as a viable community organizing model, projecting hopes, visions, and concerns to the local, national, and international communities.

 

On March 8th, to commemorate International Women's Day, more than 35 women of our community partners joined the assembly for the first time since COVID. During this assembly, we elected new board members were Caty from Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán was selected as the president and Felipa from Llanos del Pinal as Vice-President. All who participated expressed how grateful they were for receiving support during the pandemic. They also brought ideas for needed educational, health, and organizational projects in their communities. We hope to start working on these projects as soon as possible to keep improving lives and empowering communities in the Higlands of Guatemala.

If you'd like to learn more about our projects and where your funding goes, please reach out, and I'd be happy to set up a time to talk!

Thank you again for your dedication and continued support of Highland Support Project!

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On the way to Women's health clinic
On the way to Women's health clinic

Carol Aneshensel studied the social distribution of stress and social variation in response to stress. Aneshensel demonstrated the cumulative impact of stress as well as the unequal distribution of stress across society. Research indicates that repeated exposure to stressors negatively impacts psychological and physiological health. A key takeaway from Aneshensel's analysis is that social variations in response to stress are related to economic conditions and the ability to exercise agency in addressing sources of stress.

HSP's community partners identify that COVID 19 represents another stressor in a very long line of incidents impacting rural communities. Families have experienced a decades-long civil war, centuries of injustice, the collapse of corn prices, and the drain of migration on families and communities. Leonard Pearlin wrote extensively about the concept of the locus of control and individual agency. The locus of control is a concept that refers to how strongly people believe they have control over the situations and experiences that affect their lives. Research demonstrates that when individuals experience a sense of powerlessness over their own lives, the typical response is hopelessness or anger.

Our community partners have registered many indicators demonstrating that COVID 19 has dramatically increased the level of stress in rural communities, as well as expressions of hopelessness and anger. The community center and the AMA house have hosted members fleeing conflict in their homes and villages over the last year. School teachers in partners schools report that they have to close because most students feel that their only hope is to migrate to the United States illegally.

AMA has organized ambulatory women's health clinics in coordination with local Red Cross chapters. While clinical care is an integral part of public health programming, the primary motivation for organizing the clinics is to involve grassroots members in the planning and implementing activities and provide a means of checking in on circle members' psychological and spiritual well-being. Guadalupe Ramirez, a founder of AMA and HSP's director, participated this week in an inaugural women's clinic in the department of San Marcos.

In the last three months, AMA has constructed over 200 stoves in rural communities and distributed 2000 trees purchased from the women's tree nursery of Espumpuja. Similar to the motivations for the clinics, the stoves are an essential component of a public health initiative to address the chronic issue of upper respiratory infections. But, we build stoves because it is a project with a scope appropriate for engaging grassroots members in the design and implementation of campaigns. The work of researcher Marc Zimmerman demonstrates the powerful benefit of individuals engaging in decision-making for their overall health. Zimmerman's research indicates that simple participation in a knitting group can provide significant benefits.

We believe that the way we achieve outcomes is as important as the outcomes themselves. By this, we mean that it is possible to design a very efficient means of providing services or distributing relief materials; but, if communities are not engaged and involved in the process, there is a slight improvement in the agency or locus of control that community members experience.

We have uploaded videos of recent community visits conducted during the last week of November to our Facebook page.  This includes a visit to the inauguration of a new computer lab, a women's ambulatory health clinic, a couple of stove building sites.   We wish we could share the love and appreciation expressed by partners who benefit from your generisoty.  

New Computer Lab in Twiniwitz
New Computer Lab in Twiniwitz
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We are excited to write to you with two encouraging updates about our work in Guatemala!

First, our tree nursery & reforestation project has been thriving and growing. The program's goals are twofold. It plants trees to combat years of deforestation in rural regions and creates an opportunity for the women running the nursery to earn their own income and develop professional skills. The tree nursery program is also linked to our women's circles through AMA, which creates an empowering community for the women involved. Pictured above is one of the women who work at the tree nursery, Yoli. She is from Espumpuja and sells the saplings at the local market.

Second, we are beginning 2022 travel plans to Guatemala! There is a full informational packet attached below. Please send an email to madison@highlandpartners.org with any questions and to begin planning your trip!

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Thank you so much for your support of Highland Support Project through GlobalGiving. 

We are so hopeful about what is to come in 2021!

In Guatemala, our full-time AMA staff is still hard at work promoting the Pixan weaving cooperative, building clean-burning stoves, and providing women with peer-to-peer counseling. The economic, social, and health effects of the pandemic have only made these projects even more critical within Indigenous communities. Additionally, we are excited to be launching a new reforestation project this summer...more information coming soon!

Although we have decided it is not yet in the best interest of the communities we work with for us to return to Guatemala, we will be returning to Arizona this summer to work alongside Cheryl Pailzote, the head hydrologist of the White Mountain Apache Tribe. We continue to be encouraged and inspired by the ways in which our work with Indigenous communities across the Americas, from Arizona to Guatemala to Ecuador, intersect and build upon each other. 

Warmly,

 

Madison Sweitzer

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Alba, a recent stove recipient!
Alba, a recent stove recipient!

Thank you so much for your past and current commitment to Highland Support Project, you are critical to the work we accomplish for those that rely on us most; children, women and communities in the Highlands.

COVID-19, recent hurricanes, political unrest and loss of income due to trip cancellations call us to a more active fundraising campaign that allows us to continue the work you’ve dug your hands in and committed to through your prior experience with HSP.

Asociación de las Mujeres deAltiplano, or AMA, our Guatemalan sister organization, does more than build stoves. This program is transforming communities, changing lives, and improving health for generations to come.

If you’d like to learn more about our projects and where your funding goes, please reach out and I’d be happy to set up a time to talk!

Thank you again for your dedication and continued support of Highland Support Project!

In gratitutde,

Madison Sweitzer

Maria and her sons, another stove recipient!
Maria and her sons, another stove recipient!

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Organization Information

Highland Support Project

Location: Richmond, VA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @HighlandPartnrs
Project Leader:
Diana Alvarado
Quetzaltenango, Quetzaltenango Guatemala
$41,613 raised of $90,000 goal
 
440 donations
$48,387 to go
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