Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We Did It! $1,600!

Congratulations, everyone—we hit our 2011 goal of $1,600! With the school year just underway in Guatemala, we are proud to be sending out enough money to sponsor 15 students this year. Thank you for all of your support, and check back here for more updates as the year goes on!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Our Annual Appeal

Now entering its fifth year, Amigos de San Pablo is currently accepting donations for the 2011 school year, which starts in mid-January.

Amigos de San Pablo depends on donations from people like you—people who believe that all children have a fundamental right to get an education.

For those of you who have donated in the past, thank you. Know that your contributions have made a huge difference in the lives of children from San Pablo. Our grantees have overcome a variety of challenges to stay in school. It is incredibly gratifying to us that Darvin Pérez—one of our first grantees in 2007—is still in school, despite familial pressure to work in the fields or migrate to Mexico. After a rocky start, he has embraced school and become a youth leader. And in many ways, he has come to represent for us the power of a program like Amigos de San Pablo.

Please help students like Darvin by giving to Amigos de San Pablo this holiday season. Thanks again for your support!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Graduation and Looking Ahead

We are proud to report that two of our students—Mayra Pérez and Urias Pérez—graduated from the Instituto this past fall! Mayra had a wide range of interests at school and was involved in a number of extracurricular activities, particularly the Pastoral Juvenil, or Catholic Youth Group. For many young people in San Pablo, participation in the Pastoral Juvenil is the first step towards taking a larger role in the community, whether it be through Jóvenes en la Misión (a regional environmentalist youth group) or any of a number of co-op committees.

Some of you might remember Urias from last year's postings. He's an aspiring carpenter who has hopes to turn his carpentry skills into a small business in the Tacaná area. Here he is explaining his hopes for the future:

Once again, congratulations, Mayra and Urias!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2010 Year in Review

The school year is about to begin once again in Guatemala, and now seems a good time to look back at 2010 and share with you the successes of Amigos de San Pablo. Having recently completed its fourth year, the program sponsored 12 students this past year. The list follows:

Luis Arreaga, Middle School
Sonia Morales, Middle School
Juan Velásquez, Middle School
Plácida Gutiérrez, Middle School
Eloíza Arreaga, Middle School
Darvin Pérez, Middle School
Ofelia Pérez, Middle School
Yendi Morales, Middle School
Alan Morales, Middle School
Aracely Velásquez, High School
Urias Pérez, High School
Mayra Pérez, High School

We were pleased to see a blend of return grantees and some new faces this year. On top of that, we were particularly excited to hear that this year's students have seen their grades improve and their participation in extracurricular activities—from sports and church-related events to tutoring and environmental campaigns—increase over the course of the year. For example, Eloíza is volunteering with a University of California research site that seeks to build homes that are adaptable to future climate change. Great work, Eloíza!

Also, several students continue to work on their small business plans. We've already told you about Urias' burgeoning carpentry business, but Alan, Ofelia and Darvin are working on a small farm project, a floral arrangement project and a bakery project, respectively.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Amigos de San Pablo volunteer committee during one of many meetings this past summer, which worked towards evaluating the three-year-old program. From left to right: Mace, Ety, Ian, Julio, and Yony. Photo by Brooke.

Happy holidays! Here’s hoping that you’ve had a healthy and productive 2009. Because of Ian’s thesis work on return migrants and deportees, we had the opportunity to return this past summer to the western Guatemalan mountains. Aside from visiting our friends and host family, we also spent time evaluating Amigos de San Pablo.

Among the program’s many strengths is the commitment of friends and family here in the US who have chosen to financially support students they’ve never met. These donors have helped create an invaluable opportunity for teenagers living in extreme poverty to write their own dreams, and Amigos de San Pablo would not exist without these special people.

In addition to the participation of many donors like you, we are blown away by the work of a dedicated group of San Pablo community volunteers who administrate the scholarships. We were elated to find that their focus has been on engaging families and designing transparent systems.

One of most important opportunities and/or challenges the program faces is sustainability. To move toward a more sustainable Amigos de San Pablo, we are considering the following future projects: 1) beginning a mini-loan program for middle and high school students who have small businesses; 2) seeking a fiscal sponsor here in the U.S. so all donations can be tax-deductible; and 3) formalizing the activities of the recipients to build leadership qualities and promote their investment in future grantees.

The school year is right around the corner. As we embark on the necessary research and collaborative discussions with the San Pablo committee, we hope that you will support these students in their continued education. To donate towards the 2010 school year, click on the PayPal link to the right or email brooke_toczylowski@yahoo.com to learn about where you can mail a check or money order.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

What are your dreams? (¿Cuáles son sus deseos?)

Eleven of twelve grantees participated in a hands-on photography workshop this summer. We asked the students two very simple questions: 1) What are your hopes? and 2) What are your fears? After drafting some responses and learning to use the cameras, they represented their desires visually. Helping each other or taking the photos themselves, the students were empowered and excited. Here are just a few of the results.

Darvin Rodulfo Pérez | Middle School

My hopes are to achieve success and be an important person in the community; to go far with the things that I’ve learned; and to have a clear vision for where I want to arrive: at the pinnacle of success. Another one of my hopes is to help the people of my community in the development of Tacaná and of my own family. I hope to feel 100% proud of being from San Pablo and from Guatemala. Finally, I’d like to eventually become a lawyer and a notary public.

Mis deseos son alcanzar el éxito y ser una persona muy importante en la comunidad, llegar muy lejos con mis entendimientos, tener una visión muy clara por hasta donde quiero llegar a la cumbre del éxito. Otro de mis deseos es ayudar a las personas de mi comunidad, al desarrollo del municipio de Tacaná y de mi familia. Sentirme orgulloso de ser pablense y guatemalteco 100%. Otro deseo es llegar a ser abogado y notario.

Yendi Morales Gonzáles | Middle School

I hope to be a young lady who has graduated from school and become a professional. I would like to have a good job and a nice house. I also hope to help my siblings. I hope to be a talented young woman, and to help children who don’t have much education so that Guatemala moves forward and prospers.

Ser una señorita graduada y profesional. Tener un buen trabajo y una buena casa. Ayudar a mis hermanos. Ser una señorita talentosa. Ayudar a los niños que no tienen educación para que Guatemala salga adelante y prospere.

Eloiza Janeth Arreaga | Middle School

My hopes are to graduate and to have a good job to support my siblings so they can keep studying and graduate. That way, we will be able to help those who really need it. Also, one of my dreams is to take care of my mom just like she took care of us. When I graduate, I want to work with my community to somehow improve San Pablo.

Mis deseos son: Llegar a graduarme, tener un buen trabajo para darles el apoyo a mis hermanos para que ellos también sigan estudiando y que se graduen—así podremos ayudar a aquellos que lo necesiten—. También uno de mis deseos es cuidar a mi mamá así como ella nos cuidó a nosotros sus hijos, y también cuando yo esté graduada servir en algo en mi comunidad para mejorarla.

Urias Pérez | High School

My biggest hopes are: 1) to become the best engineer/architect in my community and promote changes here by putting into practice everything I’ve learned; 2) to be an artisan and help organize and prepare kids for a better future; 3) to build tourist attractions or monuments here in our area.

Mis mayores deseos son convertirme en el mejor Ingeniero Arquitecto de mi comunidad, promoviendo cambios en la misma, como poniendo en práctica lo aprendido; también, ser un artesano y organizar a los niños, preparándolos para un futuro mejor. Al final, construir parques turísticos en nuestro medio o, también, monumentos arquitectónicos.

María José Velásquez P. | High School

I hope to graduate, be a leader, serve my community and family and create projects that benefit me, my family and my community. I also hope to support the education of more kids and teens, to have better economic conditions, to travel and to get to know other cultures.

Graduarme, ser lidereza, servir a mi comunidad y a mi familia, crear projectos que me benefician a mi, a mi familia y a mi comunidad. Apoyar la educación de más niños y jóvenes, tener mejores condiciones ecónomicas de vida, viajar y conocer otras culturas.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Multi-generational communication & learning

Don Rubén uses a camera for the first time in his life, taking a photograph of his son, Urias, one of our Amigos de San Pablo grantees in 2009. After many protests of "No puedo, no puedo," (I can't, I can't), Urias showed him how.

This past summer we had the opportunity to go back to San Pablo. Ian worked on his thesis research for six weeks—interviewing return migrants from the Unites States—while Brooke was there for a short visit. During this time we accomplished many things, including a full evaluation of the project, a deeper connection to the volunteers who administer the grants, and a hands-on workshop with the grantees and their families. Over the next few months we will be updating you with the different facets of our visit.

With the help of the committee we organized a full-day workshop with parents and students focused on communication, dreaming, and picture-taking.

During the morning session we asked students and parents to interview each other about their lives, their likes, and their dislikes. Using recorders and a camera, they captured each other’s stories in bits and pieces. For some it was easy and natural to ask each other questions, for others it appeared as if this was the first chance they had every gotten to know each other.

Eloiza Janeth takes a portrait of her mother, Magdalena. In 2006, while we were still living in San Pablo, Eloiza's father was killed in a bar brawl. Since then Magdalena had a hard time providing for her five children, of whom Eloiza is the oldest. Magdalena works as the manager and cook of the only café in town, but business is slow and the co-op that runs the café hasn't paid her in months.

Ian shows Darvin how to look at the pictures he's taken. Darvin's family did not make it to the workshop, so he and Ian interviewed each other. When we met him in 2006, he was a just a boy—but a boy already focused on the border. During the first year of the program Darvin received a grant but failed all his classes. In 2008 we supported him again, and that time he passed on to the next grade. He is now on his third grant and still in school, more mature and confident than we've ever seen him.

Some of the hardest moments of the workshop came during a group discussion about education and literacy. More than half the parents in the room were illiterate and had never been to school. Tears were shed as parents shared their stories about how school had either not been available or was undervalued, and about their hopes for the students. Some parents lamented that they felt like their child was not taking full advantage of the grant and getting the best grades possible.

During the reflection piece Urias commented that he had never had the chance to just listen to his dad before, and to take the time away from everyday activities to learn about his father's life. Don Rubén, the only father participant, was moved to tears.