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.

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