The Aid and Education Project, Inc.

     “ El Proyecto Para Ayuda y Educación “

 

 

April, 2003

 

Dear Donors, Sponsors, & Friends:

 

Here’s an update on recent doings, plans, and ideas for our project in Guatemala . Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

 

CURRENT ENROLLMENT

We now have 32 students in the program, up from 25 at the beginning of the school year in January, and up from 15 at this time a year ago.  We expect to add one more shortly.  26 of the current students live in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, and the rest live in nearby towns.

I met with all the kids in the program during my trip to Guatemala in March.  In most cases I met with the parents as well.  Some of the kids or parents I see often, others just once during a trip.  Everyone seems to be doing well, but we’ll get report cards soon and find out what’s really happening.  If anyone is having a problem, they will get tutoring.

 

EYE EXAM PROGRAM

Earlier this year we initiated a program of eye exams for all the students in the program.  Working with a local civic group that administers such exams, each student was checked for general eye health and to see if they needed glasses. 

During the course of these exams it was discovered that girls are much braver than boys when it comes to eye care.  Several of the boys broke down in tears before the exam.  It turns out that the boys were afraid that they would have to wear glasses, and thus be precluded from becoming soccer stars.

In fact, several students did need glasses, and several more needed medicine for their eyes (something not uncommon in Guatemala ).  Our program paid for the exams, the glasses, and the medicine for each student.

We will continue with the eye exam program, and have each student examined once a year.  As yet, we have no conclusive reports on how the national soccer team will be affected.

 

HEARING EXAMS

Now that everybody can see, let’s make sure they can hear too.  We are now arranging hearing exams for all the students.  A date has not been set, but we hope to have the tests completed by mid-May.

Like the eye exam program, we plan to make this an annual exam for each student.

 

DE-PARASITIC PROGRAM

Now that we know what’s possible, we’re going all the way.  In Guatemala it is very common for local people, as well as long-term visitors, to pick up a few parasites in the digestive tract.  The hosts generally do not know they are carriers, and so exams are needed to determine who is a carrier.  If someone is carrying a parasite, it is usually fairly simple to rid them of the parasite.

This process used to be very common in Guatemala , but today health standards are much higher and so the need is not so pressing.  However, since the costs are minimal, it is better to be safe, especially with younger people whose digestive tracts are not as hardened as those of adults.  Consequently, in the future we will have each student examined twice a year for parasites.

 

A COURSE ON MAYA CULTURE

It is estimated that 40-60% of the people of Guatemala are Mayas, meaning that they still speak a Maya language (in addition to Spanish), live and work according to Maya traditions, and with the women still wearing colorful Maya dress.  Many more are of Maya descent, with both Maya and Latino ancestors.  

Nonetheless, the schools in Guatemala teach virtually nothing about the Maya, except perhaps that the Maya were conquered by the Spanish, so now Spanish culture and history is the only relevant culture and history for Guatemala .   This, despite that fact that Maya history and culture are widely studied and respected by scholars in North America and Europe .

Unlike 10 or 15 years ago when Maya culture was often completely shunned, many parents now want their children to learn about Maya culture.  It is part of the history of Guatemala , and part of the history of most of the people.  This desire is particularly strong in Maya families.

Because our program is based in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, and San Antonio is a traditional indigenous town, almost all of our students are Maya or of Maya descent.  Many of the students speak Kaqchikel as well as Spanish.  Most of the girls wear Maya clothes.

Consequently, when we decided to offer an informal class during Semana Santa (Holy Week) to keep the kids in our program mentally engaged, a course on Maya Culture was an obvious choice.  During Holy Week the schools are closed, and we will offer the course for three days.

We share the parents’ view that their history and culture is important, and that part of anyone’s education should be learning about one’s own history and culture.  In our three-day course, we will probably teach these Maya kids more about Maya culture than they have gotten from all their years in school.

We are still making plans, and don’t yet know exactly how much can be done in three days, but we have plenty of material (books, slides, & videos), and we do know that interest is high.  We’ll keep you posted.

 

WHO DOES ALL THIS STUFF?

OUR PEOPLE IN GUATEMALA

Osbilda Santos is the director, as well as teacher and social worker for the program.  In reality, she is a lot more than teacher and social worker.  She does whatever needs to be done to make this program a success.  She lives in San Antonio and knows the town, the students, and the families well.  With her own background in education and knowledge of the way things work in Guatemala , she has an amazing ability to get things done.  She is the mainstay of our program there. 

We also now have a “senior advisor” in Guatemala , one doña Concha (actually Concha de Mendoza).  As a very long-term resident of Antigua , and a successful businesswoman herself who started out with very little, she gives us nothing but good advice on how to help the poor kids in our program.  When are we being too strict?  When are we being too lenient?  Does this family’s story sound plausible?  What should our policy be concerning eligibility? limits on school supplies? unusual expenses?  These are things in which a foreigner will never have the best of judgment.  Thus, we often confer with, and at times defer to, our “senior advisor” in these matters. 

We do not pay doña Concha to be our advisor.  She works with us for free because she believes in what we are doing.

We also have an accountant in Guatemala , Reyna Flores, who handles the books for everything that goes on there.  We have found her to be exacting to a fault, in other words, exactly what one wants in an accountant.  She operates completely independently of the other people in Guatemala , and reports directly to us here in the U.S.

We also, of course, have a US accountant who handles the US and will consolidate the books at year-end.  Like all overhead and administrative costs of any kind, the cost of these accountants is paid by the directors and officers of the project. 

Finally, from time to time, we use other teachers on a short-term basis.  For example, if we have several students who are having problems and need extra tutoring time, we may employ another teacher and pay him or her on an hourly basis.  These are all individuals well known by at least one of the directors of our organization.

 

NEXT TRIP TO GUATEMALA

Our next trip to Guatemala will be at the end of June.  If you are a sponsor and would like to send anything to your student, please have it to me by June 22.  Please keep it reasonably small and light-weight.  If in any doubt, please contact me before sending.

 

STUFF WE NEED 

Here are a few painless ideas on how you can help our students:

So, copy your old documents to a disk, send us your old jalopy, free up some space in your house, take a tax write off, and help a poor family!  Definitely a win-win proposition!

·        We are arranging for volunteers to go to Guatemala to teach:  Since most of the kids now study English, virtually everyone has something they can teach them.  Of course, there are other areas too: art, music, computers, crafts, etc.  If you have an interest, or know someone who might have an interest, please contact us for more details.

For college students, now is the time to plan the summer, hopefully as an under-paid, overly-appreciated volunteer.

·        Most important:  Tell your family, co-workers, friends, and enemies about our organization.  Give them our website address and contact info, and tell them how great it is working with us.                       

 

All the Best to Everyone.

Thanks again for your support,

 

Mark Pitts

 

The Aid and Education Project, Inc.   183 W. Fairview Ave.  South Orange , New Jersey   07079  USA   Tel  973-762-9870  Fax  973-761-0790

email: mpitts@aidanded.org                                                                                                                                            www.aidanded.org