The Aid and Education Project, Inc.

 

      “ El Proyecto de Ayuda y Educación “

 

                                                                  

 

August 3, 2005  

Greetings to everyone.  We are making a lot of progress on several fronts in Guatemala, but nothing would be possible without your support.  Thank You.

Computer Literacy

In recent months, we have spent a lot of time and effort on our new Computer Literacy Program.  The goal of this program is to create small computer centers in 36 orphanages and at least 12 schools in poor areas of Guatemala.  In this effort we will work with Orphan Resources International (Ephrata, PA), and the K’inal Winik [Maya] Cultural Center at Cleveland State University.

Although Guatemala is a deeply traditional culture, computing and other facets of the modern world are important.  With basic computer skills and knowledge of Windows, spreadsheets, and word processing, students are much more able to continue their studies into higher grades, especially at the university level.  Access to computers will give our greatly disadvantaged students the first educational advantage that they have ever had (since most students in Guatemala have little or no access to computers).  If our kids can acquire and demonstrate even basic computer skills, they will get a real boost academically and in the job market.

Roughly speaking, we need 250 working computers for this project.  So far we have at least 70 computers in Guatemala, in transit, or waiting to be shipped.  We hope to have as many machines as possible on the ground and working by the time the next school year starts in Guatemala in mid-January of 2006.

For the most part, equipment acquired to date has been donated, although we have had to buy some peripherals and accessories, such as used printers, CD readers, toner, and ink cartridges. 

Counting the cost of peripherals and accessories, as well as shipping and packing expenses, our average cost per working system is about $25.

We would certainly appreciate any donation, large or small, for this cause.  Your gift of $25 can be the gift of a disadvantaged student becoming computer savvy, instead of frightened of computers and the technological world that they represent.

 

Educational Scholarships

We now have 47 students with scholarships in our project.  Of these, 4 are currently in the university.  And, we have another 4 university students scheduled to start in January of 2006. 

Most of the new scholarships awarded in 2005 have been in our second base of operations, Chichicastenango.  Chichi is a very traditional town, but education is now a top priority for many parents and for many young people.  As funds become available, we hope to award many more scholarships in this community.

 

Health  

We are very happy to report that our half-day clinic in San Antonio is now up and running.  Indigent patients (first screened by our director in San Antonio) are now able to consult a doctor on Wednesday afternoons and, in most cases, receive the medicine they need.  Most care (about 80%) is for children.  Without such inexpensive care, children and infants often go without the medical care they need.  In addition to causing much unneeded suffering, lack of treatment not infrequently leads to more serious health problems as well as a high level of childhood mortality.

Our clinic is, or course, no more than a drop in the bucket if one views the problem as a whole.  But for those receiving care, it feels like a very big drop.

Since prevention is the best cure, we are working to help maintain health in the communities.  In Guatemala, where the diet is heavy on starch and light on vegetables, greens, and protein, we have provided vitamins by the tens of thousands to local schools.  This ensures that students receive the daily vitamins that the doctors tell us they are not getting in their normal diet.

We also provide weekly food supplements to the poorest families in our project.  Primarily, we make sure that they receive some source of protein, which they generally cannot afford, but which is especially important for growing children.

 

Maya Cultural Education

Maya Cultural Education is our program to teach indigenous Maya kids about their own history and culture.  Unfortunately, the kids rarely learn about their own past in the local schools where indigenous culture is often treated with distain.

For several years, we have offered these programs in San Antonio Aguas Calientes and in Chichicastenango when school is not in session.  This year, we are happy to offer similar classes in Chocolá (on the costal plain southwest of Lake Atitlán).  These classes are being organized by an American archaeologist (Jonathan Kaplan) who is directing a major excavation at a nearby ancient Maya site.

One challenge we face in the Maya Cultural Education Program is that there is little material on the Maya culture available in Spanish or English on a level that is appropriate for children and young adults.  Partly to help remedy this problem, we are working with the Instituto de Lingüistica y Educación (ILE) at the Universidad de Rafael Landívar in Guatemala.  This institute is producing a series of books on Maya culture for children which we will use in our classes, and then provide evaluation and feedback.  We expect that our collaboration with this prestigious group will add a great deal of value to our efforts.  Likewise, we hope that we will be able to give them valuable feedback from our classes offered to indigenous Maya students.

In a similar vein, volunteers working with our organization have produced books on the Maya culture.  These include non-technical books on Maya glyphs that can be used in schools in Guatemala.

 

Special Programs for Women and Girls

In Guatemala, it is very difficult for poor families to find the money to educate their kids, male or female.  Yet it is a fact that women and girls generally have less educational opportunities than men or boys.  Women, however, usually eventually end up providing a substantial portion of the family income.  Thus, without education, everyone loses, the women who don’t have the job skills they need, and the men who must carry a heavier burden than they should have to.  There are no winners here.  It is a lose-lose situation.

With this in mind, in 2004 we applied for and received several grants to increase the number of women in our program.  With these funds, we were able to admit many more women and girls, and even more are scheduled to start when the new school year begins in January of 2006.  We are concentrating especially on young women at the university level and high school girls who are acquiring a salable skill.  (In Guatemala, the high schools are in many cases much like our trade schools.)

Luckily, we have received some funds for this purpose for 2006 as well, albeit not enough to sustain all the students in their studies.  We need to find sponsors for these young women.

If you might have an interest in sponsoring one of these girls, or simply making a one-time donation for their education, please take a look at our website under “Students Without Sponsors”  (www.aidanded.org). Given that all these young women are far beyond the age where most students drop out of school, and given how hard they have had to work to get where they are, we can guarantee you any donation will be well used and deeply appreciated.  

 

A Quiz:

True or False:  “Things Will Never Change Down There.”

We hear this a lot:  “You’re wasting your time.  Things will never change down there (i.e. in places like Guatemala).”  Could they be right, especially given how much there is to do?

Let’s try to answer the question.  Take a look at the photos of the ten young women below.  These are the latest students to join our project in Chichicastenango.  What do they all have in common?  They are studying pretty much the same things that young women study in the U.S. --- to become psychologists, to practice medicine, to become secretaries, to become teachers, to work in business.  They work on computers, they manipulate complicated mathematical formulas, and they read literature.  However, they do have one thing in common which they share with very very few girls in our country.  All of their mothers are functionally illiterate.  

 

So, now we have the answer to the question.  Will things ever change down there?  The answer is that things already have changed down there.

Now all they need --- these young women, plus a lot of other girls, and boys, and young men --- is a little help from us to stay on course and make it to the finish line.

 

 

Thanks for your continued support.  Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

 

 

Mark Pitts

Executive Director

 

   

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