The Aid and Education Project, Inc.

      “ El Proyecto de Ayuda y Educación “

 

 

February, 2004

 

Dear Sponsors, Donors & Friends:

 

THANKS TO EVERYONE…

Thanks to everyone for their support, especially our sponsors, donors, and volunteers.  Everyone has been great.  In addition to a few new sponsorships, we’ve received donations to help the children of several poor families who are not in our Scholarship Program, as well as some much needed in-kind gifts including a VCR, a TV, and a laptop computer.  We have also received gifts for extending the Maya Cultural Education Program. 

From all the kids --- “Muchas Gracias!”

 

A NEW SCHOOL YEAR

In Guatemala the school year started in mid-January, and so the new year is underway.  We have 31 students in the Scholarship Program and hope to get to 40 by the end of the year.  Things are going well and our director has been busy getting everyone enrolled and buying uniforms, backpacks, schools supplies, and shoes.  Medical, eye, ear, and digestive tract exams will start soon.

We will have five kids in high school/trade school this year.  (In Guatemala the high schools often serve much the same purpose as our trade schools.)  There are currently four girls and one boy at this level.  The girls are in programs for hotel/restaurant management, accounting, dental technology, and bi-lingual secretary training.  The boy is studying auto/truck mechanics.  All are good solid practical trades with which they can support themselves and a family.

We are happy when kids in the program want to learn a skill at the high school level.  College isn’t cheap anywhere in the world, but in Guatemala none of the families we work with could ever bear the expense.  Thus, in most cases, it is better if the students learn a trade by the time they finish high school.

 

GETTING A LITTLE TOUGHER

When you are dealing with very poor people, many of whom are illiterate and have physical or family problems, it is hard to know how easy or how hard to be.  And, each case is different.  You can’t treat a grandmother raising kids on her own as you can a family with a mother and father.  You don’t want to be too hard.  And, you don’t want to be too easy; after all, we’re not in the business of giving away something for nothing.

So, we take a middle ground.  Now that we have earned the trust of the families and the community, we are going to make the rules of the game a little tougher.  Here’s how it is going to work going forward:

For most students, we will pay all educational expenses needed for a solid basic education.  If the parents choose a school that costs more than this base level of expense, we pay half the extra cost and they pay half.  In other words, we think the better school is worth the cost if they do.

Going forward, we will also offer a financial incentive for outstanding performance in school.  For students with an average of 90 or above in the last 4 quarters, we will pay 100% of their school costs, even if their expenses are above the base level.  This provides the right incentives for good performance, and is recalculated frequently enough to reward improved grades even in the short run.

In addition, we will require something in return from most families for our help.  Parents, as well as adolescent students, must be willing to donate some time to our organization.  This could mean something simple like helping take the kids for their medical exams or helping clean a classroom.  For the older students and parents with an education, it could mean tutoring or helping buy school supplies for younger students.

We believe this approach is both fair and sends the right message to the families.  By working with us to provide our services, it helps them feel that they are part of the organization --- i.e. that it’s a team effort.  Which in fact, it is.

 

THE MAYA CULTURAL EDUCATION PROGRAM

As indicated in our last newsletter, our vacation school and weekend classes now consist primarily of teaching the kids about their Maya heritage.  This keeps them off the streets, engaged, and away from television.  More important, it gives them pride in their past, something that they virtually never get in their schools.

In November and December (their “summer” vacation) we held these classes in San Antonio for 8 weeks for half a day each day from Monday through Friday.  The classes started with 21 students, all students in our Scholarship Program.  Word quickly spread, and after a week or two there were almost 50 students in the class.  Since we already had the class room and the teachers, why turn anyone away?  

If nothing else, we know we are teaching something that the kids find fascinating.  And who wouldn’t if you had never been taught anything about your own history?

Through an individual grant, we also started a pilot program on Maya Cultural Education in Chichicastenango, a community about 2 hours away from San Antonio .  We chose Chichi because it is an important market town where people from a number of other towns congregate, and also because we know indigenous people there who are knowledgeable and anxious to teach their culture to the next generation.  Our pilot program in Chichi was 8 weeks of vacation school held in November and December, and included 30 local children.

Finally, we are very happy to announce that a good friend has agreed to join us in the U.S. as a volunteer and Senior Advisor to our organization.  She is Ana Urizar, who is trained in anthropology, economics, and education, having studied in Europe , the U.S. , and Guatemala .  Best of all, she is native Quiche Maya and shares our passion for the people and the places we serve in Guatemala .

At her own expense Ana traveled to Guatemala during the spring and fall of 2003 to teach the kids in our program about their cultural heritage.  She not only taught them about Mayan glyphs, art, mathematics and the calendar, but also took them on field trips to Guatemala City .  There they went to see Mayan ruins and to visit several museums that have good exhibits on Maya culture and history.

In the future she will continue to work with us on the Maya Culture Education Program, as well as on other programs in our Project.

 

VOLUNTEERING

We’ve mentioned before that we need volunteers in Guatemala : English teachers, artists, and musicians.  But, we also need volunteers in the U.S.  

We need a translator (English to Spanish), grant writer/researcher, website manager, nutritionist, and an artist/illustrator.  If you have any of these skills to donate, or know someone who does, please give us a call.

The good news is that so far we have been able to recruit a great crew of volunteers.  Over the last 18 months, 19 individuals have donated time to the organization.

 

MANY WAYS TO HELP

Sponsorship is our most popular way to help kids in Guatemala , but it is not for everyone.  Many people are more comfortable giving in other ways.  For some, it is a one-time gift to the Scholarship Program.  For others it is a gift for a different purpose, such as to help buy a used computer or a musical instrument.  Or a gift could be specifically to help pay for school supplies or for medical, eye, and ear care.  Or, it could be a gift to promote cultural education.

Whatever your interest and whatever your budget, there is a meaningful way to help.  We can only guarantee that your gift will be very much appreciated by someone who truly needs your help.

HELP US MAKE OUR CASE

Many recipients of this newsletter are members of civic and religious groups that give to charities such as ours.  We are always very happy to make a presentation to your group to see if there might be a fit (travel expenses permitting).

Or, if you would like to give out some of our brochures at a gathering or event where people might be interested, we will be glad to mail you literature for that purpose.

Now is the start of the school year, and now is when we need new sponsors and donations most urgently.  Any effort you that you are comfortable making on our behalf will be greatly appreciated.

 

WEB SITE

Please refer your friends to our website at www.aidanded.org.  On the website there’s a general description of the Project, information and pictures of the students, and past newsletters.

Thanks again for your support.  As always, your comments and suggestions are most welcome.

 

All the Best,

Mark Pitts

 

 

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

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