The Aid and Education Project, Inc.

      “ El Proyecto de Ayuda y Educación “                                                                             

 

February, 2005

Dear Sponsors, Donors & Friends: 

January is the start of the new school year in Guatemala.  This means we’ve been buying  tons of school supplies, getting uniforms, paying lots of school fees, and generally working frantically for several weeks until life more or less returns to normal again.

Things are going well in the project, although this year we have had our share of setbacks: a family breakup with kids moving to different locations, and a couple of kids who have left school.  But we also had our first two graduates this year: a girl who got her degree in hotel and restaurant management, and a boy who now has a degree in truck mechanics.  Both can now work, help their families and really make a difference.

Currently we are in the mist of implementing some new programs, expanding old programs, and generally making all programs run more efficiently.  The programs are of course the only reason we exist.  So, here’s a quick rundown on our reason for being:

 

THE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

The Scholarship Program is the main vehicle for getting students in school and keeping them there.  This year we will have at least 45 students in the Scholarship Program, up from 40 at the end of last year. 

Through the Scholarship Program we pay most of the students’ educational expenses --- their school supplies, uniforms, and school fees.  We also provide medical care for routine childhood illnesses, and a vacation school when regular school is not in session. 

We now ask most families to contribute something to the cost of their child’s education.  The motive is not to save money.  Instead it is to make sure that the parents have an investment and stake in the education of their children.  In most cases, having to foot part of the bill makes parents more involved and interested in their kids’ progress in school.

Last year we received two grants for the specific purpose of admitting more women and girls into the Scholarship Program.  Thus, in this new school year, we have many new young women with scholarships.  Most of the new girls are from Chichicastenango, which is a well known market town with strong indigenous traditions.

Most of these girls are in high school / trade school, and a few are at the university level.  Most are training to become accountants, computer assistants, or teachers.  That’s quite an accomplishment when you think about it, considering that most of their mothers are illiterate.

It is of course great to have all these new students in the program.  But, we received the grant money to admit these new students with the understanding that their education would eventually be sustained by public donations.  So, we do need your help to keep these kids in school.  Please refer friends and family to our newly updated website www.aidanded.org.  There they can see all the students currently without sponsors.

 

MEDICAL PROGRAM

We now have over $20,000 worth of prescription and non-prescription medicine in Guatemala (that we purchased for a small fraction of this amount), and the plan is to take a similar amount later this year.  To make sure everything goes as planned, the medicine will be inventoried, accounted for, and distributed by our accountant in Guatemala.

Our director in San Antonio is talking to the poorest families in her community.  She will determine who is eligible to receive our help.  Most people will be asked to pay a small share of the cost.  (In the minds of many poor people in Guatemala , if the medicine and doctor are free, they must not be very good.  And, if it’s free, why take all that medicine?  You can always get more if you need it.)

To get the medicine to the people who need it, we have contracted with a local doctor in San Antonio .  He will see indigent patients for a half a day each week, and dispense the medicines we have brought.

This doctor has worked with us before, namely by giving the kids in the Scholarship Program their yearly physicals and eye & ear exams.  We know we are working with a reliable healthcare giver.

Best of all, the doctor will see the patients in his own clinic and charge us only $30 for each half-day’s work.  Now that’s a bargain, even in Guatemala .

 

NUTRITION CLASSES, FOOD, & VITAMINS

Many of the health problems in Guatemala are caused by poor diet – too much starch, too little green and yellow vegetables, and too little protein, especially for growing kids.  Families just can’t afford to buy meat, which is their primary source of protein, and they are not in the habit of using many healthy vegetables in their cooking.  The effects of this diet are obvious in the kids.  The doctor has told us that most of the kids are just not getting the vitamins they need.

We are trying to alleviate these problems through three different programs.  In our Food Program in San Antonio we give food to the poorest families in our program every Saturday morning.  There is always protein (chicken, beef, fish, or eggs), and there are always fresh vegetables. 

We have also offered Nutrition Classes for mothers in San Antonio .  We stealthily disguised these classes as cooking classes.  But what we were really doing is teaching these women how to cook the foods they like and their families are used to, but using more healthy ingredients so that their families get the nutrients they need.

Finally, we have initiated a Vitamin Program.  We currently have substantial quantities of daily chewable vitamins in Guatemala which we were able to buy cheaply here in the U.S.  To distribute these vitamins, we work with a couple local schools so that teachers can give the kids in their class one vitamin each day.  Over time, these vitamin supplements will make a lot of difference.

 

COMPUTER LITERACY

In Guatemala , like the rest of the world, it is now very important for kids to know how to use a computer, or at least not be afraid of them.  To get a real job, or to continue in one’s education, the computer is a must.

We all know that when it comes to computers you learn by doing.  You can’t get it from a book.  But, if you never have access to computers, you could be a computer genius and still never learn how to use one.

In Guatemala , there is nothing personal about personal computers.  Virtually no one in the poor communities has their own personal computer.  If you make less than $125 a month and you are only semi-literate, you are not going to buy a computer.  Food, rent, and medicine come first.

Through several generous donations, we now have a small stock of used computers in Guatemala .  We are using most of these machines to set up small Computer Centers in our two areas of operations, i.e. San Antonio Aguas Calientes and Chichicastenango.  These centers will be open to neighborhood kids to play and work on.  We will also arrange for occasional instruction at various levels.

Since our computers will not be hooked up to the internet, all the students with Scholarships can use the internet at any of the local internet cafes.  All they have to do is bring us the receipt for whatever they paid for internet time, and we reimburse them.

On another front, we are working with a group of young women who plan to start in the university next term.  We are offering to pay for short computer courses for them so that they are well prepared to start studying at the college level.

Finally, we have been able to lend used computers to some of our best students.  These computers allow the students to learn the basics of WORD, EXCEL, and Windows at their own pace and while doing their homework.  There’s no better way to put an old computer back to work.

MAYA CULTURAL EDUCATION

During school vacations we offer classes on Maya Culture.  Most of the students in our program are indigenous kids descended from the ancient Maya, yet they learn nothing about their history and culture in the local schools.  In our Maya Cultural Education classes, we fill part of that need.

In these classes the teachers explain the Maya calendar & mathematics, Maya glyphs, and Maya crafts.  They also show the students examples of great ancient Maya art and architecture.  And they teach about the Popol Vuh, the great creation story of the Maya people.  These classes give indigenous kids a pride in themselves and their ancestors that they are denied in the overriding Latino culture.

As part of the Maya Cultural Program students take a field trip to one of the many ancient Maya ruins in Guatemala.  In December the kids in San Antonio and Antigua went on a one day field trip to the Maya ruins of Mixco Viejo.  The trips always include a tour of the ruins with some brief lessons taught along the way by our teachers. 

Photos from the Mixco Viejo trip as well as photos from the “closing ceremony” for the Maya classes in San Antonio in December are posted on our website.  (Go to www.aidanded.org, then click on Photos of Student Activities.)

We are not the only ones in Guatemala interested in teaching Maya culture.  There are also many local groups that want to teach Maya kids about their heritage.  However, there is very little educational material available for doing so.  Educational material in Spanish on the Maya culture appropriate for children and young people is virtually non-existent.  To help fill this need, we are working with volunteers to produce educational material on the Maya culture in Spanish (and English) appropriate for students.

Since the production of this material is by volunteers, it does not cost our organization or our donors anything.  We gladly make this material available without cost to anyone who has an interest in teaching or learning about Maya culture.

 

                Photo op in San Antonio Aguas Calientes

 

HELP US CONTACT OTHERS

Our most valuable contacts and donors often come from referrals from those of you who already know about our project.  So, please, send everyone you know to our website.

On the website there are descriptions of our programs, facts about our organization, past and current newsletters, and information about and pictures of the students.  And donors and sponsors can now make contributions with credit cards or PayPal through the web site.

 

THANKS

Thanks for your support.  These are your students, not ours.

 

All the Best,

Mark Pitts

 

Class Photo on a pyramid at the Maya ruins of Mixco Viejo

   

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