Newsletter  February 2007




The Aid and Education Project, Inc.


      “ El Proyecto de Ayuda y Educación “






February 2007



Dear Friends:



The new school year is now underway in Guatemala, and it is time for an update for all our friends.  In 2006 we were able to expand all our programs, some modestly and some significantly.


As in earlier years, work in Guatemala centers on five programs: (1) the Scholarship Program, (2) Computer Literacy, (3) Health and Nutrition, (4) ESL – English as a Second Language, and (5) Maya Cultural Education.






The Scholarship Program


Nothing but education and self-sufficiency can end poverty.  If children don’t go to school, they repeat the ancient cycle of their parents and grandparents.  And it usually takes only 14-15 years for the cycle to repeat: first teenagers leave school to work as unskilled laborers, then pregnancy (within or without marriage), lots of kids at an early age, young parents unable to care for their kids financially.  And then when their kids reach their early teens, they drop out of school to work without skills.  And it all starts over again.


For these reasons, the Scholarship Program is the most important job --- getting kids in school and keeping them there.  There are now over 60 kids with scholarships.  About 2/3 are women and girls.  Many are now way beyond the level of school that their parents ever attained.  There are quite a few young men and women with scholarships who have at least one parent who is completely illiterate.


We give financial aid, and that helps.  But most of the credit still belongs to the students.  They are the ones with the really hard jobs, especially the older students.  They slog it out day after day, with no spending money for themselves, long uncomfortable bus rides, household duties that do not stop just because they are in school.  No luxuries, no decent place to study.  Often there is illness in the family.  And, in some cases students attend school against their parents’ will.

All of the students deserve hearty congratulations for what they have accomplished.  Some have now graduated.  Others, after having to leave school for a year, are now back.  They deserve a lot of credit for what they are doing.






Computer Literary


At long last, we received permission from the Customs Authority of Guatemala to send more computers to
Guatemala.  This shipment will include close to 300 complete computer systems (CPU, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and cables).  These computers will be split evenly between orphanages (coordinated through Orphan Resources, Int’l) and schools associated with our organization.


It is hard to imagine how much access to a computer can mean to a poor student.  With computers in Guatemala priced at least as high as they are in the U.S., a poor student whose family may bring in only $100-$200 in cash per month, would never be able to afford computer time at an internet café, much less their own “personal computer.”


In addition to distributing those computers already shipped, our goal is to provide all of our university and high school students with their own computer.  Since laptops pose a much smaller customs problem, PLEASE send us your old laptop.  As long as it will boot up, don’t worry if it is old, it will be used and reused.  What better way is there to “recycle” an old laptop than give it to a poor student who will get years and years more use out of it?


If you have a laptop to give, please ship it the new address shown below.




Health & Nutrition


In 2007 we will continue sending vitamins to Guatemala.  Growing students, who like their parents live on starch-rich yet fruit-poor and vegetable-poor diets, are wide open to every illness that comes down the pike.  Whenever we can purchase vitamins cheaply in the U.S., we take them to Guatemala and work with local primary schools so that students can get a daily vitamin, at least from Monday to Friday.


The Food Program will also continue.  In this program we give meat and other protein rich foods, as well as vegetables, to the poorest families in our program.


Finally, in Chichicastenango, we move into year 2 of the health and nutrition classes for children.  Since vegetables and fruit are cheap in Guatemala, there is no reason, other than ignorance, for families not to eat better.


The hope is that children educated in nutrition will nag the whole family down the road to better eating habits.







Today English is important throughout the world.  Consequently, when volunteers are available we offer English classes in various indigenous towns.


Last fall, Board Member and Director of the ESL Program, Carlyn Syvanen, and her husband Steve Vause spent 6 weeks in San Pedro La Laguna on the shores of beautiful Lake Atitlán.  Letting Carlyn speak for herself and Steve, here’s what she had to say:






Vacation Maya School in San Pedro la Laguna - 2006



In December of 2005 my husband, Steve, and I were introduced to the Aid and Education Project in Guatemala. We visited Vacation Maya Schools in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, San Pedro la Laguna, Antigua, and Chichicastenango. We were so impressed with the program that we agreed to sponsor two children, a 13 year old boy and a young woman beginning college. We also decided to return to Guatemala to teach English in one of the vacation schools the next year. Throughout the year we chatted about where we would like to teach. As it turned out, Guatemala style, the site chose us.

We were to go to San Pedro la Laguna for six weeks.  In Panajachel we were met by Jennifer Kip, an American volunteer, who had been working with education projects in San Pedro for several months. She helped us get our things across Lake Atitlan, find a lovely hostel room, and do a little shopping. We had a day to settle in and then went to meet our classes.

That morning as we arrived at the school we found that there were three classes: about 25 ten to twelve year olds, 38 seven to nine year olds, and 15 five and six year olds. Steve had been planning to be my teaching assistant but since he was a retired middle school ESL teacher he took the oldest students. I had had experience with younger children so I took the middle group and Jennifer took the youngest.

For the first day we had planned to teach the simple dialogue “Hello. My name is______. What is your name?” As I tried to demonstrate the dialogue, calling on different students who would just sit there not responding, a hand shot up excitedly. Finally, someone got it. I started over: “My name is Carlyn. What is your name?” and he answered “My name is Tin.” I thought I had misheard him or that he misunderstood so I kept asking him over and over. But I was losing the attention of the rest of the class and I moved on with the lesson. The next school day I met the boy’s older cousin who spoke more English and asked him if his name was actually Tin, and it was. Later I discovered that there was a favorite restaurant of travelers in San Pedro near where Tin lived called Tin Tin’s, with a mural of the French cartoon character Tin Tin and one of his adventures in San Pedro la Laguna 

We taught for seventy minutes a day three days a week. The numbers dwindled after the first week and we ended up with more manageable sized classes of 14-18. Everyday we taught a new song and worked at helping children understand the vocabulary. Before we taught “Who took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar?” we brought in a jar full of cookies and invited each child to take a cookie. We rewrote “The Muffin Man” so that he became “The Taco Man” who lived in San Pedro.

By the end of the six weeks the children had books in English with the words to all the songs, several pages of vocabulary words and “An All About Me” book that they each had made where they had a picture they made and a sentence about what they liked doing, their families, favorite foods, animals, and colors. We knew we had succeeded when we walked through the streets of San Pedro and children would call out to us, “Hello, My name is ……. What is your name?”   



We enjoyed our stay in San Pedro so much that we have decided to return next year.


For others who would be interested in volunteer teaching we would be happy to help you find lodging and put you in contact with others. We wrote up our lessons and have ideas about what worked best for us and would be willing to share those. For volunteers who are available any time in November and the first half of December, we could put you in contact with a vacation school. For those who would be available during other times of the year we would be able to put you in contact with after school opportunities to tutor.

Carlyn Syvanen



Maya Cultural Education


In 2006, the Maya Cultural Education Program took off.  In this program, the primary vehicle for teaching indigenous children and young adults about their own history is the “Vacation Maya Schools” that we offer each November and December.


All the Maya cultural activities are now coordinated through Board Member and Director Ajpub’ Pablo Garcia and his university (the Universidad Rafael Landívar).  In 2006, the vacation schools were offered in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, Antigua, San Pedro La Laguna, and San Pedro Cutzán.  In total, approximately 220 children and young adults attended the classes.


In addition to helping students learn about Maya history and culture, we also help indigenous teachers further their own education in this area.  Through educational materials, financial help for attending classes and conferences, and expert instruction offered by the Universidad Rafael Landívar, teachers make real advances in their own knowledge concerning this vital aspect of Maya identity.



New Address and Phone Number


We have moved.  The new address is


The Aid and Education Project, Inc.

c/o Mark Pitts

14 Zander Lane

Randolph, NJ   07869


The new phone number is  973-366-3119.  Email is unchanged .





Thanks to Everyone


We want to thank everyone who has helped us in this effort in Guatemala.  We know it is hard.  We go there and see the results first hand, but most of our contributors have to “take it on faith.” 


We appreciate the faith you have put in us, and we take it very seriously.


Thanks again.



For the Board of Directors,

Mark Pitts

Executive Director

The Aid and Education Project, Inc.

“El Proyecto de Ayuda y Educación”




The Aid and Education Project, Inc.    14 Zander Lane   Randolph, NJ  07869   USA   Tel: 973-366-3119