Newsletter  January 2008

   

 

 

The Aid and Education Project, Inc.

 

      “ El Proyecto de Ayuda y Educación “

 

                                                                 

 January 2008

 Dear Friends:

With the school year starting in mid-January in Guatemala , we are off and running.  Now is a good time to give you an update concerning the projects there.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please contact us.

 

The Scholarship Program  

The Scholarship Program is our principal program in Guatemala , and the primary way we promote change for economically poor families.  Only education and eventual self-sufficiency can alleviate the poverty of these families.

Individual sponsors provide the bulk of the funds for this program, but in reality, now that our students are moving ahead in school (with only a few dropouts), educational costs are much higher than they used to be.  We now have students up to the 6th year at the university level.  Fortunately, we have received several generous grants from foundations to help us cover costs, as well as to add new students. 

We expect about 68 students to start school in 2008 with scholarships, up from 60 last year.

However, we still have students without sponsors.  If you have an interest in sponsorship ($360 per year), please check out our website: www.aidanded.org, then click on “See STUDENTS NEEDING SPONSORS.”

Something New:  Micro-Loans for Students / Student Loan Program  

Unlike in our own countries, in Guatemala there is little financial aid available to students.  Only a few manage to get scholarships.  And, even among those who do have scholarships that pay their actual educational expenses, there are students who have to work full time to help their family pay the rent, buy medicine, and put bread on the table.  In fact, several young students associated with our program are the primary bread winners in their families.

For these reasons, we have started a Student Loan Program in which we make small loans to students.  These loans help cover living expenses so students can devote more time to studying and less time to working.  The students need not repay the loans until they leave school (either because they graduate or because they decide not to continue). 

The interest on the loans is nominal, and is more to teach the students about loans and interest, than to actually make money for the organization.  We do, however, require that any student receiving a full loan concentrate entirely on their studies, and not work.

With Student Loans we can “recycle” educational funds, first helping one student, then as funds are repaid, helping another, then another, then another…

If you would like to know more about this program, please contact us at mpitts@aidanded.org .  If you have an interest in contributing to this program, please mark donations as “for student loans.”

 

Wendy, our star student, had to work full time in 2007 to help support her family, all the while attending the university full time.

 

A Teacher’s Story  

Valerie Carlisle and Gail D’Alessio are retired teachers who still substitute in their local schools.  Val tells the story of their experiences with their own students in the U.S. , as well as their newly “adopted” students in Guatemala .  Her story is a great example of how much can be done if you tap into people’s natural enthusiasm for providing opportunities for others.

 

   

     

The four students sponsored by Valerie Carlisle, Gail D’Alessio, and students in the U.S.

 

Val’s Story:

When I think about my last trip to Guatemala , I see an interesting chain of events, how one thing led to another and then another.  For instance, how a year ago my friend and I took “a bump” on our flight which led to our return the next year virtually for free.  How our luggage was lost for five days, leading me to see how little I needed to carry with me the next time.  And how, after talking with a bright and enterprising street child in Panajachel, we felt so badly that he could not afford to go to school.  And then, while discussing it, a gentleman we didn’t know stepped forward with information about the Aid and Education Project.  Between myself and four friends, we sponsored two children.

As our planned trip in November drew closer, I began looking through the website and, of course, wished I could sponsor them all.  Unfortunately, as a retired teacher, this was not an option.  However, I suggested to my son that he might enjoy forming a club at his high school to earn money to sponsor another student.  He and his friends quickly latched onto the idea, being college-bound they knew they could help, have fun, and add it to their “resume” of community service.  I also suggested that if they could collect school supplies, I would be willing to take them with me instead of those clothes I didn’t really need.  Boxfuls of supplies were donated. To help them I used PowerPoint to create small posters using photos from the website showcasing the students without sponsors. So far, the Arlington High School Guatemala Aid and Education Club has held two coin drops at a local food store garnering about $360, enough to sponsor Maria of San Antonio Aguas Calientes, and they have plans to raise more.

Meanwhile, I still substitute in the Poughkeepsie City School District .  In talking with the teachers and students about Guatemala , several fifth grade teachers, thinking how the NY curriculum includes the study of Latin America , inspired their classes to raise money.  I brought in four of my posters and the children voted on whom to sponsor.  The children were astounded that schooling isn’t free like it is here. They organized and gave speeches to the school, urging everyone, staff and students both, to give $1 for “Jose’” to go to school.  They made cards and everyone in the entire school signed and I brought them all with me to deliver.  The enthusiasm was so heartwarming, especially because this inner-city school has a very poor and diverse population.  At their weekly assembly the cheer was deafening when the final amount collected was announced.  The “study” of Guatemala now has a lot of personal meaning.

I had put out a flier within this district also to collect school supplies, and the days before my trip, I was picking up more “stuff” than I dreamed of.  Teachers in different schools had grabbed onto the idea and kids and staff had collected boxfuls.  One school jumped in and collected money from the staff as well, and sponsored another student.

As you can imagine, the trip itself was wonderful.  I packed up about 250 pounds of supplies and delivered them to San Antonio Aguas Calientes, where they will be distributed to the sponsored children at the start of school.  We were delighted to meet the director, Osbilda Santos, and her daughter, who in turn helped us meet with the children.  The children were shy and very serious, but there is nothing like meeting them in person.  I brought back pictures and memories to share with all those kids who excitedly wanted to know if I had met Jose, Franklin and Maria. 

 

 

Val’s class that raised money for José

I am writing this with the hopes that someone out there reading it may be inspired to become a part of a new chain of events.  It seems like everyone has a teacher somewhere in the family, or children or grandchildren, or scout groups or churches.  The people who were enriched from this experience are definitely not only the children of Guatemala .   If you would like to contact me, I would be glad to share anything I have learned from this endeavor.  Email me at valeriecarlisle@yahoo.com.  (Please put “Aid and Ed Project” in the heading.)

 

Computer Literary


To date, we have shipped over 350 computers to
Guatemala for use in poor schools and orphanages.  From our last big shipment, we gave many schools 5-10 used computers in order to create their first computer lab.  

The following is a letter recently received from Guatemala (translated) concerning the recent receipt of computers:

“This great help from the Project to the education in Maya communities is a big step forward… You are planting seeds that will generate ideas and solutions, through the education of Maya children… All the people who have received computers are very thankful for this initiative that is so positive and so change-provoking…that the kids will get to work on a computer for the first time…”

Unfortunately, the government of Guatemala has made it all but impossible to ship additional computers in bulk to that country.  However, as individuals, we still take laptops in our luggage to give them away once we arrive.  If you have an old laptop that still works, keep us in mind.

 

ESL

Again in 2007, Board Member and Director of the ESL Program, Carlyn Syvanen, and her husband Steve Vause spent 6 weeks in San Pedro La Laguna on Lake Atitlán .   If you have an interest in teaching English next November and December, please contact Carlyn with your questions and to obtain additional information (Syvanenx@teleport.com). 

 

Maya Cultural Education – Vacation Maya Schools

Maya Cultural Education – simply put, teaching indigenous Maya children and young adults about their own history and culture – has become more popular than we ever expected.  In the Vacation Maya Schools in 2007 over 775 children and young adults completed the classes.  In 2007 the theme of the schools was “The Natural World and the World of the Maya.” 

Although we do not offer the classes in a large number of communities, we do have them in several areas of the country and among a diverse group (this year among speakers of Kaqchikel, Tz’utujiil, K’iche’, and Q’echi’).

We don’t “go it alone” in arranging or funding these classes.  Instead we work with other institutions that promote and preserve local Maya culture.  These other institutions help provide needed funds, but even more importantly, they provide profound knowledge of the Maya culture of Guatemala . (In 2007 we collaborated with PLFM - a language school and preserver of Mayan languages, Comunidad Lingüística Q’echi’ - a Q’echi’ cultural organization, and of course our longstanding partner in this effort, the Instituto de Lingüística y Educación at the Universidad Rafael Landívar in the city of Guatemala.)

Finally, we are most fortunate to be able to announce that Laura Martin joined our Board of Directors in 2007.  Laura recently retired from Cleveland State University where she was the director of the K’inal Winik [Maya] Cultural Center .  (You can see more of her impressive credentials on the website.)

Among other things, Laura has led workshops for training the indigenous teachers in our Vacation Maya Schools.  This is just one part of an ongoing effort to make the schools always better and more professional.

 

Volunteers

Besides cash (a very important ingredient), volunteers are essential for what we do in Guatemala and in the U.S.   To continue to grow, we need a serious volunteer to help investigate and develop new funding sources, as well as to help with some of the routine accounting and communication work of the project.  Location would not be important as long as you use the internet with ease.  Spanish would not be required (but if you have it, it will be put to good use).

If you can commit to a half day per week (average) for at least six months, please contact us.  The pay is not great (since there is none), but we can guarantee the job will pay other dividends.

 

Donations Made Easy

It is now easy to donate on line using Paypal.  Just connect to http://www.aidanded.org/CreditCardDonationPage.htm and start clicking.

Also, please keep in mind that many employers will match all or part of any donation that you make to charity.

Donating appreciated stock, rather than cash, will generally provide additional tax savings.  Finally, don’t forget about the possibility of leaving funds in a will or trust for a long-term investment in education for the poor in Guatemala .

 

Thanks from all of us, and several hundred kids in Guatemala .

 

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

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