The Aid and Education Project, Inc.

      “ El Proyecto de Ayuda y Educación “

                                                                    

                                                                       

                                                                       

 July, 2004

 

Dear Sponsors, Donors & Friends:

First, please accept our apologies for not staying in touch over the last few months.  The project is growing fast and we’re making a lot of progress, but progress takes time.

There are now 40 students in the project who receive ‘scholarships,’ up from 31 at the beginning of the year.  In addition, there are 11 other students who do not yet have sponsors and so receive partial aid for education.  We also now have about 95 children and young people who attend the weekend and/or the vacation schools. 

The project has expanded geographically as well.  We now provide educational aid to students from poor families in Chichicastenango, about 2 hours drive from our base in San Antonio Aguas Calientes.  Chichi is a traditional market and weaving town that retains a very strong sense of its Maya past, despite the widespread poverty.

 

FOUNDATION GRANTS

Our organization has received grants this year from four different foundations that give at the international level.  All the grants were relatively small.  (We are not quite Ford Foundation material yet).   In most cases, the grants are a one-time donation to help us expand in some area, with the expectation that over time we will be able to obtain public funds in order to continue the funded program.

As described below, these grants have helped the organization expand in several areas that would not otherwise have been possible.

 

BARGAIN MEDICINES

‘Bargain’ and ‘medicine’ are two words you don’t often hear in the same sentence anymore.  Yet, we have found avenues for obtaining prescription and non-prescription medicines at a fraction of their normal cost.

In Guatemala , medicines often cost even more than they do in the U.S.    And with many full-time workers making less than $125 per month, it is not at all unusual for people to live with painful yet totally curable health problems, simply because they cannot afford the medicines.

So, here’s what we can do.  As a charity, we can obtain prescription and non-prescription medicines and supplies at steeply discounted prices.  Assuming we don’t encounter any unexpected snags, we will take such medicines and supplies to Guatemala and establish a free clinic for indigent patients in San Antonio Aguas Calientes.  A local doctor has agreed to examine and dispense medicine at a rate of about $2 per patient visit.

Consequently, we can do a lot of good for just a few hundred dollars.  Being a non-profit does have its advantages.

 

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EDUCATION

We are proud to report that several foundations have donated money to our organization to help indigenous Guatemalan women and girls go to school.  While lack of funds severely constrains the opportunities for all the indigenous population, it is often the girls who are hit the hardest.  Whether a product of harsh economic reality or prejudice, it is not unusual that the boys in a family go to school while girls at the same level stay home.

It is also not unusual to encounter families in Guatemala where none of the women in the extended family can read.  They are the adult products of the choices that their parents made a generation ago concerning who would go to school and who would not.  Through death, desertion, or injury, many of the same women are now the primary breadwinners for the family, but illiterate and without any saleable skills.

In Guatemala there are of course some bright young women and girls who do get a good start in school, but then they lack the money to continue long enough to turn their talent into a marketable skill.

Given the range of problems, there is no one solution.  Consequently, we will work with women and girls in a variety of circumstances and life stages.  The grants we have received will help little girls start and/or continue in primary school.  They will also help girls who want to go to high school/ technical school to learn a practical skill.  There will also be funds for young women who want to attend the university, but need help with books, lab fees, transportation, etc.

  Adult women will receive aid in two ways.  Those who have an education, or perhaps just a talent in some area, will be offered short courses to hone their skills.  Such courses could be computer training to help them overcome techno-phobia and to use technology to their advantage.  Another option might be a course on leadership and organizational skills.  Other appropriate courses include financial planning, marketing, a course on obtaining credit, or a course on how to export crafts to wealthier parts of the world.

Other adult women, those who are illiterate, will be offered the opportunity to learn to read.  Fortunately, Spanish speakers can learn to read reasonably well fairly quickly because the language is highly phonetic.  In addition to reading courses, these women will be offered courses on health, hygiene, and nutrition.

The grants we have received to help women and girls in indigenous villages are not large.  However, we plan to build on our base and hopefully obtain additional funds in 2005.  We are very happy to help the women and girls in the villages where we work, but of course we are also happy to know that as women and girls advance, the burden on the men and boys is lightened as well.

 

COMPUTERS & ENGLISH

In Guatemala , it is generally agreed that computer know-how and English are the most important skills for getting a real job.  The only problem is that students normally don’t have computers to work on, and they don’t have fluent English teachers.

We are beginning to alleviate both of these problems, albeit in a small way.  First of all, several of our sponsors have generously donated computers to take to Guatemala .  Such equipment makes a huge difference to students who like computers and want to learn about them, yet might get only 30 minutes per week on the school computer, and of course have no computer at home.  The donated computers will be judiciously provided to students for both work and play. 

Additionally, we have contracted with a local internet café to provide computer time to our students.  Students in our program can now go to the café, work and play on the computers there and get basic instruction and computer help as needed.  While hardly expensive by our standards, parents simply do not have the money to pay for such computer time.

We are working with the local Rotary Club (here in the U.S. ) in terms of obtaining assistance for a more permanent solution for providing students access to computers.  We hope to have some positive news to report on that front in the near future.

In terms of teaching English, we recruit volunteers from a local volunteer agency.  The volunteers are mostly young people (twenty-somethings) who are in Guatemala specifically to do volunteer projects.  These volunteers come to San Antonio (our base) and work with the students there.  Practice with a real English speaker is a big help, especially for some of high school/ trade school students because their areas of study include hotel/restaurant management, business, and bi-lingual studies.

 

FOOD FOR POOREST FAMILIES

Most of us, if put to the test, would choose food over education.  In Guatemala , this is a test many kids take every day.  Go to school, or go to work?  Go to school, or earn some money?

For those students who are too young to work, the problem is even worse.  Besides the fact that is almost impossible to pay attention and study when you’re hungry, poor nutrition at an early age often leads to poor health throughout life. 

Fortunately, we do not have any families in our project who are starving or severely malnourished.  However, we do have families who just can’t afford good food.  Diets in Guatemala are often heavy on starches (corn, beans, bread, & potatoes), and very low on protein.  It’s simple: starches are cheap and protein is expensive.  And while for adults protein may not be as important as once thought, it is certainly important for children who are still growing and developing.

For these reasons, we now give food to the poorest families in our project.  Every Saturday, the most needy families come and pick up a basket of fresh foods.  There is always some protein (chicken, beef, fish, or eggs), plus the green and yellow vegetables that, while inexpensive, tend to get ignored in the local diet.

We are also hoping to start a vitamin program soon and provide each child at least a half a vitamin every day.  The doctor who gives the kids their yearly physicals has advised us that many of the kids are in real need of vitamin supplements.

Finally, at the monthly meetings with parents our director frequently discusses nutrition and dietary issues.  Of course, it is always hard to change someone’s eating habits (even, or especially, our own).  But we have made a start.  We are just happy that in San Antonio Aguas Calientes there is no McDonald’s.  Yet.

 

MAYA CULTURAL EDUCATION

Through our Maya Cultural Education Program, we offer a ‘ Maya School ’ that teaches Maya students about their Maya heritage.  The classes include the Maya languages, ancient Maya architecture, writing, calendar, art, and mathematics.  These classes are held on weekends while school is in session, and Monday through Friday during most school vacations.

Thanks to funds provided by two grants, we have been able to expand the Maya School on several fronts.  In particular, we have expanded the program around our home base in San Antonio , as well as being able to continue the program in Chichicastenango year round.  In addition, we plan to start a pilot program on the north shore of Lake Atitlán in November of this year.

The Maya Cultural Education Program has proved to be very popular.  We hope to make this program a permanent part of our project.

HELP US CONTACT OTHERS

Please refer everyone you know to our website at www.aidanded.org .  There they will find a description of the Project, information and pictures of the students, and past newsletters. 

If you know a place that would welcome small brochures (2.8” x 11” tri-folds), please contact us and we will ship them to you, together with brochure holders.

 

VOLUNTEERING IN THE U.S. AND IN GUATEMALA

You can help kids in Guatemala by donating your time and skills.  In the U.S. , we need translators (English to native Spanish, and English to native Japanese).   We also need someone who knows how to make educational CDs and videos (strictly low-budget).  We need a nutritionist to write simple pamphlets that we can translate and use in Guatemala .

And, if you are looking for the working vacation of your life, we have a couple of good ideas.  They involve teaching English to some really cute indigenous kids, who just happen to live in the villages where we work.

Please contact us if you have an interest.

 

THANKS

As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome.  

Thanks again for your support. 

 

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