The Aid and Education Project, Inc.

      “ El Proyecto de Ayuda y Educación “

                                                                        

 Scholarship Program  

                                              

 

            The mission of the Scholarship Program is to help students get in school, stay in school, and succeed in school.  This starts with giving a poor student material aid: paying for all or most of their school fees, school supplies, school uniforms and other basic school clothing.  Secondly, and often just as important, we help create an environment that leads to success.  We offer classes during the school vacation.  We provide access to computers and the internet.  And when volunteers are available, we offer English Classes.  

Through our Health Program, we provide free medical visits for routine childhood health problems.  As deemed necessary by local directors, we make sure that students get eye and ear exams.  And, finally, the poorest families receive weekly food supplements.

            We are investors in the future of the children in our program.  Like any good investor, we only make investments that are likely to yield a good return.  For us, a good return is a literate adult who can attain financial self-sufficiency.  A good return is a skilled worker or professional who without our program could never have developed their talents, and would have been a life-long field hand or cleaning woman. 

We are not in the business of giving money to poor people.  In order to stay in our program a student must make concrete steps toward self-sufficiency and toward developing their own future; otherwise, they can be dropped from the program.

 

Education in Guatemala : Costs and Special Challenges

          Like much of the world, in Guatemala there is both public and private education.  Although both public and private education are very inexpensive by our standards, they are not inexpensive for a poor family in Guatemala.  First, at the beginning of each year there are enrollment fees and other one-time expenses.  These include the costs of uniforms (required for physical education classes, and in many schools in the classroom as well).  Also, the student frequently needs a decent pair of shoes, and perhaps a new (or at least newer) pair of pants, a skirt, a blouse, or shirt.  And it’s awfully nice to have a backpack to carry books and supplies back and forth from school. 

Notebooks, pencils, pens, basic art materials, and other school supplies are an on-going expense throughout the school year.  Students may also have to pay a monthly fee for any “special” classes, such as classes that involve work on the computer or that require extra art supplies.  Field trips with the class entail additional costs.  Finally, students in grades 7 and above have to pay higher fees, and students in private schools must pay fees monthly.

So, how much does all this cost?   The minimum annual cost per student at the most inexpensive school equals about a month’s wage for a manual laborer, and as in many poor countries, a vast number of people in Guatemala earn their living through manual labor.  Thus, the cost is substantial for even a single student.  For a family with 4 or 5 children, education for all the kids may be out of the question.  Thus, a family must choose who gets an education and who does not.  Too often it turns out that the boys are sent to school, while the girls are left totally without an education.

We know that there is more to education than just paying school fees.  In many cases, the parents, and sometimes the entire household, are illiterate.  Frequently, Spanish (the language of education in Guatemala) is their second language.  Thus, our students cannot receive the guidance they need at home to succeed at school.  They cannot get help with their homework, and rarely get the positive guidance and reinforcement that students need.  It is not that their parents do not want to help their kids but, being illiterate and un-schooled themselves, they just don’t know how.

To address this problem, we have programs during the school vacation months.  We offer access to computers and the internet.  We offer English classes when possible.  In addition, a professional teacher provides the students and families with the personal and profession guidance they need.

Finally, so that physical problems do not obstruct learning, we provide routine medical, eye, ear care, and intestinal tract care.  From time to time, we offer free vaccinations for our students.

The average costs of school fees, school supplies, uniforms and clothes, medical care, and vacation classes that we provide are at least a dollar a day, or about $360 a year.  For a family that may earn as little as $125 per month, such services would normally be out of the question for even one child, much less several. 

Our services thus often make the difference between success and failure, between whether the next generation will be just like the last generation --- illiterate, unskilled, and unable to provide their children with opportunities --- or whether the next generation moves forward.  The difference is real, and lasting.

 

The Scholarship Program

            We provide educational services through our Scholarship Program.  For most children in this program we pay all or most of their school fees and related educational expenses.  This includes their initial enrollment fees, monthly school fees, fees for special classes, excursions with their class, and school uniforms.  Students in the Scholarship Program are invited to attend any classes we offer during school vacations, and any English class.  They can work or play on computers in our project, and they have free access to the internet at local internet cafes.  These students also receive routine health, eye, ear, and digestive tract care, as well as certain vaccinations through our Health Program.  Finally, we give the poorest families weekly food supplements through our Food Program.

            To qualify for the Scholarship Program, children must come from a family where need is real.  They must make progress in school to stay in the program.  The level of aid we give depends partly on the student’s grades and partly on the economic circumstances of the family.  Parents generally must share in some small way in the costs of education and must be willing to donate some of their time to our organization.

            Donors can aid our educational efforts in Guatemala by giving to the Scholarship Program Fund.  NO part of any donation to the Scholarship Program Fund is used for overhead or fund raising.  (See “Financial Facts and Donations” for more details.)  We welcome gifts of any size.

 

The Sponsorship Program

            Another way donors can aid our educational efforts in Guatemala is by sponsoring a student in the Sponsorship Program.  As in the Scholarship Program, NO part of such donations go for U.S. overhead or fundraising.  (See “Financial Facts and Donations” for more details.)  Students with sponsors are accepted into the Scholarship Program and receive all the same benefits and take on all the same responsibilities.  But, in addition, the donor/sponsor gets to know the student by exchanging letters several times per year (we translate as needed), by getting reports on the student and his or her progress in school, and, if possible, by talking on the phone or visiting with the child in Guatemala.  Sponsors may communicate directly with the student, or through our organization. 

We encourage contact between the child and the sponsor.  Besides financial support, it means a great deal to these students that someone cares about their progress and wants to form a relationship with them; they are motivated by the fact that their sponsor has a standard they are expected to live up to, and it makes them feel important that someone in another country cares about their success. 

            From contacts with the student the sponsor can, if they so choose, form a personal relationship with the student and gain both respect for and knowledge of a life lived in very different circumstances.  For this reason, we also encourage children in the U.S. to sponsor children in Guatemala (with a little help from their parents, to be sure).  We predict that most sponsors will learn as much about themselves as they do about the kids they sponsor.  Both the sponsor and the student benefit from the relationship.

September, 2007