Submitted by Lynnette Brown, Friends of FORMA Board Secretary
In Guatemala, November rolls to a close with an array of customary end-of-the-school-year events. For 100 primary students from the western highland communities that surround Lake Atitlan, November couldn’t come to a close soon enough! Those students waited impatiently for their first ever trip to the Parque Zooligo in Guatemala City. Many of these youngsters had never been to the zoo before this year. In fact, the trip to the zoo at the end of the year is a strong motivation for these young students. They will faithfully attend class and try their best to behave in anticipation of being selected to participate in the end of the year trip. The 2017 event was the crowning finale to a productive year of Saturday attendance at special tutorial classes taught by local high school students.
All the Saturday instruction was prepared and presented by nine of the brightest student scholars enrolled in the Forjando Mi Mañana (FORMA – Guatemala) scholarship program. Every Saturday, these dedicated student instructors led their young pupils in fun lessons that gave them extra help in basic skills: math, spelling and letter/word recognition, reading, writing and English.
These photos tell the whole story about the success of the Zoo Trip
On a recent Saturday, in the beginning of July, 15 young women and men gathered in the conference room of the Katchikel hotel annex for a special workshop funded by Friends of FORMA. The students were anxious to learn and eager to pay close attention to the topic of the full day training. No one had to convince these serious, earnest students that what they were in store for in the day’s sessions would be extremely important to their future. They fully understood its importance, but that didn’t stop them from feeling shy and nervous to speak openly and ask questions about a normally taboo topic. These students gathered to attend a Sex Education workshop.
Forjando Mi Mañana (FORMA GUATEMALA) director, Candelaria Xep, arranged for the workshop for these 15 scholarship students. The presenters were from a group called ALAS (WINGS) http://www.wingsguate.org/ whose mission is “to create opportunities for Guatemalan families to improve their lives through family planning education and access to reproductive health services.” The workshops included breakout sessions, group discussions, and several maturely and professionally communicated presentations that covered important topics:
- Sexual and reproductive rights based on the human rights proclamation of 1948.
- Sexual and reproductive health: physically, emotionally, mentally and socially
- Gender definitions and different roles assigned by society
- Dangers in pregnancy especially to young, undernourished mothers
- Family planning and how it affects all aspects of family life like nutrition, education, distribution of income, attention to children, clothing, housing etc.
- Differences in male and female physiology
- Methods of contraception
During the workshop, various students were entrusted with the weighty responsibility of caring for an infant child (actually a mechanical doll). It supplied a laugh and a chance for ribbing among friends; and at the same time, it provided an eye-opener about the real demands of parenthood.
In addition to the delicious lunch and the enjoyment of spending the day among friends, all the students left the workshop thoughtful; they learned much and had many questions answered. All agreed it was a Saturday they would remember.
[Wayne Brown, Friends of FORMA President, has been visiting Friends of FORMA partners, reviewing projects and making plans in and around Solola, Guatemala since mid-May. He sent this report near the end of June.]
Recently, I have had the chance to visit with several of the scholarship students; they are well-mannered, ambitious students that most people would be glad to associate with, and I am really enjoying their company.
On a recent Friday excursion, I visited the private school, Universidad de Valle de Guatemala (UVG), in Solola where a handful of the scholarship students attend their classes. The school accommodates students from 7th grade thru 9th in basico (junior high), 10th thru 12th in diversificado (high school) and also offers university classes in 2 year and 4 year programs. They have 915 students in all grades. Entry into the school is by competitive criteria. Students need an 80% in each and every class in their last year of primaria (elementary &middle school). Then they need to pass an entrance exam to be eligible. They must continue to maintain averages between 80-85% through their junior and high school years to remain in this school
What makes this school unique among other things is the fact that the UVG instructors are all working in their area of expertise or training. Other secondary schools in this vicinity do not have specially trained teachers for each subject; instead, they just use whoever is handy. The UVG school has special rooms for science labs, auto shop, cooking class, computer lab (with lots of new computers), library, and much more – things we take for granted but which no other school in this part of Guatemala has.
If my children were here, I would send them to this school if I could afford it. It is certainly a distinction when a student from a poor rural background gains entrance to this school. Often, the tuition is essentially out of the question for these young people. Outside financial support is needed for our scholarship students to take advantage of this opportunity when they work hard and are offered a chance to advance.
From Friends of FORMA Board Member: Lucy Potts
Friends of FORMA recently participated, along with 24 other local non-profit organizations, in the annual Give Grandly event on May 5, 2015 at Gough Park in Silver City, New Mexico. In spite of a cool, blustery day, we were surrounded by many like-minded volunteers; lots of the community came throughout the day to donate generously or to ask questions and get to know the mission and purpose of different organizations.
Friends of FORMA spoke about our mission and our hopes and dreams for the children of rural Guatemala and passed out our newsletter. We received almost enough donations that day to sponsor two Guatemalan students. Thank you to all who contributed!
I just returned from a one-month stay in the Solala region of Guatemala. Each time I visit I am moved and inspired by the spirit and warmth of the Guatemalan people.
The highlight of my recent visit was my interaction with the scholarship students and youth of one of our partner organizations, FORMA GUATEMALA. I had the opportunity to participate in weekly training sessions with the high school level scholarship students. Each of the scholarship students is also responsible for a Saturday tutoring program for 4-8 year old students in their local communities. The young students they tutor are attentive and eager to learn.
The scholarship students are receiving valuable leadership training that will serve them well in their future years. I find them to be mature, focused and eager to make a contribution. I can see their growth and development from one year to the next.
For some time, Lynnette and I have traveled, visited, worked and studied in various Latin American countries. During our times there, we have met many people, learned many things, and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The last five years have found us most often visiting Guatemala. It is a beautiful county with spring-like weather year-round in the mountainous areas. However, what draws us back most are the Guatemalan people – they are friendly, fun loving, and industrious.
The not-so-beautiful truth of the Guatemalan situation is that a large portion of the population is young, poor and hungry. They are not poor and hungry for lack of ambition; in fact, they are constantly at the ready to take advantage of any opportunity that comes along. Unfortunately, this search begins for the poor when they are still very young (8-10 years old). The result is a significant segment of the population is trapped working at low skill, low paying jobs which prevent them from getting an education, having time to try new things, or having resources to apply toward better opportunities.
Lynnette and I have met Guatemalans who have overcome these conditions through hard work and perseverance. They have succeeded with skilled business careers and decent incomes. This is after beginning their working life at about 8 years of age as for instance a shoeshine boy on the streets. They are now helping young, talented, ambitious Guatemalans to become community and business leaders in rural areas of the mountains.
Lynnette and I have joined a small group of like-minded people here in the USA and have organized a non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation as a vehicle to raise funds to continue and extend these efforts. We plan to help with educational scholarships, nutrition programs, tutoring, library programs, and occasional special projects such as improving bathrooms at the community schools.
We are currently looking for donors who would like to join us in these efforts. We have a website for an online contribution using either PayPal or a credit card; or a check can be sent to our post office box. If you or someone you know would care to help, we would be very grateful. Just think of the good your help could make in the life of a hopeful Guatemalan youth!