Tuesday, August 22, 2017

San Antonio Summer Update

Happenings at the Casita

Every month we receive updates and photos from La Casita — the house and garden that now houses a learning centre for kids, a library, a twice-weekly lunch and social program for poor and elderly women, adult literacy courses, and more. The news is heartening. Teachers at the two schools are referring students in increasing numbers to the centre, and our coordinator, Yesenia, along with her part-time helper, Lidia, are engaging these kids in maths, reading and writing activities in interactive ways that are very different from the rote-based methods used in most Guatemalan classrooms. Plus lots of kids come just to read (many are members of the kids’ book club), and to use the computers for research. 

In July there were 643 student-visits to the centre — over 20 a day. 

Tuning Up San Antonio’s Stoves

Those of you who have been involved with the San Antonio project in the last few years will already know about the stove project. Mayan families have traditionally cooked over an open fire in their tiny, windowless homes — a practice leading to respiratory and eye diseases, burns, and deforestation. For over 10 years, our ICO group has worked hard to replace these open hearths with clean-burning, vented stoves that have improved health, and reduced deforestation because they use less wood. This year we decided that we’d achieved our goal in terms of stove installation — we’d managed to install almost 1,500 stoves. Now the problem is that many of these stoves are getting old and needing replacement parts in order to burn efficiently. 

So in June and July, Brenda Pérez— a past employee and currently one of our scholarship students in her 3rd year of university — visited homes, identified parts needing replacement, ordered the parts, and worked with a helper to get the parts properly installed. In all, 97 families received replacement parts and tune-ups, and we hope to continue this program into the future.

What a great feeling for all of us involved in various forms of support for San Antonio, to know that lives are being transformed through our partnership with these strong, motivated Mayans making a difference in their community.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Scarf Sale May 13, 2017


SATURDAY, MAY 13th, 11 - 3

1648 ROCKLAND (corner of Terrace) 

There is parking on Terrace Avenue, Algoa Place and Patly Place
Montgomery Avenue (3 blocks away)
- Enjoy the lovely Rockland home & garden of Carole Sabiston, renowned textile artist.
- Browse through scarves and shawls in new spring designs. Choose a hand-crafted huipile, handbag or hanging made from handwoven fabric.
- Your purchase helps a San Antonio weaver make a living, and supports projects in San Antonio, Guatemala — student scholarships, stoves, lunch for poor elderly widows, and a vibrant learning centre & library. 

Please pass this message on.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Scarves & Weavings Sale May 13th, 2017

Carole Sabiston, the renowned textile artist, is co-hosting — along with the ICO Guatemalan Scarves Team — a Scarf and Weavings Sale in her beautiful Rockland home and garden. We have done sales here before  and everyone has loved them, so we are delighted that Carole has generously offered to host one again. This year we are especially excited as we have recently returned from Guatemala and have some new designs and colours, specially chosen for Spring.

Many of you are already familiar with the work we’ve been doing in the Mayan village of San Antonio PalopóThe sale of these lovely scarves, shawls, huipiles, hand bags and hangings — all woven by hand in San Antonio — will help over 30 women weavers to make a living, and, as well, will support our projects.
We're holding the sale the day before Mothers Day, so it is a great opportunity to buy a meaningful Mothers Day gift or a gift for yourself. It is also the first day of the 2-day Annual Garden Tour for the Victoria Conservatory of Music, so you may want to buy a ticket for this wonderful event, and make an outing of it. What better way to enjoy yourselves post election, and contribute in a positive and fun way!

Please join us and pass this on to any interested friends.

SATURDAY, MAY 13th  11 TO 3
1648 ROCKLAND (corner of Terrace) - there is parking on Terrace Avenue, Algoa Place and Patly Place
Google Map Link

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

ALL SMILES: Update from Linda

The Learning Centre is really taking off!   Candelaria and Yesenia are all smiles as they report to us that  there were 325 visits to the Centre by San Antonio kids in this first month of operation.

Wow!  We are thrilled too.

Yesenia, the young recently-hired teacher, is very busy providing learning assistance to groups of 12 children at a time, focussing on Math, Reading, Writing and Computer skills. Most families in the village do not have books or computers, so the Learning Centre provides a much needed, supportive learning environment. The teachers in the schools have embraced the Learning Centre and are organizing their classes to visit and make use of the resources. 

Many children are attending to do their homework and to enjoy the library of new books. Mary Lynch and Kathy Coster were able to purchase over 100 books in Mexico (where the prices are much better) and these are now on the shelves.

The Centre is such a hub of activity, especially in the afternoons, that consideration is being given to paying a senior high school student to assist Yesenia for a few hours a day, as managing all this enthusiasm is quite a challenge. 

You can see the excitement on Petrona's face as she harvests lettuce from the garden. Fresh produce is very expensive to buy in the market. The women helping in the garden share the produce while some of it is used towards the lunch program for the Ancianas (elderly women). 

The Ancianas are enjoying the use of new balls for their social time. They are encouraged to participate in games which challenge them mentally and physically.  Twenty-five isolated, poor elderly women attend regularly. They are so appreciative of this opportunity to eat a nourishing lunch and have some fun with friends. You can see it in their smiles.   

Thank you to all those who have supported this transformation of the Casita to a vibrant place of learning in San Antonio Palopo. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Update on Felipe's new home - by Mary Lynch

Dear friends who are helping with having a house built for Felipe,

IT IS  COMING ALONG WELL ... and, in fact, it should be finished in less than 3 weeks. It has turned out that it will be about 12'x9' and it has cost a little more than anticipated, but thanks to all of you, we should make it. 

I am very relieved to think that Felipe will  be brought  down from his dark, isolated room to a place with windows and where he will be with his family, who will be able to lift him outside to watch the world go by - check out the view!

Above are some photos of the work in progress. the first photo is  of his  uncle , who only has the use of one  hand, the 3rd one is of his grandmother and mother who are sorting the coffee beans; they are very relieved to know that Felipe will soon be living down there with them again after his hut had been  wiped out by Tropical Storm Agatha (in May 2010).

I am really very moved  by your response and really can't thank you enough for supporting this project, that will make such a difference in the life of a man who has suffered so much.

I'll keep you posted.
Thank you,

Monday, February 27, 2017


Eleven years ago , I was very moved by the plight of a  young man, Felipe, who has very severe Cerebral Palsy. He lived with his extended family, one of the very poorest families by the lake. At that time, his little shack overlooked the main road and the lake, and he could sit outside watching the world go by. His little house was destroyed 7 years ago by the landslides that hit San Antonio.  He now lives up the hill, away from his  family, in a tiny house with no windows and is left all  day in the dark - immobile and alone, except at night. I found this truly heart wrenching and decided that somehow I had to do something.

After several discussions, with a friend translating from Cakchiquel (the family's indigenous language) into Spanish, the family agreed they would like to have him back living down with them by the lake, if only he had a house. I am raising money to have a tiny house built for him, which his mother will share with him - she is greatly  relieved to have him back in the family. It will only be 8' x 9' but it will be made out of cement blocks, not mud, and it will have windows. His family will be able to lift him outside each day into the sunshine, where he can watch his family working and the people going by.

A  Canadian friend, Thomas (below), who has lived in the village for over 15 years, will oversee the work; we are are hoping to do it for under $2000, but $3000 may be more realistic. So far many generous friends have responded to my request for help and I have pledges for $825. If you would like to make a contribution, we can issue income tax receipts for all donations. If you send a cheque, make it out to Innovative Communities Foundation (put San Antonio Education - Felipe - on the memo line), and send it to me at 5178 Old West Saanich Rd, Victoria, BC, V9E 2B1. 

To donate online go to www.innovativecommunities.org, and click on the Donate button. Select Guatemala – San Antonio Education under the heading: ‘Select the fund your donation will support’.  And where there is a message box, just write one word - Felipe.

Please feel free to pass this on.

With heartfelt thanks,

Mary Lynch.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Learning Centre Update - Off to a Good Start

Just over 2 weeks into operation, and the Casita is buzzing with the sound of kids learning. Yesenia, the energetic young coordinator, has visited the schools, recruited kids, and set up a schedule. A sign advertising the Centro has been printed, and ready to be mounted. ‘Reforzamiento’ — learning assistance for groups of kids identified by their teachers as needing extra work, is starting this week. Meantime, the ancianas continue to meet for lunch and exercise twice a week (sometimes eating on the patio, when learning groups are in session). Brenda, our former employee, now coordinates these lunches as part of her volunteer service ‘payback’ for the university scholarship she is receiving. 

We’re all feeling pretty enthusiastic about the dynamic team that’s making all this happen.