Friday, January 21, 2011

Kathy's Last Hurrah!

January 17, 2011: Greetings/Saludos and a belated Feliz Año Nuevo to all. 

It is the eve of my departure and who knows where the last month went. Everyone here says it is cold (and the nights are chilly) but I only have to think about returning to Canada and how much I will miss the heat of the day here, the lovely blue skies and the vista of volcanoes, blue lake, wonderful cloud formations, sunsets, etc.  Never mind all that – I have much to look forward to upon my return!

Three days ago Jacqueline Mealing, an experienced hand here, and John Snively, a retired dentist from Victoria arrived and will be here for a couple of months.  We have been busy making the transition and talking about what initiatives will come next.

And now I will catch you up on a month’s worth of activities (more or less!). Happily the stove team in Santa Catarina finished their installations quickly giving us time to meet with recipients in both villages; with much fanfare we gave each family a set of pots to use on their new stoves, and everyone expressed their gratitude to all of you.

The last few weeks have been really focused on determining scholarship recipients - assessing need and ability. Not an easy choice and not a very scientific process! I relied to a great extent on the gals working in the Centro Qawinaq.  I believe I mentioned that one of our students from last year appeared to be very pregnant in November;  she wasn´t being very communicative about it so I thought that there was no possibility of her carrying on in school, at least for a while.  However, she gave birth just around Christmas and unfortunately due to complications and the ambulance not coming, the baby died.  A while later she phoned me and asked if she could continue so I invited her to come over to talk about it….. and ended up agreeing that we could support her in her last year.  She´s a good student and says she´s learned a lot from her experience. In a year’s time she will be able to work and help support her family.

We are also supporting 4 middle school students with typing/computer classes, uniforms and school supplies; 4 high school students with tuition, uniforms and school supplies as well as giving about 12 primary students some school supplies.  It is a mere drop in the bucket of need but Jacqueline will be working with the school directors to see what other ways we can help. 

Meanwhile the classrooms of the temporary school now all have metal supply shelves, windows, doors and padlocks.  A small space in the main building has been transformed into a library with new wooden shelves. There remains one window to do which was forgotten because it is in between classrooms and the two windows that face the street need ‘balcones’ which translates as bars that will prevent anyone from breaking in (though not necessarily from breaking glass).  The director of the school, Odilio, is so pleased with everything that one classroom will be named after ICO!

School starts on the 17th and last week the Papeleria in Panajachel, where we buy a lot of supplies for the students, reminded me of bookselling days the week before Christmas.  What a zoo. 

The Centro Qawinak now has an expanded board of directors as of last week.  It’s a pretty dynamic group of mostly young people. The program for the next few months has been planned and includes one morning a week for 3- to 5-year-olds, 4 to 5 afternoons with groups of women (Spanish, cooking, needlework etc.), Saturdays with 2 groups of older children doing a variety of activities, educational and otherwise. There are also computer classes organized by the Centro but taught by volunteers in the community. In March the K´aslem Mandala environmental education team will start a 3 month program, part of it with children, and part of it with women. I have wanted to partner with them for a couple of years now and finally it is happening. At the moment we are in negotiation, designing a program and a price. Also the Asociación Xocomil will be giving classes for youth on the responsibilities of parenting, sex education, and I´m not sure what else. Already 20 are signed up.  

And Jacqueline has many plans to work with groups of women in the Centro while she is here.

Last Wednesday was HackySacky Day at the Centro.  A huge group of kids from 4 to 14 years old came in the morning and there were hackysacks flying all over the place.  The afternoon group was much smaller, calmer!  Fidel, the fellow from Panajachel (not San Pedro), who came to teach the kids was having a great time just playing, having never taught before.  And the kids learned.  The hacky sacks were all beautiful colours, made right in town here.  Fidel picked 4 out of the whole group who had really mastered the juggling of two hacky sackys and out of the four, three were girls.  A surprise to me because often they are too shy (and several were) but these gals were very focused!  The prize was a third hackysacky.  Felipa, our coordinator, will invite them all back one day with their hackysackys to see how the juggling is progressing! Everyone had fun and I actually learned to juggle 2 balls.

In the last few days Sandi Chamberlain from Victoria visited for a week and made herself most useful with some of the finer details.  I have been busy sorting out money from different accounts, things I brought down or purchased here – deciding where they should go, collecting receipts, parceling out school supplies, and feeling wistful about leaving. A parade of parents, kids, and friends have been coming to my door either with needs or to say good-bye and thanks to me and everyone in Canada who has helped the village.

So that is the end of this chapter.  My intention to write in the blog every couple of days still remains unfulfilled – perhaps Jacqueline will do a better job! 

Once again I am so grateful to you all for making the work here possible.  I am constantly telling the people about the wonderful Canadians who are supporting our initiatives here.  And as they would say ‘Que Dios les Bendiga’

Con cariños,

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