Wednesday, December 12, 2012

From Kathy as she prepares to depart for San Antonio Palopo

1081 Holmes St.
Duncan, BC. V9L 2C9         

Dear Friends,

Once again the time for my return to Guatemala is approaching. I have purchased my ticket for January 5 to April 4.  This will be my seventh year of this journey with many of you and it is you who have made it possible.  So, let me tell you what is happening!

These days our group here  is busy with  fundraising in anticipation of being able to carry on our programs in San Antonio and Santa Catarina Palopó for another year. These programs are: 
1. Scholarships for students, be it middle school, high school or college; 
2. School supplies for the early grades; 
3. ONIL Stoves that are fuel efficient (70% less wood used), vented (chimneys take the smoke outside) and help prevent eye and lung diseases as well as horrible burns; 
and 4. the Centro Qawinaq (meaning ‘Our People’ in their language of Kaqchiqel), which has been operating for over two years.  

Funding has enabled us to hire a coordinator and an assistant, two young, intelligent and resourceful Maya women from the village.  They are presiding over a pre-school program, an elder women's lunch, a Saturday morning of activities for children aged 9 to 12, a vacation school and several groups of women learning to speak more Spanish, make handicrafts, and use sewing machines. On top of all that, they are supervising the scholarship students who must spend some time helping with activities in the Centre. 

The high school students have just completed a project of compiling a little book filled with their interviews with the women elders, most of whom can not read or write.

In the last two years a dentist has joined our group, wanting to volunteer in that much needed field. He will be coming again in January.

Last winter we were the unbelievably fortunate recipients of a lovely property overlooking Lake Atitlan.  We will be using the little house as part of the Centro Qawinaq for a while and then gradually move in completely.  Meanwhile we need to figure out how to make it somewhat bigger as well as continue to upgrade. The house will be used for the dental program in January. The garden, in the meantime, will be for growing, teaching and learning.  And perhaps they will rent it out for different activities – birthdays, weddings, meetings, to generate a little income.  Those are just some possibilities. In time, we hope to see the community owning and operating it. 

All of this gets funded in two ways:
1. From the weavers in the community, we buy brightly colored scarves and elegant shawls, at fair trade prices.  We sell them here in BC at craft fairs, choir, Fair Trade fairs, private homes, and to anyone in whom we are able to generate an interest! All the proceeds return to the village.
2. From your donations of amounts from $20 to $100s of dollars.  These donations are fully tax receipt-able, and do double duty when given as gifts (in lieu) to friends and family for Christmas, birthdays, and weddings; these donations have amazing lasting value and are very much appreciated by the Maya recipients who participate and work so hard to alleviate grinding poverty.

For those of you in DUNCAN we will have lovely scarves woven by the people of San Antonio for sale at:  the GLENORA FARM CHRISTMAS FAIR on Sunday, December 16th from 11am to 4pm, at 4766 Waters Road, Duncan.

So here I am once more, writing to you in the hope that this Christmas you might choose to bypass commercial presents in favour of Christmas donations in honour of a friend or family member. We have produced a new series of ¡Feliz Navidad! cards that we can send you to pass on to your friends or family, essentially saying that a gift given in their name will help install a clean-burning stove, will send a child to school, or will help support the community centre. There’s also a dental card. If you’d like any of these, just let me know. (To see what they all look like, go to our blog here). 

A heartfelt thanks to all of you for accompanying me on this Guatemalan journey. I hope that together we can keep lending a hand to these hardworking Mayans as they scramble over all the obstacles that face them, and on to a better life.

PS: Income tax receipts will be issued for all donations. To donate online (and also to learn more about the work of ICO in Guatemala) go to Select Guatemala – San Antonio Stoves for Health or San Antonio Education/Community or Atitlán Dental Initiative under ‘Fund/Designation.’ If you prefer to send a cheque, make it out to Innovative Communities Foundation (put where you’d like it to go on the memo line), and send it to me or to Innovative Communities Foundation, PO Box 8300, Victoria, BC V8W 3R9.  Every penny you give goes to the project; we are all volunteers and there are no administrative costs. 

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