Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Visit to Centro - San Antonio Palopo

Don't miss the  Guatemalan Scarf Sale Saturday April 13th (Click for Details)

4-year-olds at work – this headstart program will help 
them be successful when they start school next year
Posted by Susan Gage:
Margaret Gray and I just got back from three weeks of working in San Antonio. Lots of great memories, many of them from our visits to the Centro – the community centre. Now in its third year, the Centro runs programs for all ages: from 4-year-olds about to head off for school next year and students needing extra help, through a number of women’s programs (Spanish, basic living skills, crafts), on up to the weekly lunch and social time for las ancianas, women aged from 70 and up. 

Isabel (right) with the help of a volunteer, serves soup for the ancianas
This year our long-time employee Felipa Tobar decided to retire, and we now have two bright young women, Isabel and Brenda, working part time. As well as planning and running the centre programs, they administer the scholarship program (we are sponsoring 19 secondary students this year), and coordinate volunteers. Volunteers are a major part of the programming: two volunteers (either scholarship students or their parents) come to each of the pre-school session to help Brenda run the program. Twice a week there are tutoring sessions, where students who need help work in groups under the direction of scholarship students. More volunteers arrive to help cook the lunch for the ancianas. Fathers of scholarship students help build sheds and do the gardening. This really IS a community centre, where the whole community pitches in and helps.

One of our goals this year was to work with the board of the centre to help them understand their role, and to have them take more control. Murray Richmond (who has a background in board development) came for a week and helped us develop a framework; we honed our Spanish skills meeting by meeting, as we discussed issues such as conflict of interest and confidentiality. We’re hoping that our 5-woman team, meeting monthly through Skype with Kathy Coster, our Canadian rep, will provide mentorship to our enthusiastic young staff, and help ensure that the centro is responsive to community needs.
Getting those grades up - a grade 4 student gets help in from a volunteer tutor.

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