Project Village STATUS REPORT OF 10/16/2007: 11 MONTHS AFTER THE INITIATION OF THE PROJECT
Purpose: The purpose of Project Village is to address the very significant problems facing indigenous and other impoverished residents of Guatemala. Seven core areas of need have been and are being successfully addressed by different non-profit organizations in certain parts of the country. The core areas are: Education Family Planning Fuel-efficient Stoves Health Care Micro-Credit Loans Nutrition Water
Objective: We believe that coordinated cooperative development focused on one village will have the following significant benefits: 1. Provide a structured, organized, timely, sustainable development program leading to a self-sustaining, vastly improved lifestyle in the village. 2. Create a model for development that can be replicated. 3. Create a model for donors who will be able to see the benefits flowing from their donations, and who will be welcome in the villages they have supported.
In 2006, representatives of the Coghill Foundation and the Rotary Club of Antigua, with the generous assistance from several NGOs in Guatemala, visited 14 villages in order to select the first community to participate in Project Village.
The Coghill Foundation selected San Bernabé as the first community for Project Village. It was founded in 1986 by farm workers from Acotenango, a community that had been hit particularly hard by the civil war at that time. They had been practically indentured servants to a large coffee farm in the area. Sixteen young families obtained a loan from an organization to buy the property on which the village sits. After one year in which they ate solely corn tortillas and lived in nylon tents, only 6 families remained. These families form the core of the village and its over 200 current residents. They have taken advantage of the assistance they have received in the past 20 years and demonstrate a willingness to work hard in order to advance their lives. Colonia San Bernabé Vista Hermosa
PHASE I: EDUCATION: The average female villager in Guatemala has received a third-grade education. Due to the poor instruction within these village schools, this translates into a female population in the countryside who cannot read or write. Even though education is considered “free” (and compulsory) in Guatemala, the cost of fees, transportation, books and school uniforms present insurmountable economic barriers to the attendance in school of a majority of the population. Often, the education of both girls and younger boys in the family are sacrificed so that the older boys may go beyond elementary school. In rural villages, for example, the parents must struggle with the loss of income by taking their children out of the home or the field. Combine this economic impact with the cost of attending school, and very few parents can make such a sacrifice. Without some form of financial assistance and school facilities located in the villages, these children will never be allowed to obtain the education essential to break the cycle of poverty and political repression.
Representatives of the Rotary Club and the Foundation visited with leaders of the community in order to assess the needs of the primary school and to evaluate how the grant from the Coghill Foundation could make the deepest impact in the community. It found that the student-teacher ratio in the village was 1 to 53: One teacher taught all 53 of the students from grades 1 through 6. Although the community demonstrated its strong commitment to the education of its children through grade 6, economic resources, geographic distance and the lack of transportation to and from a secondary school have prevented a majority of the students from continuing their education. A student must pay tuition to attend a secondary school in Guatemala, even if public, The village leaders therefore expressed their dream of operating a secondary school in the village or obtaining financial assistance for those students so that they could attend a secondary school outside of the community.
The village requested funds in order to hire an additional primary teacher. In addition, the leaders recommended that funds from the Coghill Foundation be utilized to build an annex to the school for a computer lab, equip it and hire an additional instructor, for a total of 2 additional teachers.
Through funds provided by the Coghill Foundation, the Rotary Club of Antigua purchased the materials necessary to build a computer lab for the elementary school in San Bernabe. The villagers provided 100% of the labor necessary to build the computer lab. The men of the village volunteered for shifts from 6 pm to 11 pm in the evenings and shifts throughout the day on the weekends in order to complete the construction in just 6 weeks – so that the computer lab would be ready for the beginning of the school year.
The computer lab was inaugurated on January 14, 2006, fully equipped with 10 computer stations and printer.
The residents of San Bernabe celebrated the new computer lab with “alegria” (happiness).
The dry season brought clouds of dust into the computer laboratory. The Coghill Foundation therefore donated the materials and the villagers contributed all of the labor to cement the school’s courtyard.
Through the assistance of the Rotary Club of Antigua, the Coghill Foundation provided scholarships to 19 students in grades 7-12 for tuition, school supplies and school uniforms in order to assist their families with their education. Each applicant was interviewed by the President of the Rotary Club, Alma Olson, an educator and former high school principal in the United States, and Vince DeGarlais, a member of both the Rotary Club and the Board of Directors of the Coghill Foundation. The students have signed contracts in which they are required to attend classes and must receive an average grade of 75% in order to continue in the scholarship program.
Tutoring Sessions Although the scholarships were an essential first-step toward the education of the junior-high level students from the village, they were not by themselves sufficient. After the first quarter of studies, only 2 of the 19 scholarship students achieved the necesary goal of 75%, which would be required of them in order to renew the scholarships for the following year. We therefore instituted tutoring sessions in english and math, on average the subjects in which they received the lowest grades, for 4 hours each Saturday and Sunday. Each student was required to attend one of the two sessions each week. Many attended both. The Results 15 of the 19 scholarship students raised their grades during the second quarter and 6 of the 19 achieved the necessary average grade of 75%. 10 of the 19 achieved the 75% mark the third quarter and 15 of the 19 achieved 74% or better during the fourth quarter.
The Reward: The 6 students who achieved the necesary marks during the second quarter, together with the education committee of the village and tutors, went to the movie theater in Guatemala City. Only 1 student had been to the capital and none had been to the movies, ridden an elevator or an escalator, walked through a commercial mall, used an automatic faucet or eaten at a restaurant.
The 15 who received 74% or greater during the 4th quarter of their studies were invited to a Thanksgiving dinner at the home of Vince DeGarlais, followed by a movie and pumpkin or apple pie!