How time flies by ... it's time to let you in on the latest news of our projects for 2010.
It has been a spectacular year during which a lot has happened :
Cooperation with Bendición de Dios in Alotenango
The past month, a series of serious discussions took place between the principal of the elementary school in Alotenango and investors Los Niños and Stichting Kinderprojecten Guatemala (SKG) to decide on the accountability for the invested money for the further support and development of the school. The way the accountability has been presented in the past was not always complete nor conforming with our standard practice, but this will be improved in the future. As well, the arrangements between the school and the carpentry didn't always go as smoothly as we would have liked; therefore, we've tightened up the agreements with the school. For the future, we've outlined a series of clear procedures that must be followed in order to improve and continue the relationship between us. Unfortunately even we have to deal with some collaboration problems from time to time but this has proven to be a fine learning process for both the principal of Bendición de Dios as for Los Niños and we firmly hope both organizations will grow stronger from it.
End of the school year
On October 29, the 2010 school year in Alotenango came to a close in the presence of the children and their parents. Forty children of two kindergarten classes will attend the first year of the elementary school in 2011, and sixteen students who have graduated from elementary school will begin secondary school in January.
In February, Tessa van Hest volunteered to fill in at the carpentry in Alotenango for Susan Eleveld (the driving force behind it all) who returned to Holland for an indefinite period of time. Tessa took over a part of the projects remaining while she coached 42 children up to the end of the school year, and as a final assignment, the children made dream catchers. The children learned how to measure and draw the curves of their dream catcher and they found materials out in the street to add to the finished product along with their own photos. We are proud to say that the final results are fantastic. All students could take their piece of art home to share their dreams with a real dream catcher. The whole experience was so overwhelming that Tessa decided to sign up for another year as a volunteer
Progress in San Mateo
We are so proud to tell you that the construction of the school is nearly finished and the parents and volunteers are painting the finishing touches. The golden carpenter hands of Gérard from Tilburg (Holland) gave us a wonderful, fully-decorated kitchen, tables for the computer class, several cupboards and closets, 50 benches for the dining room, and a beautiful butterfly which is hanging in the computer class. The official opening will take place on January 19, 2011.
Flying kites with the children from Semilla de Esperanza y Amor
The first of November is a day to remember deceased family members with food, flowers and kites in Guatemala. The huge kites that are flown on the 1st are to symbolize the connections of the living with their beloved family members who have died and with their ancestors. People believe that flying the kites help the soul rise into the afterlife. The kites have a diameter between 10 to 30 meters and are made of bamboo sticks and colourful paper which are cut and pasted to represent religious and folkloric images.
Together, with the children of San Mateo, we celebrated All Saints Day atop the Cerro de la Cruz, the hill which offers a magnificent view over the City of Antigua and beyond. overlooking Antigua). Each person had a kite to fly, even Ana-Maria's mother and, thanks to the presence of a little breeze, it turned into a cheerful kite festival. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed a delicious roll provided by some of the mothers from the project, and it was truly heart warming to see all the smiling, happy faces of the children.
End of the school year in Chimachoy
On November 17th, we celebrated the end of the school year of the Telesecundaria (the secondary school) in Chimachoy. 18 Students among whom 16 boys and 2 girls graduated and proudly received their diploma, and six of the students were given the opportunity to begin vocational training thanks to a Los Niños grant. For the occasion, the playground of the nearby elementary school was beautifully decorated and pine needles were spread on the pathway which the graduates and their parents used to walk to the front. The celebration was perfectly organized and some of the mothers worked for over 2 days to provide their guests with a traditional lunch and all of we guests were made to feel very welcome. After a morning like this, on November 17th, we all gained strength and energy which makes us even more aware of how important it is for our donations are to support education for at-risk children.
Since families need their older children to work with them in the fields and elsewhere, it becomes a large sacrifice for the family to allow their children to continue on with their education, and so it fills our hearts with joy to note that more and more young people are attending our school every year, and over the past two years, more and more girls are attending the school and this give us all very special hope for the future. Finally, we wanted to thank the families and so each went home with a large plastic box that was filled with food -- the so-called: "Christmas Canasta" (basket).
Three former Chimachoy students graduate from professional training!
Last October, the brothers Evelio and Lisardo Lopez, together with Ixcendía Tajtaj, all graduated as elementary teachers thanks to a grant they were given by Los Niños. They offered their gratitude for the opportunities they've received via a wonderful letter:
Ixendia wrote: "In the beginning it was really hard because I had to leave my parents to become an intern. When I first arrived in my new room, I was so sad and the first thing that came to my mind was: when will these three years be over. But being able to study turned out to be a fantastic experience, because I met a lot of new friends with whom I could share my knowledge and ideas and of course I learned many new interesting things as well. One of the most important things was learning to appreciate what my parents did for me by giving me the chance to continue my education despite their situation."
Of course we would like to show you the youngest member of our team: Mateo, the 7 month old son of Virginie and Evert. He's a cheerful, healthy baby and he's already a real heart breaker.
Independance Day in Guatemala
On September 15, the annual parade of all the schoolchildren took place in Antigua. The best student walks ahead waving around the national flag of Guatemala.
This year it was Wendy Flores, a secondary school student and daughter of the San Mateo school principal Lys. Wendy was not only the best of her class but also third best from the entire Sacatepequez province of which Antigua forms a part..
Help for the Maya Families Foundation
In September, we were able to donate a cheque for 1,000 euros to the Maya Families Foundaton. Once again they thanked us sincerely for the cheque which enabled them to help many families in need due to the hurricane Agatha in the areas around Lake Atitlan. If you would like to learn more of the wonderful work the foundation is doing, have a look at their website http://www.mayanfamilies.org/.
Successful operation for baby Krispling, Hooray!
In May we informed you about the 4-month-old baby who desperately needed an operation for his cleft palate. We are happy to tell you that a few weeks ago, Krispling underwent his first surgery to his palate and his hand, which had three fingers stuck to each other. Krispling's single 18-year-old mother lives a few hours outside of Antigua and is crazy about her son. Krispling is now joining T.E.S.S ‘ milk project and next year he will undergo several more palate surgeries as well as a testicular hernia operation. More information can be found on : http://www.tessunlimited.nl/
Jonatan Dubón back from the States
My experience in Montauk, East Hampton (United States of America) :
The 25th of May was the day I left to Montauk because Robin Haas of ‘Bistro Cinq' in Antigua told me I was the lucky one to go abroad for a couple of months to get more experience in my job as a waiter and bartender. It was amazing! When I left I was sad to say goodbye to my family but I knew it was only for a while. I had to work hard but there was also time to enjoy and see more of the country. I went to see Boston and New York City. I learned a lot and I want to say thanks to several persons for this great opportunity: first of all to God, Robin Haas, Tanya Campers, Montauk Yacht Club, Ana-Maria of Los Niños and of course my family who's always there for me.
Best wishes, Jonathan Dubon
Child Aid is a charity organisation which was founded by an American couple 22 years ago. The organization mainly focuses on Guatemala as this country has the highest illiteracy rate in Latin-America. Their main programme is "Reading for life", the result of more than 16 years of hard work, in the meantime with 35 libraries, mainly in the highlands. Hundreds of thousands of Spanish reading and teaching books have been donated from the US to these areas and, in exchange for a small donation, we received 1000 books to divide among the projects we're supporting.
We eagerly responded to this offer and as you can see in the picture, the secondary students is Chimachoy are attentively reading the books. Most of the books are bilingual and this really appeals to the elder students.
Foundation of the Los Niños Association in Guatemala
Next to our central administration in Holland, we now have a Guatemala administration and the official documents will be finalized in January 2011. In the picture, from left to right, you can see the new Guatemalan foundation "Asociación" members:
From left to right: Antonio Coolen, Alma Zamora de Roskam, Christel Tinselboer, Ana-Maria Ackermans, José Miguel Alquijay, Virginie Roussel en Vinicio Lopez.
One thousand Thank-Yous!
The Dutch administration and the Guatemalan team of Los Niños would like to thank all of the volunteers we were able to rely upon over the past year -- thank you with all our heart for your continuing support which helped us realize the Los Niños dreams through 2010 and we look forward to more volunteers working with us on through 2011.
Wishing you all warmth, happiness, love, friendship, and above all, good health in 2011. May all your dreams come true!
(Note: Virginie and Ana-Maria will be absent between December 20th until January 7th. During this time, we will probably only be able to respond to urgent matters. Thank you for you for understanding.)