Since our arrival we have offered ongoing and stable employment to many. The SpencerCreo Foundation has provided internet to the two local schools, pays the salaries of two teachers and offers free internet cafe in our Clinic & Neighbourhood House. We have opened our playground to the local children on a regular basis. When there are visiting medical brigades we host the doctors and open our gates to the locals.
Since May 2, 2018 we now offer free education and a very comprehensive nutritional program to 30 children from Chivarabal. It is a small community with a population of 900. About 175 families live here. Employment is tough to find and many of the men go to Canada during the summer months as part of an agricultural program. The ones that stay behind struggle to make enough for their families to survive. Many kids are forced to drop out of school to help support their families. Boys will work in the fields and girls will weave.
A Guatemala school year runs January to October. School is generally four hours long. It runs an average of four days/week. At Project Somos we have two preschool classes and a primary program. The kids are on-site about 35 hours/week and the program includes two snacks and lunch. The meals are prepared with food produced on-site (about 60% at this point).
On Friday, Marelyne Ramirez and I went around to check in with families. We wanted to connect one-to-one with some of the parents whose children attend Somos and to identify kids for the new school year. We sat with women as they wove, chatted and giggled. We listened to stories of their struggles. We met children who are not in school.
One of the families we visited has many children, most who have an excruciating skin condition. The 13 year old daughter reluctantly attended our programming on and off for a couple of weeks. She was very self-conscious of her skin and being in a program with younger children than herself. In the end she stopped attending because she needed to weave to help support her family. We hope she may reconsider for the new year if we have other older girls. We did talk with another family that had two older girls; 14 and 15 year olds. The 14 year old was weaving and the 15 year old was holding her eight month old son. The mother is reluctant to send her four year old daughter to our preschool program because she feels she will be lonely in the house without her.
Life is complex for the families living in poverty. They struggle to survive. They live in the now because the future is so abstract and unknown. Long-term thinking and strategizing is not developed. Educating your child for future family support is hard to get your head around when you can’t eat today.
Offering a nutritional program is a huge incentive for families to send their kids to Somos. When they know they are eating here, it takes some daily pressure off of the family to find the resources to feed their kids during the day. The parents we spoke to have noticed big changes in their children since May. Some comments they share; my child is more confident, my kids have better manners and are teaching their siblings manners, my daughter can now count, my son can speak some English words, before my children only watched TV and now they come home and want to play and draw, my child has an appetite now . . .