Monday, March 31, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

VOICE Newsletter #2-2014 February URGENT NEWS--Meet Edy--Plans for Santa Cruz Verapaz

Click on the page of interest to enlarge, but below is the 
expanded version with more & larger photos.
URGENT NEWS FROM PATZICIA by Cordell Andersen, Executive Director
We were happy to announce in our January VOICE that the Patzicia School would continue for two more years with Guatemalans providing 50% of the teacher's wages, plus covering other expenses to maintain the school.  In addition we would once again pay the wage of one teacher at the Ariel & Ines Andersen Chuluc Village School.  Thus we would avoid closing the school in Patzicia and be able to continue our 32nd year supporting the school, persist at helping the Chuluc School for the 27th year, and be able to do much more in attending to the extreme needs of the Maya-Poqomchi rural community in Santa Cruz Verapaz.

Now the "Urgent News:"  This might not be a surprise for those who know the politics of Guatemala.  The Municipality is not able to fulfill their commitment to provide the wage of one treacher, and a couple of local politicians the same, all adding up to 5 of our teachers not being paid for January....and for the rest of the year.  In a normal situation this would mean closing the school NOW!   Of course we know from our history that there is nothing "normal" about what we have been doing now for about half a century!

Our student body had already suffered from the austerity efforts--down to 145 children, caused in part by having increased the monthly quota for those who could pay, and also not being able to accept as many destitute scholarship students as in the past.

This had everybody scrambling in panic mode.  Humberto got his sister, Cristobalina, who lives in Miami, to donate again a teacher's wage ($232/month).  Then Humberto's family, to pay the five teachers for January,  put up for sale a small parcel of their very limited and precious land they cultivate for sustenance--but land sales are way down nowadays as few have available money, so it looks like the selling price will be way down from normal--if they are able to sell at all, leaving hanging 5 teachers who weren't paid for January's work! NOTE: This smacks of what we had to do for years while living in Guatemala  solving   emergency needs in our projects by rounding up and selling old cows for slaughter, or selling pine trees, or my dad borrowing money from the bank.

One of my generous cousins has provided most of the support for the school for 15 years. However, last year he understandably announced his need of moving on to other projects after the 2015 school year, but FORTUNATELY his broker made the mistake of donating last month not only his 2014 contribution, but also for 2015 (part of it at least).  That gave the Foundation the funds it needs now for most of the crisis, but nothing for 2015.

So with a beautiful staff of entirely Maya/Cakchiquel teachers under contract you see below......
Two missing, one, Mario, is taking the picture, and one on sick leave.

.........and the beautiful children you see below from the Patzicia School (at the end of this page one I'll add others photographs of more students), followed by a picture of the students from the Ariel & Ines Andersen Chuluc School, the Foundation
 has had to jump back in with both feet to keep the schools going spending the 2015 donation now to pay the 4 teachers that were left hanging.  
Most of the students from the Patzicia School 
Students from the Chuluc Village School

We are deeply appreciative of my cousin's generosity over the past 15 years, and for making possible one more good year.

So this will likely be the last year for the Patzicia School--unless someone steps up to provide support for the school (at least $35,000/yr.)--or enough of us commit to increase our donations for 2015, while also having sufficient donations to keep our critical work going among the Maya-Poqomchi in Santa Cruz Verapaz, which projects are described on page Two.

Also on page 2 you can learn about our new stunningly cute Poster Boy, Edy, seen in the heading of the VOICE.

But, before going to page Two, lets see another few current pictures from the Patzicia School and learn a little more about that school.
 This is one of the two 1st grade classes.
 Here we see one side of the Dr. C. Jess Groesbeck Computer Lab, now reduced some by sharing one computer with the Chuluc Village School, and another with Federico Veliz, the Foundation's Regional Director for Alta Verapaz.  This is still by far the best such facility in the entire area of the Central Highlands for an elementary school.

We are here seeing four beautiful first graders, all on scholarship due to being from very needy families. We have helped them have good clothes and shoes to go to school.  With additional donations we can accept many more such children who otherwise will not receive a quality education.

These are students at the Ariel & Ines Andersen Chuluc School.  This village is located 5 miles outside of Patzicia on the road to Patzun.  As is usually the case these rural areas, where most of Guatemalans live, are very poor.

They are being taught by bilingual teachers who help them retain the positive aspects of their cultural what we see here:  A clock with numbers and symbols in their Cakchiquel language.  They learn to read and write both Spanish and Cakchiquel.

In both schools we help them also have a daily nutrition program in which each student gets a mid-morning snack of high nutritional value.  Mothers take turn as volunteers doing the preparation.  On the left is the fairly modern kitchen at the Patzicia School--in addition to the wood stove, it has a kerosene stove, microwave and refrigerator, mostly provided by Humberto's family.  To the right we see the Chuluc School kitchen built and equipped by the Foundation with a mother doing the preparation with baby on her back.
Now PAGE 2

Edy's stunningly cute smile attracted our attention and with that was born the idea of changing the face we have used for quite a few years of, Yuli Umul Ajsivinac, who graduated from the school in 2008.  Below I'll insert some of her famous pictures, the last shows her, along with her mother, graduating with diploma in hand.
The other beautiful smile belongs to one of Daniel Mitch's sons. Daniel, deceased, is famous in the revolutionary history of Patzicia and also in the LDS history of the area.
See this important YouTube video history of the Foundation, clicking on that link.

Edy is 4 years old and lives with his father, Edy Rolando Gomez, and mother, sonia Aracely, 22 and 23 years old, and younger sister and brother all seen in the picture below.
They live in the rural village, Paraxaj, on a road that goes west towards the Pacific coast from Patzicia, actually in the Acatenango Municipality (like a county).  His father works as a day worker in the Patzicia area and brings his son early to Humberto's home who takes him to school where he is in the kindergarten class.  After school Humberto takes Edy home with him and Humberto's sister serves him lunch, and then he watches TV, a luxury Edy doesn't have in his home, until his father picks him up after work and then together they make the trip back into the mountains and their remote village.  This makes a very long day for both of them, the father to support the family as best as possible, and for Edy to begin getting an education hoping for a better life--an education the father and mother never received.  We hope and pray that one day we can help him and many more like him, also graduate as was the case with Yuli. 
From Patzicia in the Central Highlands one hour northwest of Guatemalan City, we wing our way to the northeast--at least a 5 hour trip by car (now on pavement all the way...back in the good old days it would have been a 12-15 hour trip!).  Alta Verapaz ("The land of Eternal Peace") is perpetually green as seen in the first photograph below in which we can observe mounds all over the mowed area of the Valparaiso Plantation where me and family lived and worked for 26 years  
Some archaeologists believe that this was an ancient fortified city. For details, see the photo/essay Museum of the Holy Man

It was here that the Foundation work started as a development center in 1968.  Eventually the Valparaiso Community evolved from the effort with the Valparaiso/Rio Frio School built on the edge of the community and within the area of the ancient fortified city, as seen below in the Google Earth view.

Our work in the Santa Cruz Verapaz area is under the direction of 42 year volunteer director, retired-professor Federico Veliz, who has spent the first two months of 2014 distributing school supplies to thousands of students in the rural schools of the municipality, which will be reported on in our next newsletter. 

 At least for the next few months our focus will be on first helping the heroic grandparents mentioned before with a large brood of grandchildren to care for we see below,  and at the same time begin  helping the Valparaiso School with urgent needs.

We will begin right away helping them construct a needed bedroom added on to their humble, dirt floored home and make sure they get the help needed to have all of these children in the Valparaiso School.


FIRST PRIORITY:  New sanitary facilities.  The approximately 500 elementary and junior high students are forced to use the original outhouse facility we built for the school in 1982 but I have learned that it is so terrible that the students rather seek seclusion along the river to take care of their needs.  This is a critical health priority and we will begin immediately working with the community and the school to get the job done.

SECOND PRIORITY:  Electrical installation in the Julie Memorial Classroom and the entire school.

THIRD PRIORITY:  A secure storage room for the school kitchen mainly used for the critical daily nutrition program.

THE THREE-WAY PARTNERSHIP STRATEGY:  Federico is an expert using this strategy to get the needs of rural communities filled by helping the community as follows:

1.  He meets with the "Improvement committee" of a village that has a need.  If they don't have said committee, he helps them organize one.  They discuss the need, and make plans, including a budget for the project, with emphasis on what the community will contribute in materials, labor, and money.

2.  He then helps them write letters requesting help from the Municipality, the Ministry of Education, of Public Works, etc. and possibly charitable institutions, if there are any functioning in the area.  This often is a step that is difficult for some very remote rural areas where they just don't have the ability to write  formal requests for help.

3.  The Foundation then offers to provide what is lacking to get the job done, if we have the funds to do so.

Thus, for a fraction of the cost of a needed project, the Foundation can provide what otherwise would make the overall project impossible.  
I personally have never seen a more effective way of getting important projects accomplished.

Please help as much as you can as often as possible so we can make 2014 a great year helping this most needy area of the entire country.  You can easily donate online at our website by clicking on the DONATE button at the top of each page, or send your donations to: 
        P.O. Box 1296
        American Fork, UTAH  84003

#1-2014 Jan.--Set for a Great Year & 2013 Annual Financial Report.

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