Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Guatemala Trip: An Update

Well, I’ve been back from Guatemala for a little over a month now. The trip was quick one, but it was productive. After my three months there the beginning of the year while my leg healed, I could see that there was a need to reorganize the staff and expand it. We always feel there isn’t enough money to have the staff we need, but in Board discussions we decided that the new staff was necessary and that we would have to bite the bullet and find a way.

In our 2007/08 Budget, there is a new part time position for a Center Manager to keep everything organized and working and increased time for both the Scholarship and Mission: Guatemala Coordinator. The bookkeeping position stayed the same. As I need to be here in the US more, we felt that the staff there would be expected to take on more responsibilities for the Guatemalan part of the project. To do that well they merited more time on the job and a corresponding raise in pay. When I left Guatemala the middle of August, I felt satisfied with our new hires and so far things have been going quite well. More on this as times goes on.

The scholarship program as always is going along well. The monthly meetings are both educational and fun.

August 6th is my birthday, so we planned to celebrate, as that was their meeting day. In our planning, we decided to make it one grand fiesta for everyone’s birthday, no matter when it was in the year. It was a great time with a pinata, a grab bag, and a delicious cake. A good time was had by all.

In July, Mirna Santelel, a part of the Animation Team, hosted an excursion to her village. She taught the group how to make the traditional baskets that are made in her town, San Jose Poaquil, from straw and gave them a tour of the village. A group of the scholarship young women from a neighboring village demonstrated some traditional dances. The young women often do not know much about places outside their own village, so this was a good learning experience.

In June, Enelia Reyes, another member of the Animation Team, taught the group a craft. Having the young women who have graduated as members of the Animation Team gives them a chance to give back something to the Fund. They also are examples to the other young women - showing them what is possible.

Cessia Reyes graduated last year and is a member of the Animation Team for 2007. She had decided to continue studying at the university level even though she didn’t have a scholarship. She was working selling refreshments in the local buses to support herself.

A few months into the year she began to have leg problems and was unable to continue working. She struggled on with her studies, but with the new semester she just didn’t have enough money to pay her fees.

At the meeting that Cessia told us she was going to have to withdraw from school., a some extra scholarship money became available. Carmela and I had a quick conference and decided to pass on it on to Cessia for the rest of the year. That made it possible for her to continue studying. I know she is very grateful.

All in all, the trip was successful and it was great to see everyone there.

Submitted by Kay Sweeney, Kateri Fund Managing Director on Sep 25,2007

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