Pueblo a Pueblo's staff are the backbone of our work with coffee-farming families in Santiago Atitlan. This month, we spoke to some of our staff members to see what inspires them. We loved the answers!
"It inspires me to see smiles on the women's faces." - Vilma Mendoza, Maternal Child Health Project Manager
"I am inspired by the faces of the people that are part of Pueblo a Pueblo. The messages of satisfaction from our beneficiaries, our staff, and our donors, because what I have always wanted to do in my life is lessen the suffering of the world we live in." -Montse Deu, Director of Programs
"I am inspired by the smiles of the students when they receive their backpacks with school supplies." -Johanny Quieju, Primary Education Sponsorships Project Manager
"I am inspired every day in my work at Pueblo a Pueblo by the passion of my coworkers. They work very hard to ensure Pueblo's projects are running smoothly and effectively for so many children, students, families, and communities. Many of them have a multitude of responsibilities outside of Pueblo a Pueblo, yet they are putting their hearts into Pueblo's work, and every day at the office we are all laughing and chatting (and occasionally dancing!) together. It is beyond inspiring to be surrounded by such passionate, kind, and hard-working co-workers and friends." -Robin Schmid, Grants Associate
"I am inspired by seeing the children reading books on the school patio first thing in the morning, because just by reading one can learn many more words." -Lidia Quieju, Pathways to Literacy Project Coordinator
"I am inspired by seeing the children's smiles as they wash their hands at their new WASH facilities." -Tomas Mendoza, WASH In Schools Project Manager
"I am inspired every day by the hard work and dedication of my coworkers." -Sarah Otis, Communications Coordinator
"I am inspired by carrying out my work for the well-being of the communities we work with. For example, when carrying out trainings and home visits to see the state of the health of sponsored students." -Rebeca Sosof, Maternal Child Health Program Assistant
In the coming months, we will begin construction on new WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) facilities at San Juan Mirador School. This new partnership is particularly exciting because San Juan Mirador has some very special supporters: the students at Trailside Middle School in Ashburn, VA.
San Juan Mirador School is located in a small, Kaqchikel-speaking community outside of San Lucas Toliman. There are currently 222 students from preschool to 6th grade, and most of the students’ parents work on the large coffee plantations nearby. The students love school -- but their bathrooms are in desperate need of repair.
“The bathrooms are in bad shape, and the kids are really at risk to get sick,” explained Tomas Mendoza, our WASH in Schools Project Coordinator.
Trailside Middle School has joined us to take on the challenge. Through a collaboration with H2O For Life, Trailside students have been raising money and awareness to support San Juan Mirador’s new WASH construction.
In November, Trailside students began studying public policy and investigating accessibility to clean water in the US and Guatemala. Some students are producing videos for their morning news channel, advocating for WASH and San Juan Mirador. On the fundraising side, Trailside has big plans. They are setting up a fundraising and awareness table at their school musical, organizing a “Blue Out” (students pay $1 and wear blue, teachers wear jeans for $5) and planning a water jug carrying walk-a-thon.
Beyond advocacy and fundraising, Trailside students are reaching out directly to the students at San Juan Mirador. Students learning Spanish have written letters introducing themselves to the students in San Juan Mirador. The entire school also recently sent over 100 Trailside t-shirts (with the Timberwolves mascot and all!) to San Juan Mirador.
When WASH Project Coordinator Tomas Mendoza visited the San Juan Mirador School recently, he delivered the letters and t-shirts to the 6th grade class. Students could see photos of the students at Trailside, and each student received a t-shirt and a letter. Soon, they will be writing letters in response to their new pen pals!
Alice Arnold, an 8th grade teacher at Trailside Middle School shared photos with her class of San Juan Mirador students receiving the letters and t-shirts, and told us, “The students here are really excited. [They] loved being able to see the direct connection made. Our students were excited to see how excited San Juan Mirador students were.”
La Cumbre School is a small elementary school with around 150 students in a community called Cerro de Oro, located about 20 minutes from Santiago Atitlan. La Cumbre is one of 6 elementary schools in Cerro de Oro, which has a population of about 10,000 residents -- 43% of whom did not complete a primary school education.
Pueblo a Pueblo first began working with La Cumbre School in 2011, and despite the community’s challenges, the school has worked hard to take charge of the projects and create real change.
In the words of our Director of Programs, Montse Deu, “The school has done an admirable job at taking ownership of the projects that were started in collaboration with us.”
The first projects implemented at La Cumbre were our Organic School Garden and School Nutrition projects. These projects have seen huge success, as the school now independently runs a productive, sustainable garden (now in its 5th year), which regularly provides nutritious food for its students.
La Cumbre School also participated in our WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) In Schools project for two years, beginning in 2012. We helped the school make repairs and upgrades to their sanitation facilities, provided teacher trainings and educational activities with students, and supported the school in hosting awareness events, like the parade for International Handwashing Day.
Now, with a teacher leading the school’s WASH programming and a community support group in place, La Cumbre’s WASH facilities are working well, and students are practicing good hygiene and sanitation habits every day!
The most recent project at La Cumbre is our Pathways to Literacy project, which began just last year. This project began at La Cumbre because neither the school nor the community had the resources to serve the community or students’ literacy needs.
Our first steps for this project at La Cumbre were to help the school build a larger library space and purchase more books and educational materials. Since finishing construction, our Pathways to Literacy Coordinator, Lidia, has worked with the school to use the new library to its full potential. A school librarian, Deysi, was hired directly from the community, and Lidia has been working to train her in school library management and cataloging systems. Lidia has also worked to provide teacher trainings and class modeling so that La Cumbre teachers can lead age-appropriate literacy activities with their students.
In 2016, Pueblo a Pueblo will continue to work with La Cumbre School in its school library. Overall, the school has been incredibly enthusiastic and eager to take on these projects despite the community’s many challenges.
Montse says that she has seen a lot of progress at La Cumbre over our 6 year partnership with the school.
“La Cumbre School has changed from being a rural school with just classrooms to being a school with a kitchen to provide school snacks, a productive organic school garden, and a well stocked school library, with teachers who put value on the type of educational opportunities that all these new school spaces bring to the students.”
She added, “Two days ago I went to visit La Cumbre School, and it felt like the dream I have for all schools in Guatemala.”