Blog posts tagged with 'programs'

Hope for the Next Generation

As Unique Batik looks for nonprofit partners to support in the regions in which we work, one of the most important attributes we seek is sustainability. Will the organization be able to work effectively not only now, but in the future to make a long term impact instead of putting a temporary band-aid on the community’s problems? One of the most impressive things about Asociacion La Libertad, or ALAS, is that they have a sustainability plan to secure the organization's future. ALAS, a nonprofit organization based in Guatemala, coordinates educational development and more for the neglected populations of Guatemala.

Students in ALAS’ educational programs contribute to the plan by working while they attend school. To launch a new school in a remote area, La Libertad must ensure that they can support the minimum number of students required by the government.  Unique Batik has funded tuition for the seven qualified students needed to reach the minimum number required and start the new school.  Once the school is established, the students will help sustain it through their work.  Through this system, not only are they creating a future for the students who come after them, they are also empowered by knowing that they can contribute to the community.

After the brutal 36-year civil war ended in in 1996, 410 refugee families were repatriated to a remote zone of the highlands of Guatemala in the Zona Reina area, to the village now known as San Antonio de Nueva Esperanza, or “New Hope.” Reconstruction began and the vision of the village elders included establishing education as a foundation for future development. With the lowest literacy rate in Latin America, especially among rural, indigenous populations, education is of paramount importance to the development of the lives of the Guatemalan poor.

Fourteen years after the initial founding of La Libertad’s educational program, which seeks to provide formal education ranging from elementary school through college, the village of San Antonio de Nueva Esperanza and its neighbors have seen over 450 people complete their education through the ninth grade. Approximately fifty students participating in extended vocational training for computers and agriculture have gone on to study at the university level. Considering the odds against them -- on average, only one out of ten rural Guatemalans completes middle school -- these figures indicate the tremendous success of ALAS.

La Libertad continues to take on challenges, including the 2010 opening of the university satellite campus of the Mariano Gálvez University, the only one in all of the Zona Reina. With this, the original vision of extending local education from the middle school to university level has been brought to fruition, but sustaining this vision takes continuous work on the part of not only ALAS, but program participants. One benefit of local university classes is that it guarantees that local teachers who want to stay in Zona Reina and expand the educational system can achieve their own necessary education to lead and inspire future students.

Unique Batik is proud to partner with ALAS in providing educational opportunities for the people of Zona Reina and San Antonio Nueva Esperanza. Through the years, the community has shown its commitment to education and La Libertad has created a program that can achieve its goals sustainably, making the vision of the founding village elders a reality that will touch generations to come.

Nutrition: Vital Support

Among the many challenges faced by disadvantaged populations in Guatemala is that of providing adequate nutrition for themselves and their families. Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world. The mainstay of the typical diet is based on corn (in the form of tortillas) and beans, and also includes sugar, cheese, eggs, meat and fresh fruits and vegetables. Although many Guatemalans enjoy the exceptional coffee grown in their country, it is typical a much weaker brew than that preferred in America and is usually served with plenty of sugar. The most impoverished people in Guatemala often subsist on a diet of just corn, beans, and fruit, which provides inadequate amounts of many nutrients, including amino acids and fat.

Almost 20% of the population of Guatemala is categorized as undernourished by the World Bank.  Children under the age of five are especially at risk, with over 25% being underweight and over 50% being stunted (short for their age). Most at risk are rural, indigenous people, who are also the less educated and poorest populations in the country. Anemia is big risk particularly for pregnant women and infants. The underlying cause of the much of the nutritional deficiency for the majority of Guatemalans is economic access to food. 54% of the population is living below the poverty line, and these people only consume about 60% of the minimum daily caloric requirement, leading to malnutrition.

Unique Batik  provides vital income to just this at-risk population through fair trade purchases of their handmade crafts. Seeing the nutritional challenges faced by so many of the people of Guatemala, we wanted to do more, and when the good work of ODIM was brought to our attention, it seemed like the right partnership for advancing the cause of good nutrition in Guatemala. Unique Batik has been a supporter of ODIM for several years, funding their Children’s Cultural Exchange (CCE) and Nutrition Project.

ODIM is an organization operating in the Highlands of Guatemala on the shores of Lake Atitlan in two villages, San Juan and San Pablo La Laguna, with a focus on healthcare and education. ODIM stands for Organization for the Development of the Indigenous Maya, and the two villages where they work have a total population of approximately 20,000 people, almost entirely indigenous Maya. ODIM’s Nutrition Project was founded in 2010 after seeing a drastic increase in severely malnourished children at their healthcare clinics. The Nutrition Project is a comprehensive nutrition program that works with twenty families. Participants attend monthly classes in hygiene, nutrition, combating common illnesses, safe food preparation, and family budgeting. The program also includes cooking classes, bi-monthly health checks, emergency food assistance and a community garden where families in the program work and share in the vegetable harvests.

The nutrition, cooking, and budgeting classes, as well as the organic vegetables and herbs from the community garden established especially for them, has greatly improved the lives of both the mothers and children involved in the Nutrition Project. ODIM no longer sees such extreme cases as the month-old baby girl, weighing 4 pounds and the 10-month-old baby boy, weighing 8.8 pounds who were the impetus for the program.

You can support the good work of ODIM by visiting their website, connecting to their organization on Amazon Smile, and , of course, continuing your fair trade purchases through Unique Batik!

Education: The Gift of a Lifetime

In Guatemala, over a million children are not in school -- one in 28, according to a UNESCO educational report. Many kids are working to support their families, while others would go to school if their parents could afford the fees. Although primary school in Guatemala is ostensibly free and compulsory, only thirty percent of students who begin school finish the six years of primary school. While school is theoretically free, in reality, there are high registration fees, costs for materials such as textbooks, and more, putting even basic education outside of the realm of possibility for many families. Those who drop out are disproportionately rural and from indigenous families, just like the ten students who are receiving scholarships through Unique Batik.

Thanks to your purchases from Unique Batik, ten children who could have been part of these dire statistics made it to school last year. Ten students at a rural school in the mountainous state of Solola , Guatemala, received scholarships through Unique Batik to continue their primary and middle school education. The group, composed mostly of girls, all come from families with limited economic resources who would otherwise be unable to provide an education for their children.

Because they know it isn’t always guaranteed, these children value education and see it as a bridge to a better future for themselves and their families. Recently, we received a packet of thank you cards from Pedro, the local scholarship coordinator, which contained three handmade notes from scholarship recipients. Pedro also sent pictures of the students and the school. In their pictures, the girls, dressed in the traditional Mayan costume of embroidered blouses and a woven wrap skirt bisected by a wide belt of woven fabric, stare seriously at the camera, but their solemnity at having their pictures taken is belied by the sparkly stickers and handdrawn flowers that decorate their letters. The handdrawn strawberries, glittery stickers, and rows of fanciful flowers and a carefully cut out scalloped edge, express the pride and creativity of the girls who made them.

In a country with the second lowest literacy rate in the Western Hemisphere, simply being able to write a thank you note is a great achievement. Indigenous women are the most marginalized population in the country, with a literacy rate of only thirty percent. This is the group from whom we buy most of our handicrafts, and the ones we aim to help with our scholarship program. The education they are receiving has allowed these girls to dream of a life different from the one their parents have led; they can conceive of a bigger world, filled with opportunity. Filomena writes that she hopes to achieve her dreams of being a successful professional, and Elena anticipates finishing middle school, an accomplishment made by only the top third of the population.

If the statistics seem overwhelming, remember that you can make a difference. You have made a difference. The support of Unique Batik customers has changed the narrative for at least ten kids. We couldn’t express our gratitude any better than they did:

I am grateful to you with all my heart for helping me with my studies and helping me achieve my dreams -- Belinda, 4th grade.

Picture of BelindaCard from BelindaCard from Belinda

I am very happy that I completed the sixth grade. With your help, I will get my diploma -- Filomena, 6th grade.

Picture of FilomenaCard from FilomenaCard from Filomena

I am very grateful to you for helping me in my studies so that I can achieve my goals -- Elena, 8th grade.

Picture of ElenaCard from ElenaCard from Elena