January 19, 2012
Dear Friends and Family,
I hope you made it through the very long log I just sent out. It may be a little soon to write again but there is something I wish to share with you and see if you have any interest in helping.
I have said that I wanted to write about the poverty here and I will still do so in more detail, but something has come up and I think it is worth putting out there.
School just started this week. Their vacation is from mid October until mid January. This village has been working hard to support a junior high curriculum. Last year was the first time they were able to graduate a 9th grade class. Many villages only have school until the 6th grade. For high school, they have to be boarded in a larger city that offers it and it is quite expensive so many never have that opportunity. There are many adults here that were lucky to have a 3rd grade education.
There is some government support for the schools but it seems like the small villages have to fund most of it themselves. The parents pay tuition per month, plus a yearly payment to help with the salaries of the teachers as well as buying all their own school supplies. The cost of the tuition per child is about the equivalent of $150 per year per child. On top of that are other expenses. Now you may not think this is much money but remember that many families have several children to attend for up to the possibility of 9 years of school. With an average wage of about $12 per a day, and cost of living coming out of that, it often doesn’t leave enough money for education. That wage is not always earned every day or even that much. There are families here who don’t wear clothes at home, only to town, because they don’t want to wear them out as they have so few.
Kelli told us that some parents cannot send all their children so those who have had some education have to drop out so that the younger ones get at least some time in school. There was a cruising couple here who wanted to sponsor a child but Kelli’s thought is how can you pick which one. Right now there are about 12 children who cannot attend school because of money. She also said, what happens next year when they can’t afford it again. My answer to that is, at least they had one more year and that can be important to their future.
I went with Kelli on the first day of school for the orientation. Kelli is a volunteer teacher (no pay) for one day a week for English. The entire Jr. High, about 60 kids, will be in class all together at one time, for English. Not only is Kelli teaching for free, she has to come up with all the materials. We have brought some things that will help her put together a curriculum but it will take copies of things for the students. That is something the school doesn’t have money for. Kelli and Chris have been funding it out of their own pocket for the group of men that Kelli teaches at night. They can’t do it for all the students in the Jr. High. We are going to help them with material costs for making hand outs for the students this year.
It would take about $2,000 to get scholarships for the 12 that won’t be able to attend this year. It seems so little but does so much. The school is already struggling to pay the teachers. A three year grant is expiring after this year and that covered one teacher’s pay. If they want to keep the school open, the parents will have to come up with more money next year. These teachers are college educated people and they are making very little but are committed to the rural education.
There is no tax deduction for any contribution, but if you have a mind to help, even if it is only for this year, please let me know. We can arrange to have the donations go to my daughter. She can put the money in our account and we can draw it out and give it to the school or to Chris and Kelli to administer.
In addition to running the school, they are trying to get money to cover the center area between the school buildings so that it can be used as an assembly place and a community meeting place. They use it now but the hot sun and heavy rain often make the event compromised. They are on their way to raising the money. Each member of the family will provide labor. Many of the gringo people who live in the area have done a great deal to contribute to the needs of the school. It is one reason that they are able to have the additional classes, but many of these gringos, while living well compared to many of the locals, are still on a limited income.
I know that there are many worth while causes at home and that you may be having difficulty with your own standard of living these days, but if you wish to help out this little village school, anything you can give would be appreciated.
When I went to the orientation, you could see how well behaved and motivated the children were. They were respectful, clean cut and excited to be in school. It is a refreshing change from what we think of in the classroom in our own country these days. They stood at attention when the rules were laid out from the superintendent of schools for this area. The rules are very specific with things like not saying bad things about anyone else in the school for any reason, no tattoos, earrings or piercing for the guys, no facial hair or sports clothing with logos. They are required to wear a uniform. (This is another expense for the parents). There were a lot of rules and if they are reprimanded three times, they no longer have the privilege of attending that school.
We saw them working together last May for a mother’s day event and again after the orientation. They cooperate, are considerate and effective in getting things done for the sake of the program. I am very impressed. I believe the village realizes that the success of the people who live there lies in the school, but though the spirit is strong, the resources are limited.
Certainly, this is probably the case in all the schools in this country, as it is to some degree in ours a well. The difference here is that so little money can do so very much. You can actually know the results of even a small contribution.
I don’t like asking for money, so if you don’t wish to contribute, I will not think any less of you. Each person should determine where their generosity goes. Right now though, our hearts are here and I am hoping that will be true of some of you.
Thank you for listening! I won’t ask again.
Sue and Rob