written by Lorenza Seldner
Rebuilding and replacing the window in the house of a family deeply affected by hurricane.
Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez “the world’s aquarium”; with one of the most biologically diverse bodies of water on the planet, and sunsets named as the most beautiful view by the National Geographic, San Carlos, Mexico represents a paradisiacal dream of leisure for locals and foreigners…
But reality hits very differently for the most vulnerable part of the population: the poorest people in Guaymas (that’s the actual Town name) who live marginalized, struggling to put food on the table and, basically to make ends meet. People living under desperation, knowing that the future for their children is not promising, either falling in drug dealing activities or taking underpaid jobs due to lack of education and opportunities.
And amidst that hopeless cause came Castaway Kids; a non-profit organization dedicated to fight poverty through education. The organization is formed mostly, by senior citizens from Canada and USA, who decided to spend their retirement years in this beautiful, small place. Moved by the hardships of the locals, and have fallen in love with the culture and Country, decided to take upon in this heroic task.
Castaway supports the community in three different ways:
1) They sponsor low-income, high-achievement students to finish school. They have helped over 100 kids who were at risk.
2) They provide vocational training to adults and are building their first Community Education Center. Guaymas’s two main sources of employment are fishing and the maquiladoras” (factories) which are an excellent option for skilled adults; hence the importance of the center.
3) They supply essential assistance to the Guaymas Community such as disaster relief and aid to build community centers or reconstruct houses. (Guaymas people have been victims of several powerful hurricanes in the past, including “Jimena” which tore the town apart).
Castaway volunteers at work helping in disaster relief.
The organization raises money through several channels: the foremost is the donations made by the sponsors, in which one of the members (or a volunteer) takes one or more students and absorb all expenses related to their education: from tuition to shoes and even food and medical bills for the most desperate cases. This charity has a very high percentage of donations that go to cause - 98% - because all the work is done by volunteers. The second channel is through their Thrift Store which receives donations in kind from anyone in the community; their personnel classify and organize the goods received and put them for sale.
The last channel, and the most heart-warming one, is by hosting beach parties in which the stars are the same students they help. The parties have raffles, games, prizes, exquisite local food and the performances are made by these kids. These kids, whose lives are being changed, dance and sing for a group of people who, do not share their blood, color or even language, yet care for them more than anyone else ever has.
The easiest way would be to ignore them, to enjoy their last golden years… they surely deserve it after all. But Castaway Kids members feel different; they may have come down for the fun, but instead raised a beacon of hope, in this beautiful, struggling town.
Please help them make a difference.
For more info on Castaway Kids, donate or how to become a sponsor please check their webpage:
https://www.castawaykidsmx.org/ (all donations are tax-deductible)
Hand Fortuna Helps Build a Loving Future for the Children of Kupang
by Karen Himura
Kids from dumpsite, Alak in Kupang. A number of HAND’s volunteers make a visit to this place twice a month. Hand Fortuna has renovated a small abandoned building and used it as a half way house for the kids. The volunteers did a health talk, medical services, teaching how to write and read, and bathing them.
Located in the East Nusa Tenggara province is a small island by the name Timor. Divided into East and West Timors, the East declared sovereignty from the Indonesian government in 2002, and goes by Timor Leste. The West remains a part of the old nation, and the capital city Kupang is the largest port on the island. The climate is humidly hot, but pristine beaches are no luxury around this area. Low levels of tourism have maintained Kupang's extraordinarily clean, beautiful, and quiet beaches. Inside an attraction called the Crystal Cave in Bolok Village, West Kupang District, there's a large body of sparkling clear water that locals and visitors alike love to swim in, free of charge. However, in spite of Kupang's abundance in natural beauty, the citizens aren’t exactly very prosperous.
East Nusa Tenggara ranks third from bottom on the country’s financial focus and poverty is at 20% nationwide. The most pressing issue Kupang is facing is how little attention it gets from the central government. Many areas are underdeveloped, and the locals lack basic facilities. People living closer to the city centre usually work in factories headquartered in Jakarta, which are often headed by specialists coming from outside the province itself. As for the majority of locals, there isn't much that can be done aside from farming and working blue-collar level jobs as a living, due to low variety of job opportunities. And much of the rest are unemployed.
In such circumstances where citizens are in deep impoverishment, it is children and women that suffer the most. Lack of better jobs and low levels of life's overall satisfaction have often given birth to brutally violent husbands. The lack in infrastructure has also resulted in a staggering case of malnutrition in both adult and children. Stunted growth in children is common, and in extreme cases, women are giving birth to physically and mentally challenged babies, which have resulted in infants getting abandoned because the parents do not know how to care for children with special care. This is where Ratna Pongkapadang enters the scene.
Supplying nutritions to kids under 6 of ex-refugees of Timor Leste in Noelbaki Kupang.
Carrying a vision for Kupang as a better place to live in, Ratna has founded HAND Fortuna Kupang, which modestly began with a Facebook page where people can share information about anyone in town who's in grave need of help. Joining hands with neighbours far and near, HAND Fortuna works to uplift and return dignity to the locals.
Amongst the various programmes HAND Fortuna carries, such as introducing eco- farming and providing/finding workforce for men, Ratna's core focus is the rescue of children's future—namely the future of Kupang.
Ratna firmly believes that food is, at this stage, much more beneficial than clothes or toys. HAND Fortuna strives to accommodate funds to be used in providing nutritious foods so as to prevent further brain damage in developing children. The foundation has built houses for orphaned children, library full of books in Indonesian and English, and 'day schools' where volunteers teach English. Ratna's goal is for this generation of children to be the last in the poverty line. She believes that there is always a better way to create a loving society if we properly educate our children with tender love and care.
HAND Fortuna Kupang can be reached through HAND's official website: http://hishand.org. The staff is very helpful and will inform you the ways you can contribute and be part of the building of a more loving Kupang. If you tell the staff that you wish to know more of Ratna’s activities, they will gladly direct you to be in contact with her.
The Dynamic Teen Company: Education on Wheels
by Teddy Cambosa
The City of Cavite is highly considered as one of the numerous cities in the Province of Cavite that could be considered at least to be economically significant, as it places itself to be one of the economic hubs of the province, further progressing development not by the independent city itself but also to the overall reputation of the province itself.
However, with the ongoing development, one must also take note on the various social issues a city might have evidence on. One of them would be the widespread of out-of-school youth, and some are getting involved in juvenile acts such as involvement in drugs and crime. With the prevalence of out-of-school, the local government face these issues with great care in order to lead these children and other youth people towards morale lives. And it is without doubt that the instalment of the Dynamic Teen Company has been beneficial since 1997 in bringing the youth into the tracks of good life and improvement of their educational capabilities.
The existence of such organizations such as the Dynamic Teen Company is that juvenile acts have become a thing in the Philippine society, and is being feared to heavily influence Filipino children due to sheer pressure they get from their playmates or worse, the elders within the community. With the ideology that somehow the child perceives stereotypically that each act done by an elder is vaguely reasonable to imitate, hence their minds are heavily corrupted at an early age. If left unnoticed by their own parents and by each constituent of the locality, there would be fears that the so-called “future of the Fatherland” quoted by Rizal would be, sadly, a mirage. Hence, educating them in as early as possible would mean early development of awareness and sense to the realism of life, and further act on it on how to solve it.
The Dynamic Teen Company was created in 1997 by four high school boys of Cavite National High School. Efren Peñaflorida, who is one of the founders, saw the need to create an organization that will help the youth after seeing the reality of life whilst living off from his parents near an open dump in the City. Peñaflorida started the group in order to divert students' attention away from street gangs, and towards community activism and personal development. Dynamic Teen Company started as a friendship club of around 20 members, with an aim of providing youth awareness projects, talent and self-development activities, and community services. They collaborated with Club 8586, another community service organization operating in the area. However, one of the initial highlights of their group is the idea of the ‘pushcart classroom’ wherein pushcarts were stocked with school materials such as books, pens, tables, and chairs, and then used on Saturdays to recreate school settings in unconventional locations such as the cemetery or trash dump. To date, the Dynamic Teen Program has served to more than 100 communities outside Cavite, and over 4000 youth has benefited from the program. Through these efforts, Peñaflorida was awarded 2009 CNN Hero of the Year and was conferred by the Order of Lakandula, the country’s highest award, by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
True to their Mission: “DTC envisions itself to be an established organization building up out-of-school and at risk of dropping out children and disadvantaged youth in the Philippines, to become morally upright, productive and responsible individuals who embrace a spirit of volunteerism”, the Dynamic Teen Company is a great example of a youth-inclined group that tends to reach out even at the impossible-to-reach communities to instil this rule: education surely helps you to succeed in life.
The Dynamic Teen Company accepts donation through their Philippine Account at the local Bank of the Philippine Islands, or you can donate also through their official PayPal link: https://www.paypal.me/pushcartclassroom. For more information, you can visit directly their website http://dtc.org.ph/.
FIGHT FOR CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES IN A NIGERIAN AREA STIGMATIZED BY IMPORTANT CRISIS.
by Anastasie Obi
In some West African countries there is a very special culture called "joking kinships". It’s even an intangible cultural heritage in Niger, a social praxis that consists of making fun of members of same or different social groups and even to slur them without worry about getting them upset. This is intended to ensure social harmony. It’s a picturesque tourist haven for fans of dark humor. Can you imagine however, a child laughing at being called Nakasasu (the Damned), because of his Disability?
It’s an interesting socio-cultural atmosphere, considering that this unusual and entertaining social practice is expressing in an environment hit by the deepest poverty, war conflicts and critical humanitarian crisis. Displaced people, refugees and talibés (beggars) flock uncontrollably to Niamey, the capital of Niger. Amongst them are children with more or less severe disabilities. In Niger, about 40,000 school-age children with disabilities don’t go to school. In a context where the needs are bigger than the national and international capacities deployed to try to halt the critical situation in this region, an Association stands out with a program that deserves a lot of support. OPEHN / MURNA YARA is a local NGO that is one of the actors fighting for vulnerable children to give them access like any other child, to an education that will allow them to achieve their potential and aspire to a happier life, a better future. The Organization for the Sponsorship of Disabled Children in Niger is localised in Niamey, but deploys with the support of some charitable institutions, its actions in four other surrounding districts of the country, including Tillaberi, Dosso, Maradi and Tahoua.
This program is mainly a socio-educational integration facility for disabled and/or needy children. It includes some stages in which they identify the different out-of-school children who are in urgent need of the program. Thereafter, it’s the medical-social diagnosis, important for the educational orientation of these children. Of course, there is also the training of teachers whose prerequisites will help teaching these children. The most touching is their concern to bring forward the family in the process of schooling these children through parental sponsorship. Parents/guardians are trained to learn for instance, how to help their disabled children to better express themselves independently in their family and ethnic framework. Considering from where they are starting, you can easily guess that it will create a real harmony between them, and the satisfaction of participating will replace helplessness and shame. In addition, monthly financial support equivalent to €50 is provided for most basic needs of children which they cannot fully assume due to their own financial disability.
In this effort of socio-cultural integration and cohesion, Murna Yara is involved in school monitoring and home visits to help families better care for their children with disabilities. They work with families, but also with the school of these children. The NGO is aware that it’s not enough to completely change their situation. They are hoping for additional support to enable them to achieve at least their most urgent projects for more and more children who cannot actually benefit from this program. It’s important to let you know that since the implementation of this type of programs in Niger through associations struggling to improve the situation, mindsets dooming these children to social imprisonment are gradually changing. Fewer and fewer families are hiding their "Nakasasu" children, considered to be divine punishment. We could even witness distressing scenes like for instance, these children falling in the street and no one helped them fearing of being contaminated. It’s mindsets that still exist in some areas unreachable by NGOs like Murna Yara due to lack of funds. Their wish is to be able to extend their actions throughout the national territory.
One of the uniqueness of this NGO is exemplified by Mr. Oumarou Manou Mouhamadou who, in addition to being the initiator and coordinator of the NGO Murna Yara, is an inspiration for these children. He has lost his vision when he was child due to glaucoma and can still be proud of his impressive career. He was inspired by his difficulties during his schooling. "I told myself that I want to setup a sponsorship organization for disabled children, to allow them to have the minimum for good studies... I contacted friends who agreed to come with me and we created the NGO”.
To find out how to support their program, please contact one of the Murna Yara managers at: (+227) 21 76 79 06 / (+227) 96 49 48 18 / manager(s) to contact: Moussa Souley (Chairman of the Managing Board), Mahamadou Oumarou (National Coordinator), Maâzou Noma (Secretary-general of the Managing Board).
HOPE AT THE BRINK OF HOPELESSNESS
by Victor Mawusi Ayi
Buduburam is a settlement in the central region of Ghana. It maintains a continuity with other towns along the stretch which opens into the capital city, Accra, located about 44 kilometres to the east. While its proximity to the capital is appealing for a location, it is rather famous for its breadth of hospitability. It is the largest refugee settlement in Ghana and provides a home for over 30,000 people. Buduburam was a positive reaction in 1990 by UNHCR, to the Liberian civil war and the subsequent arrival of survivors in Ghana, to ease away their memories of brutality and loss, in safety. Consequently, Buduburam is a buzz with a mix of lifestyles dominated by Liberian and Ghanaian.
Shelter and food are basic needs, but they are only part of the requirements for sustenance. Even though relief agencies provide support to sustain lives of beneficiaries, other deprivations mar the outlook of the Buduburam project. It is unfortunate to recognize that education is an alienation for a significant number of children in this locale. Parental neglect, parental loss, lack of resources and facilities, complicate this sad situation. The health burden is obviously worse, with health seeking behaviour limited by ignorance, financial constraints, and lack of resources and facilities.
At the heart of this humanitarian settlement, and out of this abyss of hopelessness from the prevailing situation, a charity innovation emerged. Future stars is a non-governmental organization, which was established in January 2010, and leverages reachable resources to house and school underprivileged children. While it appears as a story to just admire, this charity thrives beyond its control, on a sustainability which is shaking. It has had, and continues to have its fair share of struggles. It provides shelter and schooling for its beneficiaries in rented apartments. It also depends on volunteers to complement its limited staff, which strive to combine the roles of guardians, caregivers and teachers each day. At the brink of bowing to challenges, this facility continues to welcome and empower children from kindergarten to grade six. The current lack of facilities for grades seven through nine, adds an extra responsibility of sponsoring qualifying wards in other schools. The health burden is complicated. It relies on volunteer healthcare professionals to provide screenings and other modalities of primary care. However, the lack of adequate housing and feeding facilities creates an obstacle. Volunteers are further burdened with the cost of accommodation and feeding, if they have to spend the night. This is potentially deterring for willing volunteers who are unable to manage the extra financial burden. Interestingly, the stakeholders keep their drive for humanitarianism awakened in another project, an advocacy for the elimination of child trafficking, which hinges on awareness creation and public education.
The touching part of the Future Stars story lies with the stakeholders’ undying drive for sustainability and expansion, to facilitate increased admissions and better living conditions for wards. This dream lingers, as the building project and plans for additional staff and resources cannot be realised due to lack of funds and support. Consequently, the future of 35 children currently being housed, out of the total of 135 being schooled, and many more children whose lives could be changed, dangles at the mercy of benevolent patrons. To help Future Stars in their endeavours to change the fate of these underprivileged children, you can visit their site and contribute using their Donate section. With $5, you can provide a child with educational material for a year. With $10, you can provide a child three meals a day, for one week. With $250, you can provide housing for the orphanage children for three months. With $500, you can sponsor twenty children in high school. The donations are accepted through PayPal, but you don't have to create a PayPal account; their payment system allows you to use your debit or credit card.
CHARITY and MY SCHOOL
by Fauzia Majumder
I was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, studied in Holy Cross High School. The school was our favorite place, the books, library, playground, and the Sisters in our school, helping us to understand and enjoy lessons. When we grew up, we saw that local schools are not same. The lessons are not interesting, no action, and no story-telling, there was a small play-ground but we were not permitted to play, we felt sad for others. There wasn’t any library!
After serving my family, I came to live with my mum and dad. I saw under pillaged children are not getting proper education.
I bought the books I loved and enjoyed to read. I got some copies, color pencils. But nothing worked. Local people had local schools. So I thought for them, who were under-privileged. But according to them, when everything is free, it is not a good school, you will not get proper education there. It is like this that what you get free is totally free for you. Take it or leave it. You want education, you go to school, if you don’t feel like taking education, and you are free not to go there. No promises, no thoughts for others like teachers, facilitators waiting for you, no responsibility. I needed to pay the teachers and the house rent and the bills. So I started to take fees. I give them books, uniform, tiffin (some snacks) once a week and take them to a study tour. All of these works need money. So I ask them to pay as much as they can and the rest of the amount is added by me.
The name of my school is “STAR SCHOOL,” it is only a kindergarten school. We have 50 students from age 4+ to 10. Almost all of the students are under privileged. Their parents are working parents but never sufficient enough and they never can afford field trips. I myself try to offer them summer fruits, blankets for winter and toys to play inside the school. I give them, the most I can give. I want to bring up as well as they can serve the society. At least not to become like street vagabonds. They enjoy studying in my school, but I want to give them more. They need to have doctor’s check-up and need to know more about hygiene, to stay healthy and fit. I need educational toys to make learning fun and interesting. When they get some facilities, like free books, colors, toys, these will increase their interest which will keep them engaged with the lessons. My uncle helped me with the IPS,(indoor power system), the battery is finished. If I can afford a battery, the children will not feel hot and they will not suffer. They should learn to be honest, need to be brave and strong to face the challenges of life.
I spend nearly 450$ for my school, only to rent the flat and to pay the bills. The payment from the children is paid to the teachers. My family insists me to close the school, it is seven long years, (running 8th), and I don’t get any money, only some of my students love me and I love my students. I wish to see them succeed in life.
I submit my wish-list, dear donators, your donation will bring hope to my underprivileged students. You can see them in Facebook page, link: https://www.facebook.com/STAR-School-1575081829404232/ and then the wish-list link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/Q2CPP1OAM8XJ
This is only for my students to give them those as prizes and gifts. You can send directly using DHL. Thanks, my hope and your donation, may brighten up their life.
You can send money in my Paypal account to help me with the rent, too: [email protected]
The Yellow Boat Project: A General Overview
by Teddy Cambosa
Zamboanga City: a maiden city in the far-flung island of Mindanao, is one of the “Land of Promise” cities that since antiquity had well-preserved the colourful and deep history of the land, particularly by the Moro people. It is where the most activity of Mindanao happens, and in some cases, a secondary figure from her sister city Davao in terms of commerce and tourism. It is also worth noting that the city is a beautiful melt pot of cultures, from the existence of natural tourist spots such as the Merloquet Falls and Abong Abong River, to the Spanish heritage that is the origin of the city’s Chavacano language, to the Western heritage of a city growing up in development, it is no wonder why Zamboanga City is given so many names, including “City of Flowers” and “Asia’s Latin City”.
Despite these factors, there are certain barangays (or counties) that are far from the city proper itself. And with the existence of these barangays, some of them could not afford ample simple transportation services, especially those living near coastal places that are laden with thick quantities of mangrove trees. Though scientifically speaking, mangroves are very beneficial in keeping tidal waves away from these coastal communities, the abundance of water that mangrove needs pose a conflict among the residents of Sitio Layag-layag in Zamboanga City to get to the city proper. Every day, they would have to swim to and fro to the city, with the depths that are way past above their heads. Hence, since 2011, the Yellow Boat Project has initially turned over 900 boats to various coastal communities in Zamboanga City that are primarily used by students to go to their schools clean dry, to the residents who bring their trading goods and raw materials to sell, and more importantly, used as mobile units to save the residents that are stranded when torrential rains come every monsoon season annually, and being used to transport relief goods and supplies, in partnership with other large volunteer groups such as the Philippine Red Cross.
The context for this humanitarian work is that the Philippines-though tropical in classification-is a gateway to most strong typhoons that normally occur between the months of June and November. And these monsoon seasons pose a great danger to the Filipinos, especially those living in coastal and water-based communities. With the Philippines being an archipelagic nation, accumulation of water during the rainy seasons would mean countless water surges that in turn flood the mainlands, severely affecting not only the local economy but also causing pandemonium that greatly disturbs the normal cycle of the locality. Though relocation is an option, it should be reminded that some societies exist in perilous places (as mentioned like coastal communities) because it is considered their source of income, and with their less amount of income would mean less money to be allocated for other necessities aside from food and clothing. Hence, the inclusion of movable transport within the community is a lot more preferable to foster movement and income to the locals and make bridges towards development.
The Yellow Boat Project, formerly known as the Philippine Funds for Kids, was the brainchild of Jay Jaboneta, a Filipino blogger, and Anton Mari H. Lim, a Filipino veterinarian. The project started out as a national campaign by Jaboneta and Lim upon their visit in Sitio Layag-layag and learning that kids go to school by swimming in the river to get to school. Launched in 2010, the national movement through social media caught the attention of initial donors, and in May 2011, through the generous donation of the City Department of Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of logs confiscated from illegal logging, the initial boat was being turned over to Sitio Layag-layag in March 2011. Since then, the word has been spread out through social media, and their advocacy has been brought to other less-fortunate places in the Philippines, such as in the Province of Masbate, considered as one of the country’s poorest provinces. The Yellow Boat Project continuously coordinates with other interested donors to find new communities for the turning over of boats. It is also worth mentioning that the Yellow Boat Project, in partnership with another organization called the Tzu Chi Foundation, has since then expounded the project by building and maintaining a daycare centre, building classrooms and schools, dorms, providing scholarships, providing school bags and other school supplies, conducting medical/dental missions, and empowering the community as a whole through applicable environmental and livelihood programs.
The Yellow Boat Project beliefs in the fact that by aiding the children, we create these abstract bridges that brings the future and the child closer. As being noted by the country’s national hero Dr. Jose Rizal: “The children are the hope of this Fatherland.” And with this great adage, The Yellow Boat Project believes that every boat is a symbol of hope, that no matter how different our social status are, as long as there is a helping hand, it takes every swish in the water, and every wood chipped to become a boat for a child to be optimist of the future.
The Yellow Boat Project accepts donation through its Philippine bank account on Banco de Oro (BDO), both Peso and US Dollar accounts. You can also register to their official website at http://yellowboat.org and your donation shall be credited from your PayPal account. For other information and concerns, interested donors may get in touch at [email protected].
Melel Xojobal (a phrase meaning ‘true light’ in the indigenous Mayan Tzotzil language) is an organization founded in 1997 to support the children of indigenous parents in the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico.
San Cristóbal de las Casas (‘Jovel’, or ‘place in the clouds’ in the most widely-spoken indigenous languages in the region) is situated in the Central Highland region of Chiapas at 2,200 metres above sea level. The altitude and the surrounding mountainous terrain ensure a refreshingly cool, damp climate, a fact not lost on the thousands of North-American and European tourists who flock there each year, many of whom end up staying much longer than they originally intended. A visitor can’t help but be struck by the low-key, low-rise Spanish-colonial era style of the buildings lining the narrow streets, especially if they arrived via the heat and bustle of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital. The traditional feel of the historical centre, one of the most obvious expressions (to the visitor) of the region’s culture, led to the city being designated one of Mexico’s pueblos magicos (Magic Towns) in 2003. Regardless of any ‘official status’, the ‘magic’ of the place can very easily take hold of the casual visitor and turn them into a semi-permanent resident.
More than climate and architecture however, the most striking thing for a visitor will be the indigenous culture and population embedded in the city. Roughly a third of the town’s population is indigenous, mostly Tzotzil and Tzeltal, the two largest indigenous groups in Chiapas. To a casual observer the indigenous women and girls (men and boys dress less traditionally and thus stand out less) might give a sense of ownership, that they are guardians of the area’s unique culture. While this is true, the inescapable fact is that a huge number of indigenous children in the vicinity of San Cristobal (as well as in the rest of Chiapas, other states in Southern Mexico, and in Guatemala) suffer greatly from the effects of poverty, lack of education, discrimination and deprivation of basic rights. While the world focusses its attention (rightly) on warzones and the most acute global humanitarian crises, and (wrongly) on the issues of drug trafficking and associated gang warfare in Mexico, indigenous children in Southern regions continue to be last in line as the benefits of modernity are unevenly distributed amongst Mexicans. Melel Xojobal seeks to redress this situation locally by providing direct and inexpensive support to indigenous children and young people in the vicinity of San Cristobal de las Casas.
While starvation is virtually unheard of in this fertile region, childhood malnutrition is a persistent problem in the region, and its prevalence is much higher in indigenous groups. Along with a lack of early stimulation, early childhood malnutrition is the most important factor in the gaps in later educational attainment between indigenous children and other groups. Melel Xojobal runs a day-care centre for babies and children aged 0-4. They receive two nutritious meals daily and, in cases of severe or chronic deficiencies, medical nutritional support. There are also early stimulation activities and play facilities, as well as workshops to which parents (some still in their teens) are invited. The majority of staff in the day-care centre are volunteers, increasing further the proportion of donations spent directly on supporting children. The same building is used for the day-care centre and all of Melel Xojobals’s administrative activities.
Many children aged 5-13 in the vicinity of San Cristobal work on the streets, with shoe-polishing and selling crafts as the two main areas of work. Melel Xojobal does not seek to take working children ‘off the streets’, but rather to provide them with educational activities and give support intended to prevent them dropping out of formal education, a persistent problem among indigenous families. Classes and workshops (directly funded by donations) in mathematics, Spanish and the children’s own indigenous languages are given in the areas where they typically work. These activities help cover gaps in the children’s education and help them develop the abilities and confidence to independently continue in formal education.
For teenagers aged 13-18, Melel Xojobal provides support by staging classes and workshops in the areas of education about basic rights, sex education, substance abuse and the right to self-determination. By taking part in these activities, the teenagers increase their chances of becoming self-determined adults with the ability to support themselves and their families and participate fully in the economic and political lives of their communities, their region and their country.
The support and activities provided by Melel Xojobal to the three different age-groups are intended to work holistically. Older children are often given the freedom to take part in the activities provided by Melel Xojobal and increase their school attendance (and also continue the economic activities that support their families) because younger siblings are at the day-care centre. Older teenagers increase their economic and political participation, which will in turn reduce the future need for large, inefficient foundations and social programmes.
Whether it’s toddlers who are both literally and figuratively ‘full of beans’, a twelve-year-old boy taking a break from shining shoes to attend a maths class, or a seventeen-year-old women speaking confidently at a press conference alongside a representative of the state government, Melel Xojobal hopes to remain a small, efficient organization that uses donations for the kind of direct assistance to children that has the most lasting effect on their well-being and prospects.
Donations to Melel Xojobal can be made directly through PayPal:
Alternatively, through GlobalGiving:
They can be contacted through their website: