May 24, 2021

Remote Learning

Supporting each other in difficult times
Supporting each other in difficult times

We sat at the dining room table getting ready for a meal together. Ambar, she asked that we not publish her real name, had told us that she would not be able to join us because she had class from 3 pm until 5 pm then another class at five. At 3:35 she walked downstairs to join us.
"The teacher delayed the class until 4:30, she wants to start then but we told her many of us have another class at five." The upside was that she could join us for a meal. With all the strange hours of remote learning, it is hard to get together for a meal.

The downside was that she would get no instruction and just be sent a project to work on for the class. We asked if this was common with her classes and she said "yes". Professors arrive late to the zoom classes and often cancel the class completely just sending work. More than once classes have been canceled at the last minute.

Ambar is majoring in renewable energy a the Tecnologico de Elta, Espinal Campus. They have been in remote learning mode for a year now. So I asked her how it was going. She said she was ready to be back in classes. 

"My major is heavy in math and engineering, that is really visual learning, it is hard to do over the internet. I would rather be in a classroom where I could see the problems on a board and talk to the teacher."

When asked how she finds out how to do the work sent to her she said, "We watch a lot of videos on YouTube and help each other out finding resources online to understand the material." She spends seven to eight hours a day online. "In my village, an hour of internet costs twelve pesos." Her father does not have a regular job and only makes about 150 pesos (7 USD) a day when he does work. The internet costs alone would take up half of her family's income.

Both staff and students have ongoing problems with internet connections, she is happy to be in our program and have decent internet service, but her teachers have not been very consistent. "They often cancel at the last minute. Our calculus teacher had some family problems and for a while was just sending us the work." She understands, as her own family is struggling. They had to leave their village to care for her mother's sister who was hospitalized for over a month.

Fortunately, her federal scholarship is still coming in, the USD 150 a month usually goes for school supplies and transportation to and from school. Since she has no travel expenses she saving for next semester's registration fees. "I don't want to be a burden on my family, I know they can't pay my fees this year so I am glad to save my scholarship."
With your support, Ambar has been able to stay in school this year.

It has not been an easy year for any of us and we are immensely grateful for your ongoing support. We understand that no one has escaped the stress, sadness, and difficulties of this past year. We all hope that in the fall students can return to classes in person. Vaccines are rolling out here, but slowly, this month teachers in public schools have finally been vaccinated and now Mexico is vaccinating 50 to 59-year-olds. We are hopeful and will keep moving forward thanks to your support.

Jan 25, 2021

Take My Place

Nereida and her nieces
Nereida and her nieces

This year has been a time of many movements, of changes. It is likely that many like me started 2020 with plans, with goals to meet.

In January last year at Centro de Compartimiento, we were asked to find a word to guide us through the year. It was not easy, even though I know so many, it seems that one by one they were erased from my mind. For a moment I felt desperate, but when I understood that it was my heart and my spirit that should respond and not my mind. I decided to keep silentto be guided.  I knew one thing  was sure, this word would remain with me at all times.

It was not easy to recognize, but something led me to “take my place”, I wondered many times what it was referring to, but I only heard a voice inside me that told me “let yourself be guided” and so I did… shortly after I realized  that it was more related to my family, and I purposely set out to do everything in my power to achieve it.

As a family we have gone through difficult situations, yet we have stayed connected. Then I realized that we only knew each other superficially, that is, we all knew where we were, what we were doing, but not all of us knew our dreams, desires, our struggles. So, I decided to take time to get to know them more intimately, at first everything seemed to be going well, although at a distance, since I work in Juchitan and they live two hours away in my village,we all stayed connected, little by little we were discovering things that we did not know about ourselves and that allowed us more closeness.

Later, when the quarantine began due to the pandemic, like everyone else, we were immersed in fear, in uncertainty, in not knowing when we would see each other again. What we saw and heard on TV, on social networks and in all the media within our reach made that fear increase. Although we saw the cases far away, we knew that we had to take the necessary measures.

July was the month that brought the most pain to my family. At this time, due to physical discomfort, my mother's partner was taken and admitted to a hospital. Everything seemed to indicate that it was not something serious and that he would soon recover, but a few days later they gave us the news of his death, the diagnosis, COVID-19. This news shocked us all, surprising and unexpected. We hid in our pain. We were living our own pain each alone. Like many more people who have lost a loved one due to the pandemic, we were hurt by the fact that we are not able give him his wake and bury him as we would have liked. We couldn't give him the last goodbye.

His death revived the pain we lived through 15 years ago, when we lost my father, we had lived my father's death as children and we did not allow ourselves to feel the pain.  Now it was double, the loss of the two people who represented our father figure. In the midst of the pain I could feel how this wound opened in me and for the first time through my personal develoment at Centro de Compartimiento,  I did not resist, I allowed myself to feel it and hug my injured girl. This time I was not afraid to show my pain, to show how vulnerable I felt, on the contrary, I ran towards the people who I felt could help me, and above all support me.

Undoubtedly, this time has not been easy, because of the pandemic we have all lived in the midst of chaos, fear, the uncertainty of not knowing who we will see again when this ends, and many like me, have lost someone we will remember forever. But I also believe that this has allowed us to be more aware in taking advantage of the time to let our family and friends know and feel how much we love them, how important they are to us, that we should enjoy every moment and every moment, not wait for the celebration of something to meet us, we must intentionally look for each other and even from a distance, we must connect with them.

Thank you for your continuing support of our program.  I studied high school and college in Centro de Compartimiento, and now manage our cafe.  Without your support and Centro de Compartimiento my life would not be the same.  I am dedicated to giving the the next generation the love and support that I have been shown and could not do that without your support.  Blessings in this New Year and strength to continue during the pandemic.  

Translated and edited by Kristin Lietz

Sep 25, 2020

Gardening 101

Planting Green Beans
Planting Green Beans

As COVID-19 shut down schools, stores, and all group activities we decided to focus on activities in the home. As a part of our program, our students plan individual service projects to help in the community. Most often the young women decide to tutor grade school students in the community or run reading circles. With the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, this was not possible and we began to look for new ways to help the community. It has long been a dream to create a vegetable garden on our property to reduce costs for food and become more sustainable. In March we got to know a non-profit in a nearby town that was teaching organic home gardening, so we arranged for them to come to teach our students.

We cleared the ground and prepared eight beds for vegetables, flowers, and herbs. Every evening the students spend time in the garden, planting, hoeing, pruning, and this past month harvesting. It has not been easy, some plants sprung up in the prepared beds and prospered, green tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, radishes.  Some came up slowly but are finally giving fruit, chiles, corn, and sunflowers. We are still struggling to find the right combination of soil, sun, and fertilizer for onions, greens, and carrots. With organic methods fighting bug and termite infestations take more time but keep the soil safer.

Around the edge of the garden we planted banana plants, and local flowing trees called guiechachi, that produce fragrant flowers used in celebrations here in our region. Many of the plants were donated by members of our women's groups, cuttings from trees, and suckers from banana plants.  Once we get the knack of gardening and the COVID levels subside we hope to pass on our new knowlegde to families in the community so that they too may start their own gardens.  We hope in time to have a shady quiet place where people can come and relax their spirits. 

A few of our students' fathers came and helped create the beds and give advice, many of them work the land, although their climate and soil are very different from ours, we are on a flood plain and they are from a cloud forest. But they had great advice and it was good to see them working with their daughters in the garden.
This month we are back with a full contingency of students. After months in their villages, most decided that their internet service was not adequate to continue with online courses. So they have returned at the expense perhaps of not being able to return to their villages for vacation times. It was a hard decision, but they consider that continuing their education is worth the sacrifice. Ximena, one of the few students with no internet in her village, stayed in town with us the entire school year and tried to go home for summer vacation, but due to the fears of COVID, she was not allowed in her village and returned to spend her weeks of vacation time with us.
Their fears are not baseless as the pandemic has ravaged our region, Our official infection rate and death toll are not high, but in July there were almost seven times as many deaths in the city than normally expected. Mexico is using "excess death" as a measure of the impact of COVID due to a lack of testing and low trust in health services.

With the ongoing support of donors like you, we can provide an isolated space for the students to live and study during the pandemic. We have new rules and the students do not leave the property much at all, our staff takes care of shopping for food. We are faced with new challenges, the saturated internet system in town is overwhelmed with online learning and meetings, we are looking at getting a second internet service to provide more bandwidth to our students. At a max of 20 Mbps, we can only connect a limited number of computers. We also are using our multi-purpose room as a computer lab as we ran out of study space at the dining room tables, with all the students in class at the same time.

Thank you again for your ongoing support.

First Harvest with Zapotec word for rebirth
First Harvest with Zapotec word for rebirth
Green tomato harvest
Green tomato harvest
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