Thursday, December 25, 2014

Feliz Navidad!

Text by Amy Scheuren
Photos by Melissa Vargas

We celebrated Christmas at the Family Support Center on Tuesday December 16th.  Family Support Center staff and volunteers had been preparing for the big day for weeks.  We measured feet and ordered shoes, sized sweaters, and purchased toys and/or small gifts for each of the forty children and youth.

On the day of the party, Pop Wuj Spanish language students, volunteers, staff traveled to Llanos del Pinal and joined the project participants, their family members, and the Family Support Center staff to enjoy a fun-filled Christmas party.  The main room was already decorated for Christmas and the gifts were placed under the tree.  The mothers and staff were finishing the preparation of the rice tamales, the typical Guatemalan Christmas dish.  The pine needles were spread on the floor and we started the marimba Christmas music.

We started with a welcome and a lengthy game of Pin the Nose on Frosty.  Each kiddo and some of the adults had a turn.

Oscar, the first kiddo to try it a try

Auri, being spun around a few times before her turn

Pinning the nose on Ashley instead

Most kids had a pretty good sense of where the carrot nose should go.

We also had to say goodbye to Adam, who has spent 12 months with us at the Family Support Center.  Gracias por todo Adam! 

Speeches were made, tears were shed

Next we distributed the gifts to all of the children and youth--new school shoes, a new sweater, and a small toy or gift for each one!  The mothers also received family pictures that were taken in October.

Finally, the food--tamales de arroz for everyone!

Doña Delfina, Carmelina, Doña Laura, and Doña Silvia with the giant pots of steamed tamales
Buen Provecho!

Everyone enjoyed the tamales and being together one last time in 2014!

Un fuerte abrazo!

Ingrid explains it all to Ashley

Frosty, post carrot attack

Feliz Navidad!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Vacation Wrap Up

By Amy Scheuren
Photos by Amy Scheuren and Jeff Leventhal

Math, K'iche', and English classes continued throughout all of November at the Family Support Center. Given by volunteers and staff, the classes were intended to be fun and include games to reinforce what the students are learning in school.  Yahtzee was a popular game in math class as was action verb charades in English class!

The older kids, i.e. those 12 years and older, also had a few fields trips, including photography workshops and a trip to COPAVIC, a glass-blowing cooperative in Cantel.  Cantel is a nearby K'iche' community.  COPAVIC allows visitors to enter the factory while the men work, blowing glass and making glassware from recycled glass.

The scorching ovens that turn the recycled glass into liquid

A few of our jóvenes even had the opportunity to try blowing glass!  The cooperative was funded in 1976 and provides work to 17 local artisans.  The best part was seeing how they work together to create the pieces of glassware.  We also passed through the store to see the final products of their work.

Erick, realizing that blowing glass is harder than it looks

Jacqueline also gave it a shot

Forming the glassware as it cools
Finally we had our annual pizza day.  The pizza activity has evolved a bit since the first time we held it over 7 years ago.  Now we make our own pizzas onsite--gluten-free as needed, hot dog toppings as desired.  We made enough pizza for 50+ people, including children, staff, and two volunteers who conveniently showed up just as the pizzas were ready to be served!

Lidia, preparing the dough in the indoor kitchen

A gathering crowd!

Erick, being quite helpful

We grated a LOT of cheese

Vacation fun ended on November 28th with our last day of regular activities.  Check out the blog  about the Water Games to see how it all turned out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Scholarship Roundup: The 2014 Year-End Assembly

By Amy Scheuren
Photos by Jeff Leventhal

Pop Wuj held its Annual Scholarship Assembly on Wednesday November 26, 2014, inviting over 140 scholarship students and their family members to the Pop Wuj for a day full of activities.

It all started at 8am with medical checkups for the scholarship students.  All students were weighed, measured, and given preventive anti-parasitic medication, a fluoride treatment, and month's supply of vitamins.  If any student was sick, they also had a full consult with one of the Pop Wuj staff doctors.

Ingrid, being weighed and measured

Vitaminas para todos!
The next stop was upstairs at Pop Wuj where the students began writing letters to their padrinos and madrinas--their scholarship sponsors.  As students from Xela, Llanos del Pinal, Xeabaj II, Chirijquiac, San Juan Ostuncalco, the Southern Pacific Coast, Solola, Momostenango, and other nearby villages worked on their letters, their family members found seats and waited for the formal assembly to begin. Michael, a Pop Wuj student, helped keep the kids entertained with his fine guitar skills!

Michael and Oscar playing guitar
Carmen de Alvarado, the Pop Wuj Director of Social Projects, spoke first, acknowledging the hard work and consistent effort of the scholarship students and their families.

Carmen honored the thirteen high school graduates.  Eight young women and five young men graduated from high school this year.  Some of these graduates expect to continue studying part-time next year.  Others will begin working full time.

High school graduates
Carmen then honored the basico graduates, the students who have completed middle school (9th grade).  This year six boys and ten girls graduated from basico.  We anticipate that all of these students will continue their studies next year.

Basico (middle school) graduates
Finally, Carmen called the primary school graduates to the front, recognizing the two boys and eight girls who have completed 6th grade. Graduates of all levels received a book as a graduation present.

Primary school graduates

Next, piping hot paches de arroz (rice tamales) and hot fruit punch were served.  Doña Delfina and the mothers of the Family Support Center children and youth prepared 400 paches!

Serving the paches

After lunch Adam and Jeff corralled the students for pictures on the roof.  Carmen and Amy met with community leaders and individual families to receive last-minute grades, distribute the December scholarship payment, and provide school supplies for the 2015 school year.

Students from the Llanos del Pinal group

Students from Momostenango

Students from the Xeabj II group

Students from the Chiriquiac group

Students from the San Juan Ostuncalco group

Students from Xela

The very last stop of the day was the "paca."  We offered clothing, shoes, and various other items for sale at very low prices.  The approximately $50 that we made from the sale went directly back into the Scholarship Program Fund at Pop Wuj.  

La paca!

Craziness ensued in the paca

It was a long and tiring day, but it was fantastic to see so many students together, recognized for their academic achievements and their families' perseverance in the face of countless obstacles.  The 2015 school year begins in mid-January and we're hoping for an even better year for our students!