Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Feliz Navidad Desde Llanos del Pinal!

Text and Photos by Amy Scheuren except as noted

Our final Family Support Center activity of 2015 was the Christmas Party.  We invited the participants' family members to join the kids, the staff, and volunteers at the Family Support Center on Thursday, December 17th. 

We arrived with piles and piles of gifts for the children, staff, and parents.  Each child received a new pair of school shoes, a new fleece jacket, and a small gift.  The staff members also received a fleece jacket and all of the parents received photos of their children. After distributing the gifts everyone enjoyed a traditional Guatemalan Christmas meal of tamales de arroz and caliente (rice tamales and a hot fruit and spice drink).

Our tree, tons of gifts, and a carpet of pine needles!

Some of our kiddos and their families waiting for the festivities to begin.

Thanks to Carmencita's tenacious Christmas shopping, we found candy canes in the Terminal Market and were able to play Dawn's candy cane game.  The object of the game is to pass the candy cane down the line, using only your candy cane--which is in your mouth!  We played three rounds with the kids and one round with the parents.  Everyone got at least one candy cane to enjoy--and some persuasive 11 year olds also received an extra candy cane.

Passing the candy cane!

Candy cane passing with close oversight from Jonathan
These two seemed to have experience at this game!
Photo by Ashley Aue

Distributing the presents

Making space in the pine needles for the trucks!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015 Scholarship Assembly

Text by Amy Scheuren
Photos by Albizael Del Valle

Pop Wuj hosted its annual scholarship assembly on Wednesday, December 2, 2015. We invited all 131 scholarship students and their families to Pop Wuj for the annual event.  In 2015 Pop Wuj had 65 students studying in primary school, 32 students in basico (middle school), 21 in high school, 7 in post-secondary education, and 6 in special education programs.  Unfortunately not all of the students were able to attend the assembly.

The morning started with a medical check-up in the Pop Wuj clinic for all scholarship students.  Then the scholarship students wrote and drew cards to their sponsors (padrinos and madrinas) and then eagerly awaited the beginning of the assembly.

We weighed and measured all of the students.

Writing letters

Working on letters and pictures

Carmen de Alvarado recognized this year's graduates, including 15 who graduated from primary school, 7 from middle school, and 7 high school graduates.  Then Roney Alvarado spoke to the students and their families about how the Pop Wuj Scholarship Program works and the importance of educaiton.  We also had some music from Angelica, a scholarship student who will begin university in 2016. 

Carmencita speaking to the group of students and families

Practicing "Noche de Paz"

2016 primary school graduates (and a few family member members!)

Some of our middle school (basico) graduates

Three of our high school graduates

If you'd like to sponsor a student's education for 2016, please donate $170 USD via Foundation Todos Juntos and specify that you would like your donation to support a scholarship student.  Your student will be assigned to you early next year.  The new school year begins in mid-January!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Swimming Fun at Villa Alicia!

Text and photos (except as noted) by Amy Scheuren

As a special treat, we took the older Family Support Center participants to Villa Alicia in Almolonga for a morning of swimming last week.

Dawn, a former intern, is back in town and happily taught some of the kids how to swim.  Others were just enjoying the pools and grounds.

Dawn's lesson, part 1

Photo by Ashley Aue

Enjoying a pool, chicken bus style.

Lending a hand

What a view!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Scholarships: One Last Trip to Chirijquiac in 2015

Text and photos by Amy Scheuren

We wrapped up the year in Chirijquiac on November 11, 2015.  All 13 of the students and their families attended the meeting during which we distributed school supplies, collected final report cards, and asked the students to write letters to their sponsors (padrinos and madrinas).  We celebrated a successful school year; all of the students in the Chirjquiac group passed!  Finally we shared a delicious end-of-year lunch prepared by the students' mothers.  Que rico!

We traveled a winding footpath through the corn to reach the house where we held the meeting.

Elizabeth, the General Projects Coordinator, helped the students with their letters.
Hard at work on the letters

Sintya asked her mom for help with her letter.

The students received their bags of school supplies with smiles!
All 13 of the Chirijquiac scholarship students
The students with their families

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Reciclar! Recycling Continues in Xela and Llanos del Pinal

Text and Photos by Amy Scheuren

We last recycled in August of this year.  Since then we've been collecting plastic, aluminum, tin, cardboard, and glass at Pop Wuj and the Family Support Center in Llanos.  On Thursday afternoon we headed out to Llanos to carry back 20 costales (big bags) of plastic on public transportation.  With help from John, a Pop Wuj student, and Dawn, a former intern, we were able to bring it all in and store it with the rest of the recycling on Pop Wuj's roof.

Plastic and glass on the Pop Wuj roof

On Friday morning we carried bags upon bags of plastic and other recylcing down two flights of stairs and awaited the truck.  We quickly loaded the truck and hit the road to Cantel.

Aerial shot of the loaded truck

Volunteer extraordinaire, Dawn, at the recycling center
We unloaded and recycled more material than ever before in the 3.5-year history of the recycling project.  We recycled:
  • 43 lbs. of glass
  • 38 lbs. of tin
  • 5 lbs. of aluminum
  • 7 lbs. of cardboard
  • 457 lbs. of plastic

Emptying our costales into the sea of plastic at the recycling center
Although I'm so glad we were able to avoid sending so much material to the landfill, it continues to be disheartening that we create so much waste at Pop Wuj and in Llanos del Pinal, especially plastic waste. Mejor a reducir y reutilizar!

All Clear!  The Pop Wuj roof after we recylced. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Nuevas Traducciones de los Blogs del Programa Contra la Desnutrición

Ahora ofrecemos los blogs del Programa Contra la Desnutricion (Pop Wuj Nutrition Program) en español!  Puede encontrar la traducción de los cinco blogs más recientes abajo del texto original.

Monday, December 7, 2015

De Colores: Another Art Project in Llanos del Pinal

Text and photos by Elizabeth Barnes

The Family Support Center was a jumble of stacked tables and benches, baskets of food, heaps of clothes, and a scatter of cleaning supplies when we arrived for la prueba de zapatos (trying on shoes) last Thursday, December 3. La prueba is the last chance to ensure that each FSC kid's upcoming Christmas pair of shoes fits properly. Now all we have left this year is a pool party for the older kids and a family Christmas party, so the staff are doing a massive cleaning and reorganization of the space.

While Amy and the FSC staff set up a shoe station, Pop Wuj students and volunteers herded the kids into the other room to keep them occupied with an art project. Former intern Dawn, newly returned to Xela, came up with the idea of combining a watercolor base with a black silhouette to create surprisingly beautiful and inventive paintings.

FSC teacher Gustavo gives Jonathan some painting tips.
The littlest kids were absorbed in their art despite not really understanding (or caring about) the suggested project. 
Oscar considers his landscape.
Ximena opts for more abstract self-expression.
Luisa draws inspiration from one of the sheets of vector art that Dawn put together. 
Jenna, a student in the Pop Wuj Medical Spanish Program, came with her teacher Carlos to paint with the kids. Both of them turned out to be talented artists!
Whether the kids followed Dawn's lead in combining watercolors with black silhouettes or forged their own artistic trails, their finished paintings were quite striking.

Arturo (in the green jacket, white trim) working on his masterpiece...
...and showing off the finished spooky landscape!
Most of the older kids sat together to avoid the chaos of the little ones.
Verónica's finished painting turned out lovely!
Marcelo's more abstract painting was one of my favorites. Stellar choice of colors!
Carmensita and Brandon were possibly the most dedicated to their craft.
Brandon's painting reflects the care and time he put into his work!
Cristobal combined several of the vector sheet ideas to compose his painting...
...a beautiful landscape featuring a wolf howling at the full moon.
Ever-smiling Ilcy invented her own whimsical landsdcape...
...featuring this lovely swing hanging from a spiraling tree!
Watching the FSC kids unleash their creativity was gratifying, as opportunities to create art without rules or limitations are rarer than we'd like in their schools. And of course we're happy that the kids had such a worthwhile way to spend their time while waiting for their turn to try on shoes!