Two of our socios recently returned from Guatemala after a successful collaboration with The Phoenix Projects, an organisation which runs several schools for impoverished children across Latin America.
The Phoenix Projects are aptly named. Not long ago they were facing financial meltdown following an unpleasant separation from a UK-based volunteer company. But now they have risen from the ashes with a much more robust and sustainable model. Rather than rely on volunteers, the Projects now employ local teachers, and the improvement in the quality and consistency of education available to the kids is plain to see.
Without Phoenix, these kids would be receiving a patchy schooling at best, and would miss out on the daily fruit and food programmes which are helping combat malnutrition in the communities. For that reason we were very happy to be able to donate over €3000, raised through generous contributions from friends and family, which will help pay some of those teacher salaries in the coming months.
Our first job was to provide support and training to Moli, Phoenix´s peripatetic English teacher, who flits from class to class to put the kids through their paces with “L3” – the third language they study after Kaqchikel (the local Mayan language) and Spanish. We were left impressed with Moli’s energy and commitment and the way she has children from pre-school to secondary responding enthusiastically to their English lessons. We are encouraging her to take some more formal training and we expect to see even bigger and better things from her in the coming years.
Particularly pleasing for one of our socios, who had been the English teaching manager with Phoenix five years ago, was to see two of his ex-students, Anna and Blanca, now qualified as teachers and working in the schools in San Andrés Itzapa and Santa María de Jesús respectively.
We also worked with Blanca´s “prepa” or pre-school group in Santa María. Not only could we see what an effective teacher Blanca was, but after sneaking into one of her lessons with Moli, we also saw how much her English had improved. The idea now is to help teachers like Blanca gain internationally recognised qualifications, thus extending their opportunities and allowing them to take over some of the English teaching themselves.
Finally, we were delighted to meet the first calf of “Plan Moo”! This sustainable project provides a pregnant cow to a family, who are then able to pay the costs of their children’s education – as well as provide some extra income to the family – by selling the milk. Plan Moo has worked very well in Ecuador and it looks like it will be just as successful in Guatemala.
All in all it was a fantastically enjoyable and inspirational trip. Many thanks to Dom and Doreen, Phoenix Projects managers, to Moli for participating in the training, to Elena and her family for looking after us in Itzapa, to Santiago and his family in Santa María, and of course to all the teachers and students in the Phoenix Projects schools. Hasta pronto!