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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Announcing the CEIBA and Anmutsipical Scholarship Program- support Salvadoran youth education today

It has been the dream of both CEIBA and our partner organization to begin a scholarship program for many years. We wanted to wait and be sure we had the experience and program structure to ensure that we could transform young lives in a big way. This is more than sending children to school; this is about giving young Salvadorans the support they need to ensure their health, education, and inclusion in youth groups enables them to define their own futures. We have carefully selected 4 recipients this year, and have already received 2 large donations. We need to raise a little over $3,585 to support two more students, Wilber and Arely. Please consider making a donation on our paypal account. Details below.


Ceiba Foundation and Amnutsipical Scholarship Program

Goal: Provide an integrated scholarship for children with the greatest merit and need in the communities of El Sauce, Santiago Texacuangos and San Jose, Santo Tomas, in El Salvador

Description:
This program will provide an integrated scholarship to support the education aspirations of youth. The scholarship includes a medical check-up with medicine, as well as a family food basket to the child’s family to support nutrition. We feel that good nutrition and good health are an essential basis for education, because nothing is learned on an empty stomach. Local partners Amnutspical will engage in monthly meetings with scholarship students and families, to assess the success and development of each child. Family support is also integral to the success of each scholarship student.  Finally, La Casa Verde “Planet One” library, located in the San Jose community in Santo Tomas will provide a space of tutoring and mentorship for students.

The selection process is competitive, and youth aspiring to a scholarship will fill out an application to be reviewed jointly by CEIBA and Anmutsipical.  Children will be chosen based on merit and need, and the number of children will be determined by available budget. For 2014-2015, we hope to support 4 youth. Recipients must participate in meetings, maintain at least a B+ average (7 of 10 in the Salvadoran schooling system). In addition, recipient are requires to do 40 hours of community service each month, and will write up their own service plan in conjunction with community leaders and Anmutsipical. Failure to complete service hours are grounds for scholarship removal.

Children will be placed in private, public, or partly private schools based on their aspirations.  Primary school children will be sent to a local catholic school, which provides the best elementary education in the area. Highschool students will choose a specialty highschool, which may be a local public school, or private school as far as San Salvador. The scholarship covers all school fees, transportation, and lunch. See requirements for students and details of the program written by Norma and Juancho, who are running the program in El Salvador, Here (in spanish).
We recognize the importance of education for youth to become changemakers in their community and country. Knowledge is power, and we want to support future leaders to bring themselves, their families, their communities, and their countries out of structural poverty and injustice.

Budget: $4440

For 2014-2015 school year, a full year scholarship for elementary and middle school cost $1345, and for highschool, $2200.

This year, we are starting our program with 4 scholarships, 2 primary school and 2 highschool, and need to raise a total of $3585 to compliment scholarship for 2 more students, since 2 have been already generously donated. Budget details below.



Scholarship Type
Annual Price
# of students
Total
Primary (semi-private)
1345
2
2690
Secondary (private)
2220
2
4440
TOTAL

4
7130
PAID FOR

2
3585
Needed

2
3585

Primary School Scholarship

Item
Annual Cost
School fees
120
School food fee
15
Shoes
40
Backpack and school supplies
50
Family Food Basket ($15/month)
180
Annual full medical checkup
100
Transportation
240

Coordination

600

TOTAL

$1345


Highschool Scholarship

Item
Annual Cost
School fees
360
School food fee
360
Shoes
40
Backpack and school supplies
100
Family Food Basket ($15/month)
180
Annual full medical checkup
100
Transportation
240
Bus fare
240

Coordination

600

TOTAL

$2220


Our recipients for the 2014-2015 year are Wilbur, Estefani, Arely, and Benjamin:

Arely:

Arely is 10 years old. She was one of the first girls to join the casa verde children’s group. 2 years ago, she began volunteering in the community and getting more involved in community projects. She lives with her mother and little brother. Her mother cleans for a business in San Salvador. Her first school years were difficult, because of the absence of her father, but she is now in 5th grade, and her notes are very good. She has improved from grades of 6 (on a 10 scale system) to grades of 8 (which are very good for Salvadoran school standards). She has incredible strength for her age.


For arely we need to raise $1345

Wilber:

Wilber is 16 years old. He is one of the most active members of the youth group in El Sauce since its inception, and has been elected the president. He has incredible leadership skills, and through his efforts, the youth group continues their struggle to open the youth computer center in El Sauce. Wilber is currently studying at a public highschool, but it is his dream to go to college. He wants to become a computer engineer, but this seems difficult for his family. His mother sells typical foods in the market, and it is not enough to support her son’s studies, as she earns only $10 per week. Wilbur wants to enroll in computer and english classes to supplement his studies, and to prepare him to apply to computer science programs for college in a few years. Wilbur has agreed to run the El Sauce computer center on a volunteer basis for the duration of his scholarship. Wilber says, “I want to study to overcome my situation and open doors to a good job to help my family. I want to really be someone in this life, more than who I am today. I want to create opportunities for other youth in my country to study as well.”

For Wilber we need to raise $2220

Benjamin :

Benjamin is part of a large family, but only him and his sister study. His father work in offices as a Handy man from time to time, and Benjamin lives with his grandparents and 11 other people. He is a Young man finishing his primary education and is ready to start highschool. He will begin highschool at the Catholic Center for Our Lady of the Rosary, and is focusing his classes on tourism and hotel management.  Benjamin likes to travel, and loves to show others that there are beautiful places in El Salvador, and show them the beautiful richness of his country. He says “I want people to see El Salvador not as a violent place, but as one full of marvelous places and hard working people.” Benjamin says this with the hope of attaining a scholarship to go to school, work, and later help his sister study, since they are the 2 members of their family with the highest levels of education.

Benjamin’s Scholarship has been generously supported by Gregory and Helen Normal, from Dallas Jesuit Highschool.


Estefani:


Estefani is 10 years old, and is currently in 5th grade. She is in a public School. She wants a scholarship to begin semi-private school that has more opportunities, such as English and computer classes. She has never had computer classes, and she knows in a better school she can have a different kind of education that will give her tools for the future. Her grades range from good to excellent, and she feels proud of her work. In the community she is a leader of the casa verde program, and is a great help with integrating the smallest children in the community.

Estefani’s Scholarship has been generously supported by Bill and Mary Sladek, from Dallas Jesuit Highschool.




Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Reforestation in El Sauce


By chance, the same week I left for a reforestation project in El Salvador, the drab, grey, dull sidewalk near my subway stop was transformed by the planting of new trees.  What a great way to be sent off!  A while back, the community of El Sauce in Santiago Texacuangos approached Beth asking to reforest the area above their community managed aquifer, which had shown many contaminants in a recent test.  Through fundraising efforts at my work, and with the community’s excitement behind us, we purchased 300 trees and supplies to reforest the hill above the aquifer. 

To kick the project off, CEIBA agronomist and founder, Vladimir Jimenez, joined the community meeting Tuesday to go over some important points.  He gave details on how to space out the trees, how deep to dig the hole so that the primary roots are all facing down, the importance of keeping the space in which the tree is planted flat – but most importantly, he said the community must stay involved with monitoring and caring for the trees.


 



Reforestation is particularly important for El Salvador because of the country’s extreme environmental vulnerability.  Through extensive deforestation during the war (20.5% of forest lost since 1990) and unmanaged logging, only 2% of the country is covered by primary forest.  It has the second highest deforestation rate in the Western Hemisphere, second to Haiti.  That combined with an already vulnerable climate make El Salvador extremely susceptible to landslides, and “natural” disasters.

Vladimir discussed this with the community, and I was glad to see how invested everyone was, arriving with notebooks and questions.  I was thrilled with the great turn out from the youth as well – and impressed that they took interest in the project.  About 20 community members showed up, including one older woman,, Niña Conchita, who I could tell was sizing up the new gringo during the talk.


Friday afternoon we hired a truck and picked up the trees.  Vladimir suggested the community get five kinds: cerezo, cortez blanco, tamarindo, guachipilin, and ceiba.  These five together would filter water and stablilize the soil through fast growing roots.



Down a bumpy, muddy road, we fetched and loaded the trees, then headed back to San Salvador to pick up bokachi (fertilizer).  If you haven’t ridden on top of a flat bed truck with 800 lbs of fertilizer and 300 trees through the streets of San Salvador, you haven’t lived. 
    
After cutting through the thick smog and busy traffic, we dropped off the goods to Henry’s home in El Sauce, with the help of community children who formed a fireman's carry.





Early to rise Saturday – the fun began.  As we arrived in El Sauce, the community members were already out hard at work, chopping down vines, and preparing the hillside, Both Beth and I originally thought the area would be relatively flat, and that the we could easily plant the 300 trees, but we quickly found we were totally off.  The area to be reforested is the side of a steep hill, with no path, and loose soil. 



 I again saw Niña Conchita, age 72; this time pulling the cut large vines off the side of the hill, slowly but surely, and with great strength for someone her age.  It was at this moment I realized one of the most important lessons of my trip.  I think of problems on far too large a scale.  But seeing her (and the whole community) work together and focus just on this small hillside, made me realize you have to just focus on one community, one hillside, one garden…and do the most you can there.  Conchita, despite her age and physical limitations, did as much as she could to contribute to the project, and that focus and that work makes the difference to that one area.



With the clang of machetes from the thick vine cover, we learned that the first step, as decided by community leaders and the agronomist, was to remove the invasive vines covering the hillside.  The hillside appears green and lush, but it is really covered with invasive vines that suck up water, and choke the existing trees, killing them, and blocking sunlight for any new saplings.  The roots of the vines are very shallow, providing little to no protection from soil erosion.

What to do? – machete the entire side of the hill to cut out the vines.  I picked up my newly purchased machete (which I was planning to use to cut tall grass in my NYC garden – not one inch thick vines!), and started to hack away at what I could.  I tried to copy the 10 year old kids wielding their machetes with ease, but was getting no where.  What was I doing wrong?  Finally, one of the boys pointed out that mine was completely unsharpened, and basically useless.  Phew, so it wasn’t me who was incompetent, but my machete…or at least that’s what I’ll pretend.

 Fortunately, there were extra machetes, so I was able to hack, hack, hack, and hack the vines down.  You can see here what the area looked like before (not exactly the area, but right to the left of it, giving you the idea of what it looked like before), and then what we were able to accomplish after a day of work.  No trees were planted the first day, but subsequent work days will get them in the ground.
Before
After

 We were invited in to Henry’s house for lunch, and had the most delicious cheese, fresh tortillas, avocado and boiled vegetables.  As I sat and slowly regained my strength, I looked around, and absorbed their humble existence.  I had to force myself to stay composed, as I was already overwhelmed by the day, and now more so because of the generosity of this family.  I could not believe how quickly and gladly we were welcomed to their home, and offered more to eat than we could finish.

The most striking part for me was the family’s water, a giant blue barrel of murky, silty water feeding into a concrete sink.  This water is what they use for drinking, bathing, cooking, everything.  I immediately thought of my own battle to protect our water in New York state against hydraulic fracturing (a kind of gas drilling), and saw first hand how precious water is.  I felt anger and guilt thinking about how easily we take clean water for granted in the US, and the how often we use it for trivial purposes - but here was a family with no choice.  This is their only life-giving water.

I learned and experienced so much during this action packed week, and am glad we were able to begin the reforestation of this one hill.  I won’t forget the hard work I saw, passion to bring about change, and ability to keep going despite difficult circumstances.  I thank the people of El Sauce for allowing me to join them in this project, and especially the young kids for teaching me how to use a machete.