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CONTENTS: Junior High for mature pequeños

A pool instead of A portrait of our girls’ flowers house director


The Holy Week

who is new ?

Visitors’ Day

Junior High for mature pequeños

A new educational model has been introduced in our home very recently. The Spanish term we use for it is “Basico por Maduréz”, which means “Junior High for Adults”. This new model gives mature students, who despite their age have not passed “Basico” (7 th-9th grade) yet, the opportunity to finish these grades in less time and on a more adequate level. Being based on weekend classes, the course also makes it possible for the students to undergo a vocational training at the same time. Most of our children come to us from a very unstable and poor background. Many of them did not go to school regularly before and are therefore far behind their peers in terms of education. Some of our “pequeños” are already young adults but still have not finished Junior High or even Primary School. Needless to say that this causes some difficult problems for our school. Having to attend the same classes with much younger children is hard for a young adult and can be demotivating,. Even more problematic is the big delay in life and career plans that the children are facing. They know that by the time they finish school they are going to be comparably old. Considering that in the Guatemalan culture people usually get married and begin to work at a very early age, this is obviously a depressing perspective. Just for that reason a twenty-year-old pequeño very recently decided to leave the home and begin to work instead of finishing school with NPH. In this situation the idea was born to offer an alternative opportunity. In the second week of March nine already mature pequeños enrolled at a private institute in Chimaltenango, the next bigger town. The school is specialized in adult education and offers weekend courses for Basico. Due to an adjusted, higher learning tempo the students complete the three grades in two instead of the usual three years, hereby saving some of their time lost. Classes are only on Saturdays. For the rest of the week the students receive homework and extensive worksheets with which they have to prepare themselves for the next class. This system surely requires a lot of responsibility and it is still to be shown how well the “children” can handle that. However, more self-reliance and the contact with older adults in class might give them extra self-confidence and help increase their learning motivation.

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Another main advantage the new model is that - thanks to the weekend classes - it gives the students the time to simultaneously learn a practical profession. As soon as our new workshops are ready all of the participating children will receive training in a practical trade there during the week. The only two subjects they still have to attend at our school in San Andres, will be English and Computing, because they are not part of the external course and we consider them as very important. The feedback from the students’ side is very positive so far: “Of course one has to take more responsibility,” replies Erasmo to my question how the new model appeals to him, “but I kind of like that”. Erasmo is eighteen and entered the course directly in the second year, because he had already passed one year of Basico. “When the workshops are finished I’m going to make a training in electronics during the week”, he says, “and if possible I would like to carry on with that after school”. The first exams have turned out very encouraging, too. Over all we are optimistic that the new model will prove successful. And of course we would like to continue with the next generation of students. Fortunately the study fees are relatively low. Nevertheless we would of course appreciate Erasmo, 18, is taking part in the new any financial support. model. He wants to be trained in electronics

fees per student : Enrollment fee Semester payment Examination fees

Study fee

30 $ 8$ 25 $

185 $

twice per year for all exams in one year

18,5 $ monthly ; 10 months a year

* rounded figures

Since recently we have a wonderful new attraction for the children of our Babies’ house. In “Casa San Bernardo”, the former boys’ house, where the Montessori Kindergarten and the preschool are located, there is now a little pool in the garden. So far the children in the babies’ house have hardly had the chance to go swimming, except on special excursions. Our Montessori teachers wanted to give them the opportunity to experience

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how much fun water can be, apart from the familiar daily shower, so they came up with the idea of the pool. The money for it was raised in a special way. Our Montessori teacher Harriet (see March newsletter) recently had to return to Germany for a few weeks for a very sad cause. Her father had fallen sick and passed away. For the funeral Harriet asked her friends not to spend money on flowers but rather make donations for our home in Guatemala. This way she raised enough money to afford the two hundred dollars for the pool. When the kids used the pool for the first time their reaction was amazing. They threw themselves into the water like they had always been longing just for this splashy refreshment. Since then there has hardly been a day where you could not hear the kids’ excited laughter from the back of the garden. No wonder – now during the hot season, more than ever, a cool bath is just the right thing. I am sure if Harriet’s father can see the children splashing around, he will be happy that there were so few flowers on his funeral.

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- a portrait of our girls’ house director For a moment I have to wait in front of the girls’ house office, because Yanet is just having a conversation with two of the girls. “There was a little dispute I had to settle” she says with a smile when she waves me in a few minutes later. Before I begin my interview I have a short glance at the small room, which is both office and Yanet’s sleeping quarter, and what instantly catches my attention are the drawings and letters pinned all over the wall behind her desk... presents from the girls that show in a touching way how much affection they have for Yanet… The 30 year old with the happy laugh has been the director of our girls’ house for four years now. Born in Cuba she committed herself to social work Yanet likes pets, Tina Turner and baseball, already at a very early age. With sixteen she began and she speaks pretty good English. to work as a volunteer for the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa, caring for children and sick and elderly people in her free time. Having finished high school at twenty she decided to become a member of the Order and was a nun for four years. Later she left the order but continued to work as a volunteer. Through Sister Kolbe, the former director of the girls’ house, who was also member of the missionaries of Charity, Yanet initially got in contact with NPH. With twenty-six she decided to leave Cuba and follow the offer to become the new head of the girls’ house in Guatemala. At first Yanet had been planning to stay only for one year, but since then she has prolonged her time over and over again, and now she says she doesn’t want to leave. “I really love my work here!” she says. “It is just great to share everyday life with the girls, both the little and the important things! Of course it can be very tiring sometimes… But then again there are so many situations where you see the girls happy and have fun with them, and you think it was a hundred times worth the stress” Unquestionably, patience is something very important if you have to keep the order in a house of more than 120 girls coming mostly from problematic backgrounds. But fortunately Yanet has got a lot of it. “The way she deals with the really difficult girls is amazing.” says Marion, a volunteer-tia in the girls’ house and a good friend of Yanet. “She hardly ever looses her temper, and always has enough energy for her typical humor and good ideas.” On her free weekends Yanet often organizes activities for her girls. This week, for example, she went on a camping trip to the Pacific coast with a little group, and a few weeks ago she hiked the volcano Agua. For summer school at the end of the year Yanet is planning a special project: She wants to take a group of children from the home on a one-week trip to a poor rural area in the mountains of Zacapa. Only two months ago Yanet visited the little community high in the mountains for the first time and was shocked by the incredible poverty. “Those people hardly eat anything else than tortillas, and they are so cut off from civilization that they were scared when they saw one of us

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speaking on a cellular phone!” Yanet remembers. “I would like to give classes to the children of the village with some of our older kids. I’m sure this will be an important experience for them.” Innovative Ideas like these and engaged people like Yanet are keeping us moving and make life for our kids as nice as it should be. That is why we are glad to have you, Yanet!

The most important event in our home this month was unquestionably the Semana Santa, the Holy Week. In Guatemala like in most predominantly Catholic countries, Easter is the most important religious celebration of the year and is traditionally widely celebrated. Every year many tourists come to Antigua, the beautiful colonial town and tourist attraction close to San Andres, to see the impressive processions that go along with the Holy Week. In Casa San Andres we had not only celebrations and activities, but also religious instruction about the Christian meaning of Easter. The week began on Palm Sunday with the mass in the local church of Parramos. Part of the children stayed in the Church afterwards for the rest of the day for religious instruction. They talked with the priest about Easter and confessed their belief. On Tuesday we had a big competition, in which every class of our school created a “carpet” (alfombra) for the later procession. These carpets are typical for Guatemala and part of the Easter tradition. For the processions of the Way of the Cross, people prepare carpets with all kinds of patterns and motives out of coloured sawdust on the streets. But the beautiful pieces of art only survive for a short time. When the procession begins hundreds of feet destroy the short-lived beauty.

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Year after year the “alfombra” competition turns into a wonderful event, especially because the kids show such an amazing enthusiasm. Working hand in hand and very concentrated they prove sometimes-unnoticed artistic skills and a lot of creativity. At the end the jury had a hard time choosing the best carpet. The competition ended with the procession of the Way of the Cross, for which we had made or own little statue. With a little regret we had to step on the beautiful carpets.

Thursday was the mass of the Last Supper and a procession in Parramos. On Good Friday we fasted during the day, except only for the very little ones. Instead there was a special procession, in which children enacted the different steps of the Way of the Cross. At night we had fish for dinner. Sunday the children got to know a foreign Easter tradition: the Easter Egg Hunt. Early in the morning more that 350 eggs were waiting to be found around the children’s houses, all hand painted by the volunteers the day before. Right after waking up the hunt began, and in no time the fields were full of eagerly searching kids. Afterwards you could see the proud faces of successful hunters showing of their prey. But the happiest ones were certainly those who found the golden bonus eggs which were rewarded with a special prize! The Easter Egg hunt is a custom that is unknown in Centro America. Needless to say the children had many questions about this strange Easter bunny… After a special pancake breakfast we all went to Mass and later we took part in a procession of the local church. Some of the kids helped carrying the statue.

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The last Sunday of April was “dia de visita”, visitors’ day, one of the yearly three occasions on which parents and relatives can come and visit their children. These days are always very touching, both in a sad and in a happy way… At eight o’clock in the morning the first visitors began to arrive, and by midday the area around the school buildings looked like a camping site. Everywhere the families had put up little grills they had brought and were sitting together, eating, talking, hugging, laughing… Luckily the weather was very nice and warm which contributed to the nice atmosphere.

It was good to see the happy faces of the children who still have relatives that really care about them. In view of the harmonic atmosphere in some of the little families one would even wonder why the children couldn’t stay with these people. But of course in reality it is more complicated than that. Unfortunately not all of the supposedly loving relatives are really as nice and –above all- as responsible with the children as it may seem on the first view. And in some cases the remaining parents or relatives just don’t have the financial means to care for their children. The latter situation is maybe the saddest one. It is also hard to stand beside while some of the children are waiting in vain for their family to come. For these kids we always have a special activity or excursion, but of course that cannot really make up for the lonely feeling on visitors’ day. In different ways even the ones who are visited by their family are sometimes upset afterwards. These are the main reasons why we only have three days for visits per year. Nevertheless this visitors’ day was after all a beautiful day, as you maybe can imagine looking at the pictures…

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JosĂŠ 1, Cecilia 10, Juana 5, Ana 8 The mother of these four children died less than half a year ago. Their father had severe financial problems and could not even afford enough food for his son and his three daughters. In their desperate situation he and the kids found help at NPH.

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!!! ---- For reasons of privacy no Surnames of children are mentioned in this Report ---

Lukas Graaf Family Correspondent

Nuestros PequeĂąos Hermanos Guatemala


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