Founder’s Corner: Hitting It Out of the Park

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Hitting It Out of The Park (Parents Mtg)

We hit it out of the park! The parents meeting in Los Morales this morning was a huge success on all levels. Our objective was to create a safe environment for teens to have a voice, for adults to be recognized for their contributions in the community, to open up space for parents to voice their experiences with education, literacy and leadership in order to then make a personal connection with our work.

When people first entered the room, the chairs were arranged in a semi-circle and the women were on one end, the men on the other, and the teens all together in the middle. This was anticipated by us as it is the norm. So Ismael, our Community Facilitator, asked them to sit with their families and asked the teens to take a couple of minutes to interview their parent about what favor they had done for someone in their community, something they’d done to make their community better, and then introduce him or her to the group. Vicky was translating for me as everything happened in Kaqchikel (the local Mayan language). One mother got her brother-in-law to stop drinking, another is a health promoter, the father of one of our scholars worked with the local authorities to plan the road out to the highway, etc. It was such a rich activity. It got the scholars talking to their parent which they don’t often do and it gave them a voice in a meeting with adults. The teens felt a tangible sense of pride as they spoke about their parent and each adult was honored with applause after their contribution had been shared.

Ismael then walked the group through one of our standard activities. He sad, “out of 100 kids, 25 make it to 6th grade and 10 to high school and less fewer than that graduate and maybe one makes it to high school.” Then he asked, “Why have you invested so much in educating your children?” Again many parents spoke up, but one stood out in particular. She was the mother of one of our young scholars, and she described how she was the only girl in her family and only her brothers were allowed to study. It made her feel like her purpose in life was to get married, and she wanted better for her daughter. She believes an education is a more valuable inheritance than land – which is saying a lot in these parts! Then Ismael explained that we also care about the education of their children and so we offer scholarships, but our program is not a scholarship program. There is need everywhere but we don’t select just anyone. “Your teens have been through a rigorous selection process,” he explained. “We are about literacy and leadership, not just scholarship.” Then he asked the parents what they would change about their community if they could with the snap of a finger. Internet connection, library, community center, paved road, were some of the offerings. And without Ismael prompting them, they themselves went right into the conversation of the need for better prepared leaders. These parents get it that their kids need to be literate so they can learn and be better leaders and make the community better. One of the mothers said, “This is not a group where girls go to find boyfriends, this is a group that forms leaders.”

No one, not a single parent, left the meeting saying, “Thank you for your financial support, thank you for the scholarship.” They left saying, “Thank you for working with our children to make them capable leaders.” And that’s exactly what we were aiming for!

I am over the moon, and I hope this leaves you feeling very proud of our work

– Linda Smith, Founder & Executive Director of Reading Village

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