‘Roma’ and Personal Reflections on Guatemala and Child Aid

This blog post was crafted by Global Grandmothers board member, Sarah Pruden.


Winner for best foreign language film at this year’s Oscars, Roma, based on the director’s childhood, takes place in an upper-middle class area of Mexico City in 1970 – ‘71. It brought me back to my summer in Guatemala in 1974, the seeds of my interest in Guatemala’s indigenous people and my love of Child Aid, a non-profit that assists them.

During the summer of 1974, I experienced much of the life depicted in the film but in Guatemala City when my husband, Hank, took a teaching job at a new university, Francisco Marroquin. Hank’s mother, Maruca, had emigrated from Guatemala City to California in 1928.  

We, including our two daughters ages four years and seven months, were provided an apartment where tiny maids speaking an indigenous tongue insisted on doing everything for me: I should not pick up a dish let alone wash it!  Our apartment was in a garden surrounded by a wall with shards of glass on top. The neighborhood, like the one in the film, Colonia Roma, was upper-middle class.

One of my mother in law’s sisters, Margot, remained in the city with her husband, a doctor.  That summer we visited them at their home in Zona Una, the most central and oldest part of the city. Just as in the film, huge gates faced the street, and inside them at the back of an open courtyard were rickety stairs leading to the servants’ quarters. Margot always shopped with a maid to lug the bags, but she didn’t treat her or the other servants with any respect.  In Roma when the mother and father yelled orders about cleaning up the dog poop in the driveway to the servants, it reminded me of Margot.

My mother-in-law, after living in California on a chicken farm for fifteen years, returned in 1960 to visit her sister and cousins with fresh eyes. She saw the class system there from the perspective of an outsider, and one who had personally toiled on a farm.  She came back to the U.S. saying she could not abide the way her family and old friends treated indigenous people.

Recipients of Child Aid services

While we were in Guatemala, Margot accompanied our family to the home of her son, Hector, a man with power. The house was adjacent to his coffee plantation and near his medical practice in a small rural community. Because he was a member of the Congress, there were machine gun-toting guards at the entry to the home, and at night attack dogs roamed the grounds. Imagine my nightmares with a baby just learning to crawl!

Hector was on his third wife, very young, parading around the pool in her bikini and constantly calling him, “mi amor.” Neither of them paid any attention to their son, who was about two. There was an ever-present nanny, with whom I spent time in the kitchen where she was giving the little boy dinner and where I was feeding my baby daughter. This woman told me that she had never had a child who lived beyond three; I don’t know if the deaths were stillbirths as in Roma or the result of disease. I do doubt that anyone would have taken her to a hospital.

Roma gives a clear view of both the class system and rural poverty.  I too saw rural and urban poverty as well as distrust of and disdain for the indigenous people who came to Guatemala City hoping for “a better life.” Rural poverty was extreme. When we were at Hector’s coffee plantation, many of the farm workers formed a line on a Sunday morning to request favors or money from him. He listened and seemed to respond to many of them.

As I reflect on that summer, I recall when we went to Lake Atitlan for a short holiday including a boat trip with stops around the lake. The local children, most with runny, infected eyes, were fascinated by my baby in her stroller. Not realizing that these children did not speak or understand Spanish, I kept saying, “No toca,” which I thought meant “no touch.”  Despite my concerns for my little one, my heart went out to those poverty-stricken children.

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

When I learned about Child Aid, which trains teachers, educates children, and provides books to local schools and libraries in the same communities around Lake Atitlan, I knew it should be a Global Grandmothers’ recommended nonprofit. After my husband died, I suggested that friends donate to Child Aid in his memory because Guatemala was an important part of his heritage.  Additionally, helping the less fortunate, especially through education, has always been a core value of our family.

I was very moved by Roma. I wish that my husband could have viewed it with me, and we could have reminisced about our summer in Guatemala almost forty-five years ago.  In addition to triggering many memories from that time in 1974, the film reinforced my commitment to support the work of Child Aid with indigenous children in rural Guatemala.  Perhaps some are the descendants of those very children who looked with confusion at me pushing that strange contraption with my pale curly haired baby!

Children in the Child Aid program

#GivingTuesday is back! On 11/27 – Double Your Impact!

#GivingTuesday is November 27th this year.  Facebook and PayPal have generously offered to match up to $7 million of funds raised for US nonprofits on Facebook. Donations will be matched up to $50,000 per nonprofit, with a max of $1,000 per donation, until the $2 million in matching funds run out.  

On Tuesday, 11/27, your funds will be matched if you donate here by clicking on the blue ‘Donate’ button on our page.



Is the matching campaign time sensitive?

Somewhat! Facebook and PayPal will match $7 million across all of Facebook.  So, once this number is hit, the matching campaign will conclude. The campaign starts at 5 AM PST, 8 AM EST, 11/27 – so don’t sleep in too late!

What does this mean for you and Global Grandmothers?

If you donate $10, Global Grandmothers will receive $20.
If you donate $50, Global Grandmothers will receive $100…and so on.

How will my donation be used?

Global Grandmothers will allocate 100% of the donations it receives on #GivingTuesday to our recommended nonprofits.  All donations will be evenly divided among the 9 nonprofits we recommend, all who’ve passed our rigorous vetting process.

Are there any fees for the donation?

Nope! Facebook is generously covering all fees for donations on #GivingTuesday. Every dollar you give will be doubled and go directly to Global Grandmothers.



How do I donate through Facebook’s charitable giving tools?

It’s easy! Just head to our Facebook page and click the blue ‘Donate’ button on the top right of the page. Simply follow the prompt to complete the transaction and you’re done!

 

Happy Giving!

 

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats – “Black Panther” and Philanthropy

The success of the beautiful new film, Black Panther, has many storylines.

For one, it’s the most successful opening weekend for a movie directed by an African-American. It’s also the first superhero movie to feature a predominantly African-American cast.

It’s also both visually and narratively a beautiful multifaceted film. While it may be part of the Marvel Universe and at its most basic level, a “Superhero Movie”, thanks to its detailed storyline and complex characters, it’s certainly much more than that. It might seem bizarre to write a Global Grandmothers blog about a movie such as this but there is a nexus between the storyline and the Global Grandmothers’ mission.

One of the most intriguing plot points is the internal struggle the fictional nation of Wakanda (the Black Panther’s native country) faces on its position on foreign aid. Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, Wakanda is a very wealthy and technologically advanced nation due to its access to massive amounts of Vibranium (a fictional valuable natural resource). Over centuries, the Wakandans have maintained their luxurious way of life by avoiding any international entanglements.

T’Challa, AKA the Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman

Despite their national prosperity, there’s pressure bubbling up within Wakanda to support humanitarian causes around the world. But naturally, many oppose this reform, as it will lead to the secret of their riches to be revealed to the rest of the world, and, in turn, potentially affect their way of life.

Much of the movie revolves around the debate on this issue and the difficult decision that T’Challa (the King of Wakanda and the Black Panther) faces. What responsibility do fortunate citizens of one nation have to support those in another? Particularly, when those in other nations may be suffering humanitarian crises, conflict, and/or war.

Writer and Director Ryan Coogler wonderfully navigates the nuances of this prescient issue. This plotline can be seen as a commentary on global politics on one hand, but also appears to address the proper role of philanthropy among wealthier nations.

‘Black Panther’ Writer and Director, Ryan Coogler

We here at Global Grandmothers do our best to recognize how fortunate many of us are, and with this awareness, comes a responsibility to work with others around the world who are in need. This sentiment is why we support organizations like Save the Children, who work to ensure children all around the globe have a healthy start in life. Or Partners in Health, who are committed to providing healthcare to poor and marginalized communities around the globe.

Check out all the organizations we support here

The international community is only strengthened when the less fortunate around the globe are supported by those who can.  

While the phrase ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’ has often referred to domestic policies, it’s also an apt term for international development. As the world’s tide is lifted, so too are all the world’s boats.  It’s fantastic to see this powerful message showcased in a movie that so many young adults and families are bound to see.

#GivingTuesday is 11/28 – Double Your Impact!

#GivingTuesday is November 28th this year.  Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have generously offered to match up to $2 million of funds raised for US nonprofits through Facebook’s charitable giving tools. Donations will be matched up to $50,000 per nonprofit, with a max of $1,000 per donation, until the $2 million in matching funds run out.  Donate here by clicking on the blue ‘Donate’ button on our page.

Is the matching campaign time sensitive?

Somewhat! The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will match up to $2 million across all of Facebook.  So, once this number is hit, the matching campaign will conclude. The campaign starts at 5 AM PST, 8 AM EST, 11/28 – so don’t sleep in too late!

What does this mean for you and Global Grandmothers?

If you donate $10, Global Grandmothers will receive $20.
If you donate $50, Global Grandmothers will receive $100…and so on.

How will my donation be used?

Global Grandmothers will allocate 100% of the donations it receives on #GivingTuesday to our recommended nonprofits.  All donations will be evenly divided among the 9 nonprofits we recommend, all who’ve passed our rigorous vetting process.

Are there any fees for the donation?

Nope! Facebook is generously covering all fees for donations on #GivingTuesday. Every dollar you give will be doubled and go directly to Global Grandmothers.



How do I donate through Facebook’s charitable giving tools?

It’s easy! Just head to our Facebook page and click the blue ‘Donate’ button on the top right of the page. Simply follow the prompt to complete the transaction and you’re done!

 

Happy Giving!

 

Fighting for Literacy in Guatemala’s Highlands – Interview with Child Aid’s CEO, Nancy Press

Global Grandmothers President, Diana McDonough sat down with the CEO of Child Aid, Nancy Press, to get a sense of a non-profit which embraces the same values you do, and with your help, is putting them to work for kids.  

Diana interviewed Nancy in her Portland, Oregon office on August 29, 2017.  Child Aid is a Global Grandmothers recommended non-profit.

 

What does Child Aid do and where does it do it? 

We work in 71 schools – soon to be 100 – in Guatemala’s indigenous Central Highlands, helping thousands of children learn to read. Each school partners with us for a 4 year period. The teachers train in our Reading for Life program and the school receives a library.

I understand you are Child Aid’s co-founder. How did you get started doing this?

I was trained as a cultural anthropologist at Duke so I’ve long been interested in other cultures. Professionally I pursued this interest with post-doctoral grants from the National Institute of Health and others.

In the early 1990’s on a visit to Guatemala for an intensive training in Spanish, I visited public schools operating on a shoestring and met indigenous students with little chance for self-improvement. I had been wanting to do something to honor my father, a deep believer in education and a prime influence in my life who had died prematurely. In his memory, my husband and I decided to begin Child Aid, an educational program for Guatemala’s schools which we hoped would offer real opportunity.

What is unique about the students you teach?

In the indigenous highlands, the typical home language is of ancient Mayan origin — Kichée, Kaqchikel, or T’ztujil — all languages that are not written. Often school is the first place a student sees written language, or hears Spanish.

The government of Guatemala provides little training for primary school teachers and any innovations they develop rarely make it out to the indigenous highlands where Child Aid works. No surprise – more than 60% of the indigenous population is illiterate. Only 4 of 10 students reach the 6th grade. There is a subsistence economy. Life is hard and short. Parents pick coffee berries to earn a living, carry firewood on their backs, and send their children to school hoping to prepare them for something better.

What do the schools you serve need?

In school after school, there are very few textbooks or books of any kind. Often there is not even a piece of paper or whiteboard where words can be written. Typically teachers have a seventh-grade reading level. We wanted to change this, but in a way that made the change welcomed, useful, and replicable.

What does your program offer?

We work with schools where the leadership (superintendent, principal, etc.) want our training for their staff. 

Then we mutually commit to a partnership of 4 years. Our model relies on training and in-class practice. Each school receives two rounds of the following each year:

  • Day-long workshop for all teacher
  • Follow-up demonstration in each teacher’s class with a lesson taught by the Child Aid trainer to model the techniques
  • Second follow-up demonstration in each teacher’s class with a lesson taught by the teacher-in-training using the new techniques

The school also receives a library with books at the beginning of the 4-year partnership. The library is expanded each year so that by the end of the 4 year period there is an average of 7 books per student in the library.

Who leads your training?

We have 25 paid staff in Guatemala. Twenty-three of these are Guatemalan indigenous people themselves and they lead the trainings.

Are you seeing results?

Yes!  We just finished a case-control, independent evaluation which showed that students in Child Aid schools made 65% more progress in reading comprehension in one school year than similar students in non-Child Aid schools. We were very pleased.

How can we help?

Our program takes resources. Any donation you can make will help us change the lives of our wonderful Guatemalan students. Click here to learn more.