December 2, 2014
It has been an exciting year for PEG Partners, as we celebrated our tenth anniversary. We are moving in some new directions, with a sense of potential in the air. That seems just seems right on an anniversary and at the new year, when we look both forward and back.
The ‘newest’ news is that we have hired Sarah Robinson as a new Executive Director for PEG. This is big, and a real departure for us. Since PEG was created, we have been an all-volunteer organization. I have headed things up, supported by a great Board of Directors. As my life becomes increasingly crowded with travel, family, work for the AFSC Nobel Peace Prize Committee and various other projects (including a new book this year!), and PEG has grown as well, it has been increasingly difficult to give PEG the time it deserves. A significant undesignated donation this year gave us the room to hire some part-time leadership (while still honoring our commitment to donors that 100% of their donations go to projects unless they specify an amount to go toward administration costs), so we’re entering a new phase with PEG, and one that promises to be extremely fruitful. I will continue as the president, but will have a wonderful partner in Sarah to make PEG more effective in our work in Guatemala.
The most exciting news, however, always comes from Guatemala. As the year comes to a close, I want to highlight five projects that we are particularly excited about.
Puerta Abierta, in Santiago, Atítlan, which includes a library, a school and various community outreach efforts, represents a new model of education in Guatemala, one that empowers children to use creativity, critical thinking and literacy to become innovative problem solvers in their communities. PEG funded the traveling library which visits three communities around Lake Atitlan. In Guatemala, children have little opportunity to enjoy reading a book at home or even in many schools. This small traveling library is helping children to discover the joy of reading, which can point them toward a life of opportunity.
Puerta Abierta has also started a Club de Lectores (reading club) for teens, supported by PEG. At first, the leaders of this group requested funds from PEG to purchase books for this group of teenagers. However, after investigating the cost benefits, they proposed using the money to purchase Kindles, so that new books can be loaded into the devices and the ongoing costs can be minimized, while the students continue to be stimulated by new books.
According to our friend and colleague John Van Keppel at Child Aid, fewer than 1% of Guatemalans read a book for pleasure last year. Reading is simply not part of the culture, so the success of efforts like this teen reading club are extremely significant; they are shifting the culture powerfully. We hope to replicate this model in other locations. If you would like to know more about what folks are doing at the Puerta Abierta, click here.
In partnership with LEAF International and Child Aid, PEG began a music program at the CEDIN school in El Tejar in 2007. The music program has flourished over the years, and last year we even brought the band that has grown out of that program to come on a concert tour in the United States with David, which included performing at the LEAF festival. We are hoping to bring them back again to the U.S. in the fall of 2015 or spring of 2016.
PEG and LEAF continue to support to the program, and with a recent dreaming initiative inspired by LEAF, the teachers at El Tejar have come up with a plan for the next 15 years. This plan starts small with a proposed summer music camp but gradually gets more ambitious as it reaches for opening a music school in El Tejar for students to receive degrees in music without having to travel each day to Guatemala City to the conservatory there. We are excited that they have proposed such a large and well-thought-out vision. In December of 2014, the students there had their first experience of being teachers, leading a beginning music program for younger students at a nearby school.
For ten years, PEG has provided ongoing support to Escuelita David LaMotte in Tzanchaj. In addition to providing school supplies, the salary for one of the school’s two teachers and funding for a cook to prepare food for the children, this year we provided uniforms for the children. This is important in Guatemala, partly because it imparts a sense of legitimacy and dignity to the school and its students, and partly because it provides one set of good clothing for each child, including shoes.
This year, PEG also began working with a new partner in Guatemala, in the province of Sololá. Reading Village’s Leaders and Readers Program empowers Mayan youth in rural Guatemalan communities to eradicate illiteracy and lead their villages out of poverty. Reading Village invests in teenagers through scholarships, mentoring and leadership development, enabling them to complete high school (an accomplishment that less than 10% of their peers achieves). In return, they volunteer as “reading promoters” – each teenager runs several weekly reading circles for the young children in their community. Then, together, reading promoters and program alumni initiate projects to develop a culture of reading within their own villages, where only 50% of adults can read. In this way, reading promoters become the first generation of adults in their communities to read to their own children. And the children they have taught over the years will continue the legacy of reading, learning and aspiring, improving the quality of life for themselves and the entire community. This year, PEG funded a weekend retreat for the reading promoters from different communities around Sololá to come together for a time of reflection, relationship building, mutual instruction and inspiration.
Oh, and here’s a bonus item to mention— remember the music program in El Tejar that we mentioned above? A year ago, a young man named José (known to his friends as Pepe), graduated from the program and wanted to continue his music education. He auditioned for, was accepted by and enrolled in the Conservatory in Guatemala City. Pepe gets up early each morning to help his mother, then takes the 45-minute bus ride to Guatemala City. The bus fare was more than his family could afford, however, so PEG is covering the cost of transportation for his two years at the conservatory, after which he plans to become a teacher.
All of this has happened because of your generosity. Any funds you give to PEG go directly to projects like these, with nothing removed (we have an entirely separate account for administration costs). And through the accumulation of many small donations, you are opening up possibilities for Guatemalan children. It’s no small thing. If you would like to be a part of this work, we welcome your partnership. Funds can be donated by credit card by clicking here, or by sending a check to:
P.O. Box 551
Montreat, NC 28757
Thank you for caring about these children who have touched my heart so deeply, and for walking the talk.
Paz y justicia,