Susan Roylance has been a friend and mentor to Big Ocean Women from our very beginnings. She sent this to some of our leadership, and we felt to share it here. At this time, Big Ocean Women is involved in many endeavors as an organization from the Penny Plan, to helping refugees from Afghanistan, to raising funds to help people affected by the war in Ukraine. Our cottages have projects they have identified in their communities. And we continue to be inspired by individuals and organizations who see needs and fill them throughout the world. This month we focus on our tenet: We work in partnership with our global sisters to create generative solutions. Through these partnerships we are able to make small drops become waves in the BIG OCEAN. ~Lisa
The following letter was sent to my friend, Marcia Barlow. She and I have attended many, many United Nations meetings together, and we have worked tirelessly to write and promote good family-friendly language in the international documents. This month is the meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women, and I have received many emails regarding the activities at the UN. Some of that prompted these feelings:
I have been thinking about you a lot lately — probably because I keep getting notices about CSW, HLPF, and others.
But, today I was there, where the “rubber meets the road.” We had a meeting with four chiefs of villages in the Cahabon District. One of the villages is finally getting a school, and the children are going to school for the first time in 5 years. The City of Cahabon (really only a town) provided some materials for them to build a school, and the parents are building the school. They provided some corrugated steel sheets for the roof, loaned them a road grader to level the land (everything is on a hill), and some dirt for the floor. We visited them last week and will be bringing backpacks and some books to them next Friday. They are so excited to be going to school after 5 years.
Then we talked to the other chiefs. Two of the villages do not have a school, and they don’t have a teacher, and the kids have not gone to school for 4 years (it’s a long story of why it’s four years). So, I suggested that maybe we could help them get a teacher (they are very cheap), and they could meet in a building in the village. Well, that was not acceptable to the Cahabon City leaders, because the “school” would have to be approved by the government. So, I said, “They could meet in a home.” I said, “I’m an NGO, not the government. I can hire a teacher to come teach them.” But, the Manager of Cahabon said, “No, it doesn’t work that way, etc., etc.” I was getting pretty hot under the collar, and I said, “If I can’t do anything to help these kids go to school, after not going to school for four years, I’m going home.”
I asked how much it would cost to build a school — the answer: Q15,000 (about $2,000). “So, if we built the school, would the government recognize it and give them a Code (necessary), and let a teacher come and teach them?” Well, that got them thinking. The City Manager called the Guatemala Minister of Education, and soon he said the children could go to the other village, where they are building the school (they already have 110 children, and this is about another 100 going to a very simple structure — but it would have two teachers — for 210 children).
Previously, the children would have had to pay money to go to this other school, and these people have very little money (or nothing extra after trying to pay for their land). Then he said that the government would try to hire a teacher (there are thousands of teachers without work), and they would give it a “Code” so the children could go to the neighboring school without paying. And, after it had a Code we could build them a school. The Municipality (Cahabon) said they would help build the school, and we could help them pay for it. And, since they would now be going to a school they would be really happy to have backpacks for the students (see our Back to School project on the welcomehand.org).
So, I guess I’m staying for a while longer, and will help move things along to help these children get some kind of an education (the children who can afford it go to a private school – these schools are public schools). And, another 100 children will actually have the opportunity to go to school — to help fulfill SDG #4 :-). I could have spent a whole year attending UN meetings, and not made as much difference as I did this morning in Cahabon, Guatemala.
Actually, these people are a very special people. We love them. Their children are so bright. They just need a chance for an education! That’s the best way to overcome their poverty.
Translation of what they wrote on the posters:
You are welcome to Santa Cruz Cerro Alto, Denis Cristian Fraatz, Mayor of the Municipality year 2022.
Infinity thanks to recognizing our rights of having a school and providing us 140 corrugated steel sheets for 4 classrooms. We don’t have desks yet but we are very happy and can’t wait to go to school on February 15th of 2022.
We are 96 boys and girls of school age and we are all from this village of Santa Cruz Cerro Alto, Cahabon, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.
For 5 years we haven’t had any school at all.
As a good citizen, Denis Cristian Fraatz, gave us his support and reached out a hand for us. Thank you, thank you, and thank you very much.
To: Denis Cristian Fraatz, Mayor of the Municipality of Cahabon. Thank you for your valuable support in the village Santa Cruz Cerro Alto. You have helped with:
- meets and talks with the owner of the land that we are buying.
- help the village to be registered in the National System of villages
- to be legalized in the Land’s of Guatemala office
- established the board members of the community
- study of the forest in the village and registration in the forest office
- a grinder for corn
- study of the roads and the field in the village
- support with fertilizer, food and water filters.
- land for the school
- soil for the school floor
- other support that you have giving us, that you know what it is.