(click on photos to enlarge)
Dear Friends of the Maya,
For over 30 years you have offered scholarships to young men and women from six Maya villages so that they could fulfill their dreams of getting a better education.
This year more than 110 young people are involved in our Beca (scholarship) program. They all do service work in their local communities.
I have just read the letters which they have written thanking you. I am filled with hope for their future and am overwhelmed with gratitude to you and to them for making this program a great success.
I will try to share their stories with you. Don’t worry, I won’t send all of their letters. I have selected portions of their letters so that you can get some sense of who they are and how important your help has been.
Some of these “kids” have overcome very difficult situations:
We ask each of our young people to do Service work in their Community. The name of our Program in Mexico is Ayudar es Compartir. To Help is to Share. Our hope is that our young people will not only receive help from you but will learn to share their gifts with others. So far so good!
Wilberth Isaias Chi Sonda from Sierra Papacal, concludes his letter this way:
To all our dear friends of the Maya: You have made this year special for me and for these young people. We wish you a Blessed Christmas because you have shown us what Christmas is all about.
May God Bless You.
Dear Friends of the Maya,
I woke up the other morning and wasn’t sure where I was! Tried to get out of bed… but it was the wrong side. Tried to get to the bathroom, but it was downstairs instead of across the room. Slowly I regained my sense of direction, but I’m still running around in a daze (yes worse than normal!)
I know that this Maya Monthly is late! I don’t want you to think I have died or maybe was not allowed to leave Mexico because of that d*** wall. Oops.
The truth is, I left Mexico just a couple of days after the election. People on the street, in the bus, and on the plane, expressed their concern for the future. I share that concern. Maybe that is why I was so “out of it” the morning after I arrived.
The last two months have been very busy. Two of our leaders decided to leave our program and we had to hire new people and redesign some of the projects. Monica had helped us set up the after-school program years ago. Recently, she finished her master’s degree and wanted to teach at the University level. I will miss her a lot, but she had trained Rubi, a young woman from Sierra Papacal, to take her place. Our goal has always been to empower local people to take on more responsibility. Rubi is one of those people!
Patricia was responsible for our Scholarship students. She directed one program for adult groups and another for providing emergency aid in each of the villages. Marcos, a young man from Komchen, who just completed law studies, has agreed to take over the scholarship program. He has redesigned the program. Now we have a Maya person in each of the five villages who will work with our scholarship students making sure they continue their studies and do service work in their home village.
See our new organization here.
Miriam is from Noc-ac. She has agreed to coordinate the adult groups as well as a group which helps with emergency and medical needs in each village.
I realize this is a lot for you, the reader, to understand. You should see me trying to remember who is who, and what village they are working in. The good news is that our programs continue. The even better news is that Maya, often young people, who have been part of our scholarship programs or who have participated in our groups in the past, are now taking responsible positions in their own villages. They know their people. They are concerned about them. They want to help.
I will return to Mexico in time for Our Lady of Guadalupe and Christmas. Meanwhile I am enjoying the cool crisp weather of Michigan. You can’t rake leaves in the Yucatan. There won’t be any sleet, ice or snow in Komchen! I love it all. Yes, I am still a bit dazed!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving. Thanks for all you do for us.
Paz y amor,
Dear Friends of the Maya,
I arrived in Mexico just a week ago. I realized this morning that my “Maya Monthly” is going to be overdue soon, so I had better send an update on what’s happening….
Fiesta! They wanted me to join in the Jarrana, but I wasn’t dressed for the part!
Some of you know that I celebrated my 75th Birthday a few days ago. I have been celebrating for several weeks in the States with friends and my twin sister, Mary K. Because have shared the last 30 years of my life with the people here in the Yucatan I wanted to do some celebrating here as well. Besides it is hard to get tres leches (a special delicious cake made with three different types of milk) in the States, so I needed to celebrate here. I wasn’t disappointed but little did I know it might be my last celebration.
Last Sunday I headed to the Gulf to go swimming. As I was getting out of the water, I got bit by a vagre
That’s a cat fish in US terms, but it is poisonous here. The blood began to flow and didn’t stop. The pain started in my foot and was rising quickly. I had experienced this bite a couple of years ago and knew the remedy. Let the blood flow. It is poisonous and has to get out of the system. Then wash the area – with vinagre or (get this!) urine! They have something to do with neutralizing the poison. I didn’t have any vinegar at hand so guess what? I made a quick decision. Wine might just do the trick I am still living.
I think I will call this year: “CELEBRATING 75 YEARS CON GUSTO!”. That means “really” celebrating. I admit there might be a little less energy, but I look forward to continuing with even more conviction. I am convinced we are doing a lot of good work …. thanks to you and the team here.
Over the summer we have been able to restructure our program of giving scholarships to young people. In the past one of our team members met with these young people once a month or so. Now we have someone in each of the six villages where youth receive scholarships. That person meets with the young people every week to make sure they are doing well in school and also contributing to the ongoing growth of their village through their service work. I met with some of these young people last week. In the village of Noc-ac we have l6 youth receiving scholarships. Most of them leave home about 6 in the morning and often don’t get back until late at night. Their schools are several miles away. Our scholarship hardly covers their transportation. So we are going to increase the scholarship- thanks to you. They are going to commit themselves to more service in their community. To be honest, some of the kids were accepting scholarships without studying…others were not doing well in their studies and didn’t tell us. Others were not helping their community. Nada Mas.
I stopped in Cosgaya “to check things out.” I had heard numbers had dropped in our “assesoria” program. That program is meant to help kids get through grade school. Many don’t know how to read, or write, or even speak Spanish well when they begin their education. Mauru, our leader there, made a commitment to visit the families and encourage more to participate. When I arrived, the place was jammed, I mean jammed with kids.
I want to make this clear. I do not run these programs. We have trained, experienced people, who know how to do this. We have a team which supervises the program in each village. I am the old man who stops by and makes some suggestions. Some would say I am the espie and griton. (spy and shouter). I try to be a good spy, and I shout a lot less these days than when I knew most of you. I also leave smiling with the assurance that together we are making this world a better place. Gracias.
Paz y amor,
Dear Friends of the Maya,
My niece’s two boys visited last week. All of a sudden they were running around a nearby park…lots of other kids had joined in some kind of search. I was sure it was for a hidden treasure. I was wrong. They were looking for a funny looking green spot on their little cell phones. They called it “Pokémon “. Dios mio, I said to myself. I am living in another world!
Then I realized that I am like that spot… people all over the place are trying to find me. I show up in Mexico and Michigan, California or Ohio. People “discover” me in Bowling Green or Adrian -at the local grocery store, walking around the block or swimming in front of their cottage. “Aren’t you ….” They don’t say “Pokémon” but rather “aren’t you the guy with the sombrero?” or aren’t you “el gringo en Mexico”. That is a famous American actor who does comedy on Mexican TV. Believe it or not, he does look and act like me!
Right now I am at our family cottage in Cement City, Michigan. You won’t find me in Cement City. It’s just a postal address. I guess they used to make cement there. Now they make money by stopping cars going over the ridiculously low speed limit of 25 miles an hour. I avoid Cement City whenever I can. So far so good.
Soon I will be in my beloved Merida, Yucatan.
A few days before I left Mexico at the end of in July, one of the members of our team informed me that she had taken another job. She was responsible for our Scholarship Students, our emergency aid programs and small groups in five villages. We knew we couldn’t replace her quickly. We decided to break up the responsibilities and include more people from our villages in the leadership of our programs. We envisioned a new person who will be our Director of Personnel or Human Resource Person. Only problem is that our people in Mexico didn’t know anyone who had the qualities to assume this new position.
I panicked. Then, I noticed a small book on the table:” Stay Cool and Carry On!”. I’m only on chapter three but making progress.
It’s hard to “stay cool” when we have 120 young people waiting for their scholarship money at the beginning of September.
I spoke with one of them yesterday. Marcos wants to be a lawyer. He will make a great one. This summer he has been helping us get the solicitudes (requests for scholarships) in order. He found out that an essential part of our scholarship program is the service which our young people can give to their local villages. He is very much aware of the problem of Alcoholism in our villages and the damage it does to families. In the past he had helped niños get more self-confidence by giving acting classes. Now he has more confidence himself and wants to help his young friends confront alcoholism in their own homes as part of his service for the future.
We will continue our search for a Personnel Director. Meanwhile people like Marcos and others will be participating more and more in our attempts to make this a better world. I hope you realize you are part of the support network which enables us to “carry on.”
When I get to Komchen, Cosgaya, Sierra Papacal, Noc-ac, San Antonio Ool and Dzitya in a few days, I have a funny hunch even the kids there will be running around trying to find Pokémon. We are all looking for someone or something which will respond to our deep longings for friendship and love. We all want to help make this a better world. I don’t need my cell phone and a little green spot to help me find a better future. Together we can make that happen.
Paz y amor,