Sunday, May 12, 2013

Let's Make Every Day Mother's Day




On Friday we celebrated "El Dia de los Madres" at Katitawa.  It was a day of day of music, games, presents, Red Carnations for all the mothers, cake and a chicken dinner.  Ah....Let's not forget the Chi Cha.

I am glad that we have a day set aside to honor all of the mothers in the world.  The mothers of the world have endured the pain when bringing us all into this world, but that physical pain is all forgotten and is replaced with an exquisite joy the moment they see our little faces....At least that is what I have been told.  Mothers, like no other persons in the world suffer the pain of their children through out their lives, and they also share their joy.

So....Join me in a salute to the most courageous ├índ loving group on earth.  THANK YOU....We love you all.

Which brings me to the title of this post.  May I suggest that we all make it a priority to honor our mothers everyday.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Little Review....Past, Present and Future.


 First of all, if you are a first time visitor to our blog, (and we get them everyday, thanks to “Volunteer South America”, a web site that lists free and almost free places to volunteer), you are introduced to Katitawa School.  Later you read about the library, the nursery,  Lachlan’s Farm, Pachamama, the community center, and there may be a few more in the future.Volunteers, when they arrive are also sometimes surprised to find out that these different areas are sometimes separated by one to three kilometers.  So let’s start with a map.

(map being worked on)

Katitawa School
Katitawa School was, and still is the primary reason we are here.  It is located about three kilometers from Salasaka Centro, in the foothills above the town.The school was started in 1997 by a small group of concerned individuals from Salasaka, who wanted a different kind of education for their familes.  That is why the school continues today, and is why parents continue to send their children here….Because Katitawa School is “different”.The school offers classes from kindergarten through the seventh grade and it is our goal, when the children finish the seventh grade we send them on to the Colegio or High School, with equal or better qualifications equal or above the children coming from the government schools in the community.  The jury is still out regarding how close we are to reaching our goal, but I am encouraged by the comments I hear from local educators in the higher levels of education as to the quality of our students.
 
Here at Katitawa we believe that the three most important subjects that the children need to understand and excel in are:
1. Ethics, that part of philosophy that deals with trustworthiness. respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.
2. The language of their country which is Spanish.
3. Basic math.

Therefore we believe if the children leave this school with core values that are almost universally accepted as necessary to coexist in this world, are able to “Read, Write, Speak and Comprehend” of their own language and have the basic understanding of mathematics, they will be a success in whatever they decide to make of their lives.The other subjects are also important, but in this age of the Internet, if they have the communication skills, they can catch up on any subject where they may need some extra help by spending a few hours in front of a computer.Here in Salasaka, reading books is not one of their favorite pastimes.  But I believe it is because they do not read well.  If you can not read well, reading is a chore. But if you read well, it is a pleasure and you will want to read more.

We have many opportunities at Katitawa School for volunteers who would like to help in various areas. A key area is teaching math and English.  There has been some criticism, that because the volunteers come and go, that this in some way is detrimental for the kids.  In my opinion, the benefits outweigh any negative argument. What they may miss in not having the same teacher for the entire year, they gain in learning about other countries and cultures in a very personal way.  This is a whole lot better than reading a few paragraphs in a textbook.We also have plenty of opportunities for volunteers in areas like, maintenance, gardening, construction and a whole lot more.  Ninty-nine percent of everything here at Katitawa has been constructed by volunteer labor….From the community and from visiting volunteers.  We thank you all.

The Rosa Maria Library
The library was named after Rosa Maria Masaquiza who was one of the founders of Katitawa School and has donated a lot of books to help get the library started. It is presently located in the community of Manguiwa which is approximately three kilometers from centro Salasaka on the highway to the town of Rosario…and about three kilometers from the Katitawa School. The library was started in 2006 in Central Salasaka and it was also home to our small English school that had no name. In that same location we housed the first volunteers.
The name of our little organization was Sumak Kawsay Yachay which in Kichwa means, “Beautiful, Life, Edudation”. The three words make a beautiful acronym, SKY.  The name in Kichwa describes in English what we are working for and the acronym in English defines the limits. It was not long before we ran out of space in Salasaka Central so in 2008 we moved  everything to Manguiwa where we were offered space at the Manguiwa Cochapamba Community Center. The building was not being used at the time and the directors of the community liked what we were doing at Katitawa School, which was also located in Manguiwa.  The building had two levels. The street leval area was turned into the library and the second floor was where the volunteers lived. We had four dormitory rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. After a year we were running out of space for the volunteers to live because we needed more room for classes.

In 2009 we moved the volunteers to Pachamama, a hostel that was available just a 10 minute walk down the road. In 2008 we received four computers from a man named Paul, who had been following our progress through this blog since 2007. With these computers we connected to the Internet, giving the community and all of Salasaka access to all the worlds knowledge that help with their homework.

As the years passed the library complex has become the learning center for the community and is now functioning as the headquarters for all of the projects SKY is doing in Salasaka. We will eventully come up with a name for the complex which continues to grow. In addition to the Rosa Maria Library and Internet services we offer classes in English and other subjects depending on the demand. In 2010 we moved the Vacation School Classes from Katitawa School to the library complex. This has been a huge success. The library is open Monday through Friday, from 8 to 8.

Community Meeting Center
A year ago we demolished the old meeting room and began construction on the new center, which is located in frond and to the left of the library. We finished the first floor a month ago and as I write, we are starting on the second story. When this is finished it will be the new volunteer quarters. This construction is a combined effort between the community and SKY.

The Plant Nursery
In 2012 we rented some property in Salasaka Central and started work on our first project that we feel will help sustain the school. We should be open by the end of May. It will be a place where we will offer plants as well as some local weavings that the Salasakans are famous for. It will be a beautiful place and the closer it is to being finished the more excited everyone is getting.

Why a plant nursery?....You may wonder. When I was a young man, just out of the Navy, an old man gave me some advice,  "If you want to make some money in this world, start a nursery. It's the only business that I know of where, if you don't sell your inventory this week it's worth more the next". So here I am, 60 years later, out to prove the old man right.

Pachamama
 Beautiful Pachamama…This one time hostel sits on a cliff overlooking the community of Wasalata.  It is a beautiful place where the volunteers have been living since 2009. At times some of the volunteers will be asked to do light maintenance work to keep the place in order. It will be hard to leave. but hopefully by Christmas of this year, the volunteers will return to Manguiwa. This move will be sad in many ways but will save us considerable money as we will not be paying rent any longer.