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Mayan Families is a non-profit organization in Panajachel, Guatemala that helps address the needs of the local indigenous population. Operating several schools and sponsoring the education of over 2,500 students, education is a large component of their work.

e-collaborate introduced its eKWIP Challenge program to Mayan Families as an after-school enrichment program and means to foster more volunteerism. Sponsored middle and high school aged students are expected to complete volunteer hours as part of their sponsorship. Through the eKWIP Water Course, many service projects can be interwoven into the curriculum. For example, students can do clean ups around the local lake, help distribute water filtration systems, harvest alternative methods of accessing water, or raise awareness and education of water related issues among local communities.

These students have a lot to learn in participating, but more importantly, they have a lot to share of their own story with the water crisis with students around the world. Water contamination and water borne diseases are a very serious problem in Guatemala. This video shows the critical work that Mayan Families is doing in Tierra Linda, a nearby village with extreme levels of poverty, and the impact that programs like eKWIP can have on the education of local students.

Students participating in school clean up service project at Good Shepherd Primary School

Students participating in school clean up service project at Good Shepherd Primary School

 

Greetings from Students for Global Democracy Uganda!

Well, I would like to inform you that the World Youth Day for Democracy 2013 activities were a great success compared to last year as the youth had no idea about this day, but ever since we started promoting the day, we did receive a tremendous number of interested youth who participated in our activities.

We did start with an entirely student community leadership training and Public Order Management Law debate at London College Nansana, were three other schools were invited that included Masharia Senior Secondary School, Bilal Islamic Institute, Kakiri and Jakym Senior Secondary School, Katooke. It was really a rewarding leadership training for the prefects and they learned the difference between a leader and a commander or a ruler.

The public order management law debate for the student community was both participatory and interactive and this time along, many girls were in attendance as compared to the boys.

The real day was overwhelming, since the young people reported for the activities as early as 6:30p.m and ready to take on the community service, which started at Kawaala Health Centre III. Thereafter, we proceeded to Kawaala Police Station and finally at Good Shepherd Primary school, were we engaged in both indoor and outdoor cleaning exercise. The community cleaning exercise started at 8:30 am after a briefing from Ivan Otim, Students for Global Democracy Uganda, Program Officer and ended at 12:00 noon.

The public order management law debate started at exactly 2:00pm, with a topic “The Dangers and Implications of the Public Order Management Law to the Youth Movement in Uganda. It was such a participatory and an interactive debate, since our partner organizations were able to participate like Uganda Youth Network, Teens Uganda, Open Space Centre, African Youth Development Link, Sports Eye Foundation Uganda and Uganda Youth Guidance Development Association, who were the co-organizers of the Student Community Leadership Training and Public Order Management Debate. The community youth also attended and raised issues concerning the Public Order Management Law. During the discussions many issues were raised by the youth, including that passing of this draconian law is a sign of dictatorship and the young will fight it. Many youth suggested that we take the endeavor to popularize the dangers of this law especially among the illiterate and rural youth, so as to come on board to protest.

~ Mike Gesa Munabi, President
Students For Global Democracy-Uganda

Thank You, PaCIE!

Last week, the e-collaborate team lead a session on connecting students globally at the Pennsylvania Council for International Education (PaCIE) conference. The conference was held in Philadelphia, PA and was an interesting mix of educators, administrators, superintendents, businesses leaders and those invested in education in some capacity. 

They had one panel discussion on how business and education sectors can work together.  The executives on the panel answered the question, “Would you hire my child?” It was candid as well as eye opening.  The ‘execs’ talked about the desirable skills they would like to see in their future workforce and the educators brought up the challenges they face as their budgets continue to get cut.  The resolution in this case is that business and educators need to work together to ensure that students are prepared for the future and that educators have the appropriate resources to adequately prepare students. However, the discussion did not address the role that non-profits such as e-collaborate can provide to ease this problem. Our programs are offered free to schools and provide rich learning opportunities to prepare students for the workforce, meeting many of the skill-sets the business community is searching for.

In addition, there were valuable sessions such as the K-12 roundtable discussion where participants brought up challenges they were facing in their own districts and everyone at the table helped come up with steps to solve the problem.  There were many other sessions that showcased study abroad trips, unique ideas on how to incorporate social media and journalism in the classroom based on real world events, how to use iPads and technology in the schools, and many more. 

In our session, we were happy to see every seat in the room full!  Building on the idea of the need for more empathy in the world, we explained how the eKWIP program and virtual internships does this by providing young people the opportunity to address social issues through global collaboration and volunteerism. It also provided an opportunity to share our ideas for the new virtual internship platform and gain insight directly from educators on program design.  The audience was very engaged and receptive to the presentation. We received feedback such as “I love this idea and hope to offer it to students!” and “This is a fabulous way to engage students!”  We are eager to begin working with PaCIE participants to provide our programs to a new set of students as we continue to grow.  

Stay tuned as we explore potential partnerships with colleges, K-12 connections, and other NGOs as we keep building our programs and expanding the e-collaborate community. 

Thanks!

Naina Boveja
Executive Director

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Launch Network (www.launchnetworkusa.com) is a networking organization for professional women based in the DC area. Their mission is to promote the achievements of women in the US through a variety of events. 

Not only do they help charities all over the world, they offer a great platform for new ventures, entrepreneurs, executives, and people with innovative careers to showcase their work. The Network is also focused on cultivating the next generation of young women through mentorship and outreach programs.

Launch Network’s founder, Monika Samtani selected e-collaborate as the charity to spotlight and contribute to during their annual Headshot event with Moshe Zusman (moshezusman.com). This was a great way for e-collaborate to get out into the community in a different capacity. While people were waiting to get their makeup done by Nour from MadeUpArt (madeupart.com), and then get their head shot taken with Moshe, they discussed with us our programs and learned about e-collaborate.  We made some great connections that day and are so grateful for the experience.  The funds raised from the event will go directly towards providing more educational resources and technology for classrooms in need.

As a relatively new non-profit, it is a great opportunity to meet citizens in the community that would like to give back and get involved. We genuinely thank Launch Network for the chance to be part of this amazing event. To see photos, please click here

Have you heard of SERT?

Last Tuesday, my colleague Beth, and I visited Greencastle Elementary in Silver Spring.  Greencastle was the largest Elementary School we had ever seen.  We had a meeting with an old friend, Natalie, who is a teacher there now and in addition to teaching students with special needs, she also runs the SERT program.  SERT stands for School Energy and Recycling Team. They pick around 15 students who become the schools recycling team.  They turn off the lights at school, make sure the computers are shutdown for the weekend, help implement recycling plans in the cafeteria, turn off water, and more!

One of the coolest parts about this program is that everything is measured, so at the end of the year, they see how much electricity was saved at the school and how many pounds of paper recycled.  Also, they have an entire page dedicated to the program through the MCPS website. They have games, resources, and ideas for teachers to implement and much more. They even have competitions amongst the schools in Montgomery County. Last year a student at Greencastle won! SERT is in all the schools in Montgomery County and is making quite an impact in both resource conservation and educating kids about environmental issues.

SERT & eKWIP

Natalie wanted to go beyond turning off lights and monitoring recycling in the cafeteria.  The SERT group at Greencastle is going to partner with eKWIP to complete our Water 101 lessons in Water Conservation. Many of their students do not have the resources to gain experience or knowledge beyond their immediate community. By participating in eKWIP, the students will learn about local environmental issues, while exposing them to a much larger community and connecting to people and organizations outside of their normal day to day interactions. e-collaborate staff will help facilitate this experience and connect Greencastle Elementary beyond their building! We discussed many new ways to engage their community and ours. Please stay tuned as the project gets underway…

Also, if you would like to get more information about connecting special groups, after school programs, or even classrooms, please contact us and we will work with you to customize eKWIP to your needs. For more information on SERT, please click here

Naina Boveja
Executive Director

The e-collaborate team with author Homa Sabet Tavangar.

The e-collaborate team with author Homa Sabet Tavangar

Today was a good day. It was an interesting day and overall our first event as e-collaborate was a success.  We hosted author Homa Sabet Tavangar at Busboys and Poets on 5th and K Street for a lunch event and had a great turnout! We were so happy that so many people were able to see Carolyne from Maury Elementary and Laura from Ashoka’s Empathy initiative, speak about their work.  It was also wonderful to share our story about how we began and the journey of how we got to where we are today. 

 After I explained e-collaborate, I had the honor to introduce Homa to the crowd.  Homa took the stage with grace and confidence, the same qualities I admired about her when the e-collaborate team saw her speak at a conference last year.  Curve balls kept getting thrown our way, but Homa handled them quite well, even when the fire alarm went off during her presentation (I guess this will be an event our guests remember for a long time!)

 As expected, Homa shared wonderful pictures and anecdotes about raising her three girls and living in many different countries. She captivated the audience with her stories and left a lasting impression. To me the best part of the day was after the presentation when many members of the community from the audience came up to us to say that they now understand what we do and were happy to be part of the conversation on global citizenship.  One of my former colleagues mentioned how much there is to learn on the topic and how much more there is to explore.  One of the best things about Growing Up Global is that it offers tangible ways to make your family more aware of the world that surrounds them.  It offers different perspectives and makes it easy to engage by trying simple things you already do on a daily basis with a small twist. 

 Again, I would like to thank everyone who came, donated, or just wished us luck on this event. I would also like to thank Homa for coming down to DC and sharing her story.  We had a great time talking about our ideas with the community and I look forward to sharing our next event with you. 

Naina Boveja

Executive Director and Co-founder of e-collaborate

While school curriculum is adapting to the globalized world by teaching global literacy and international education, it can also be done or reinforced in the home. Every parent wants their child to be prepared for the world, and to be equipped to make a successful transition into adulthood and the workforce. In today’s world, this means preparing our kids to be comfortable and adaptable to global environments.

In an engaging discussion, Homa Sabet Tavanger will share tips, advice, and lessons learned from her experiences as a mother of three and professional who has lived and worked in many regions of the world. Growing Up Global: Raising Children to be At Home in the World, written by Tavanger, helps parents to raise children with a global perspective. Not all families can travel overseas to expose their children to world cultures, but they can start engaging with the world right in their own home communities. Parents will gain a greater understanding of some of the vast changes in a shrinking world. They will grow closer to each other while they engage in activities that demonstrate the experiences and preferences of their peers around the world. Children who are comfortable in a globalized world gain a distinct edge in competitive environments, and ultimately, become better-adjusted and more confident adults.

Join the discussion and learn how to prepare your child for the global world!

Not a parent? Come anyway! You will enjoy interesting stories of the humorous situations one gets into while living abroad with young children. And you will be supporting a great cause! This event is a fundraiser for e-collaborate. All funds raised will go towards future programming and technology for classrooms in need. Lunch is included in the ticket price.

Tickets can be purchased here.


For more information about the author and book, please visit the Growing Up Global website.

There are many obstacles to obtain an education in developing countries. The public schools are often overcrowded and have limited resources, lacking books and basic school supplies. This makes it difficult for teachers to engage their students and provide a warm learning environment. Not to mention, often classrooms do not have a teacher because they do not show up that day or because there are no resources to compensate the teachers for their time. Also, even though there are public schools, these schools still have attendance fees, required uniforms, and personal school supplies that must be paid out of pocket. Many families do not have the financial ability to pay for their child’s education or through a cost-benefit analysis they find it necessary that their child work during the day instead of attending school.

There are countless organizations, both large and small, that strive to address the issue of access to education through sponsorship programs. We have all seen the advertisements for these – “Please send X amount to sponsor a year of education for a child in need.” However, in recent years, assistance organizations have found that simply providing a low income child access to education is not enough to guarantee educational success. Because of this, many organizations are providing after school enrichment programs and mentorship to support children who are at risk of not receiving an education. For example, Casasito, a community-based organization in Antigua, Guatemala partners with organizations in many rural communities to provide after school learning in topics as diverse as break-dancing, graphic design, civic action, and more. They found that these enrichment activities help students discover that learning is fun and makes them excited to stay in school and continue down that path. Similarly, Anandan, offers vocational learning and enrichment activities for students in the slums of Calcutta, India. Their approach allows students to explore different topics and areas that they otherwise would not get the chance to. Local schools are focused on rote learning and do not foster the creative side of students. For many young people, this is an area that they excel in, but need the chance to express and identify their talent.

In the fall semester, e-collaborate will expand its eKWIP program to several community-based organizations that provide enrichment learning to under-served youth. eKWIP is a rich educational tool that teaches young people necessary skills to compete in the 21st century – both technological capacity and global understanding. e-collaborate believes these to be the two most important skills today’s youth need and it is our goal to provide this opportunity to communities around the world. It will strengthen existing learning communities and expose youth to new experiences and skills that they otherwise might not have.

~Beth Davis, Manager of Educational Programs

Jose and Lucila working on their film project with Donna.

Jose and Lucila working on their film project with Donna.

The Mayan population in Guatemala has experienced centuries of oppression and violence. The Peace Accords that ended a 36 year war and genocide of the indigenous population occurred in 1996. There are ongoing efforts for restorative justice for the crimes against humanity, but racism still runs deep and it is a difficult battle to find justice. This history has impacted both the traditional culture and the psyche of the Mayan population. Many traditional practices have been lost or evolved into a blend of Mayan and Spanish tradition. The Mayan people often are made to feel inferior and as second class citizens. However, there is an effort to restore many cultural practices and to build an understanding and respect of indigenous history.

“Unlocking Silent Histories,” a project by education and technology expert Donna DeGennaro, uses film and an anthropological lens to address this issue. She works with indigenous youth to explore how they are historically portrayed in documentary films. Donna encourages the youth to question this portrayal. Through discussions, they think about how they would actually like to be portrayed and what is an accurate picture of their culture and history. She then works with the youth to create their own documentary about their cultural heritage and history. This includes developing a story line, shaping interview questions, learning film techniques, and video editing.

While she provides the tools and skills to complete the documentary, the young filmmakers independently identify the stories that are most important to them personally to tell and they come to their own conclusions in the storyline of the film. For example, one student focused on lost traditions in her community. After starting to film, she found that religion was a large part of the decline in indigenous culture and is now focusing the storyline of her film around that central thesis.

I went with Donna to San Juan, one of the communities she works in, to visit her students and see the program in action. Our first stop was Jose’s house. He had newly recorded film clips that he wanted to show Donna and upload to her computer. Jose explained the concept of his film as “the mountains.” At first I was not clear what that meant. He showed us some clips he had taken of his mother using natural dye to make the thread for her weaving work and other film clips of women weaving using the traditional back-strap method. He explained that the cotton used for the thread and the different colors of dye comes from the mountains surrounding their community. The tradition of weaving, which is the main source of work for local women and the source of production for all traditional clothing, is at risk because there is so much environmental degradation happening in the mountains. Due to lack of economic opportunities, many people cut down trees, which leads to deforestation. This has a trickle effect on all the natural resources needed to maintain the weaving tradition.

Another purpose of the visit to San Juan was to prepare for the upcoming community festival. The festival included a naming of the new “Queen of San Juan.” The current Queen hosts a party at her family’s home and invites the Queens from all surrounding communities to attend. This marks the end of her reign and the beginning of the new one. There is a traditional dance and a parade through town, as well as typical carnival rides and games like a ferris wheel and more. Several other of the young filmmakers joined us and worked out a plan for filming the weekend’s activities to include in their documentaries.

While walking around with the film group, I discovered many unique qualities of the town. It was clear that this was an artist community. There were beautiful murals on most buildings and the weavings being sold on the street carried designs and colors that were very different from what you typically see in Guatemala. It was also a very traditional town. I heard more of the local indigenous language being spoken on the street than Spanish, and I do not think I saw a single woman not in traditional clothing. I also felt a strong sense of community there. Typically, homes have large fences around them with spiky tops to protect against intruders. In San Juan, the neighborhoods were much more open. Jose explained that the community members watch out for each other and protect their neighbors against crime. It is part of their pride for their town. He said there had only been one incident in the past year and that the culprit was an outsider. This is really incredible given the high rates of crime and violence that most of Guatemala experiences.

In just the few short hours I spent with the group, I learned a lot about the history and culture of San Juan. I witnessed the pride and excitement that the young filmmakers were putting into their project. This project is a really significant opportunity for them to share with the world what it means to be indigenous in Guatemala and to share their own history and culture through their eyes. It is an empowering experience for a group so accustomed to oppression and outsiders trying to erase their history and culture. They are telling their story in their own way and reclaiming history through the modern technology of film. Quite ironic that modern technology is a means to preserve an ancient culture and tradition, no?

~Beth Davis, Manager of Educational Programs

Town of Santa Cruz from the CECAP roof and sample of the students iron-cast work in the railing.

Town of Santa Cruz from the CECAP roof and sample of the students iron-cast work in the railing.

With the global economy in its current state, youth are disproportionally impacted and face unemployment levels at extremely high rates. A high level of youth unemployment is particularly troubling and can be a destabilizing factor for communities. This is especially true in developing countries that often have youth bulges, and youth unemployment can compound existing issues of inequality and marginalization. Lack of economic opportunities weakens social cohesiveness and tears at the esteem of communities. Because of this, it is a critical issue to address and one that requires creative solutions.

I visited the Centro de Capacitacion (CECAP), a vocational school in Santa Cruz, Guatemala, that is doing amazing work to provide young (and older) adults practical education that leads to greater employment opportunities. They offer a variety of certification and training programs, including: culinary arts, carpentry, sewing, weaving looms, bead and jewelry making, ironwork, computer literacy, and hair and beauty. The programs have incredibly high job placement rates after graduation, with some programs as high as 100 percent.

The uniqueness of this center is that is it is a sustainable, community driven initiative. The trainers and executive director of the school are all local, and the local community decides the areas of training within the center based on their interests and the economic demands of their community. The center also makes every effort to be self-sustaining. For example, the culinary school opened a café within the center that not only provides excellent real world practice for its students, but is turning a profit that provides funding for needed staff. CECAP also has a small garden on its rooftop that provides many of the herbs and ingredients for its café. Also, the artisan work of students is sold in a small shop within the center and has begun to sell internationally. The center hopes that it can continue to expand the existing market for the artisan products so that its students and future students are able to have continuous work.

CECAP also makes many efforts to involve the community in their programs. For the final exam and graduation of the culinary school, students must design a multi-course meal and beverage. The community is invited to try the dishes and celebrate in the graduation. The center also works closely with local public schools. Students starting from around age 10 attend computer classes and are encouraged to attend trainings in one of the many other areas offered. Since local schools lack computer labs, this is provides a needed exposure and opportunity to build computer literacy. CECAP has 17 donated computers in its lab and solar panels on its roof to reduce electricity costs.  This is just another example of the many ways that CECAP is self-sustaining.

While its mission is to provide vocational education, it is doing much more. It is helping the local economy by providing jobs and a skilled labor force in areas of economic demand. Santa Cruz is one of the poorest towns in the area and is incredibly isolated, as it can only be reached by boat. Being able to help grow the economy in these conditions is a difficult task. CECAP also is helping to build a vibrant and cohesive society. By having the community involved and celebrating the success of its students, it is fostering civic engagement and local ownership of the accomplishments of its community members.

~Beth Davis, Manager of Educational Programs