Global Giving

Dear Friend,
Early unofficial summer greetings from Xela, Guatemala! Hopefully this message finds you happy and healthy as the summer gets underway. Here at the Colegio Miguel Asturias, we have had quite an eventful year impacting the lives of our 300 low-income indigenous students. At this time last year, we were well on our way to establishing the first community library in the region. Today, the library is nearly complete, and we are so happy at how excited our students have become over reading.

As one specific example, when asked what he liked to do for fun, nine-year-old Jorge responded, “I like playing soccer, but I also like going up to the library; I think I like them both equally.”

As you can see, placing a book in our students’ hands has gone a long way to foster a love of reading. However, the only way to further solidify this newfound habit is to keep their interest by offering new stories for them to enjoy. Thus, if you would like to help supply books and staff our library, we would be most appreciative.

Luckily, www.GlobalGiving.org will be allowing us to further amplify this process by matching 30% of every donation that is made to our organization online on JUNE 15th, 2011, USING THIS AND ONLY THIS LINK:

http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/asturiaslibrary/

Therefore, after all the administrative fees, your $10 donation magically turns into $13, which is just about enough to purchase one book for our library! Anyway, if you have ever felt the desire to help fight educational inequality in Guatemala, JUNE 15th would be a great opportunity to put that goal to fruition!

Innovate for Impact!

Recently we welcomed a team of 4 from Northwestern’s Innovate for Impact Program. Jamie Jones led the group, which included Sumeeth Jonathan, Jason Hoover and Howard Lee. The team spent two weeks here at the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy, with the end goal of being able to leave some kind of module that the Academy could implement. The first week was spent observing and learning as much as possible about the school, the students and the community of Xela. Week 2 saw the construction and demonstrations of the modules. What they came up with was really great. They developed different aspects of the edutourism program, as well as presented a long term vision for how the school can become more self-sustainable. At the end of two weeks, we were happy to see that the group not only had ideas, but tangible ways to implement them. We look forward to working long term with this great group from Northwestern!

Some comments from the participants themselves:

I think the school is fantastic and its mission is something that every school should have. That’s why I am so excited to continue supporting and working with the school. I’m just really inspired by it. It’s amazing. –Jason Hoover

Jorge is a real visionary… you can really see his impact on the students and staff. I really enjoyed my time here and learned a lot. –Sumeeth Jonathan

Ashoka U Exchange

In late February, Jorge went to Duke University for a conference hosted by Ashoka U. The conference was an opportunity for Jorge to meet hundreds of social entrepreneurs and students interested in the field. Not only was he able to make many connections, but the structure of the program included many workshop sessions. Each hour, there were 4 or 5 options, which allowed Jorge to attend the most relevant for the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy.

Perhaps the two most interesting and relevant workshops were “Building a Self-Sustaining, Revenue-Generating Center” and “Storytelling for Social Change”. The first workshop was helpful in conceptualizing the future possibilities for the Academy in terms of financial support. Dave Casper, the leader of the workshop, pointed out that the traditional model of funding (asking donors for money and producing a report telling them how the money was used) isn’t the most effective long-term strategy for funding projects. Instead, he demonstrated a closed loop model, in which initial money is invested in an idea, which produces something, which then does something, which creates value, which can be reinvested in the project, or used to start a new one. All the “somethings” in that model are dependent upon the project itself. The idea, however, is something that the Academy will likely try to implement in the future. The key, according to Casper, is shifting from “problem solving” to “value creating”.

The second workshop, “Storytelling for Social Change”, taught a skill useful to every person, but perhaps particularly those who aim to engage a larger community in a project or program. Roshan Paul led this workshop and demonstrated, using video clips that most were familiar with such as speeches made by President Obama, how people connect with speakers. Most people explain what they do, some explain how they do it, but few can effectively explain why they do it. The best speakers and most effective organizations can tell their story in reverse…. Why they do that they do, and then how and what. Paul then had the group break into teams of 4 and work through telling each person’s individual story. While difficult, due to language and cultural differences, this skill is incredibly important to the Academy, as we seek to connect with friends and partners from other countries. As an institution, we are learning how to tell our stories, and navigating certain differences in the process.

Jorge and the Academy would like to thank both Ashoka U for hosting the conference, as well as the financial assistance they provided to help cover travel expenses. An additional huge thank you to Global Fund for Children for financial assistance, covering the rest of the travel expenses as well as lodging and food expenses.