To bring nutritional/health education and mentoring to a group of disadvantaged teenage girls in Central America
On our list of potential locations were Costa Rica, with the convenience of the Soltis Center Guatemala Mexico We eventually settled on San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, after becoming acquainted with Mr. Pablo Marvin and learning about an NGO there called Feed the Hungry.
Our goal was extremely broad We couldn’t maintain steady contact with directors from Feed the Hungry We didn’t have a specific beneficiary group in mind Our attitude: we knew what we wanted to offer, and were looking for a group to “give” it to.
Purpose: ◦ to meet the directors of Feed the Hungry (FTH) ◦ To present them with our idea and see if they were interested in adopting a mentoring program like the one we had in mind ◦ To see the city of San Miguel
Outcomes: ◦ FTH was not interested in being affiliated with a project such as ours because it deviated from the organization’s very specific vision ◦ Lexie became personally acquainted with several of FTH’s directors ◦ Our idea needed to be reworked
To hold an nutrition/health/hygiene workshop for the teenage girls in the Casa Hogar Don Bosco orphanage in early summer 2013 To form a group of Texas A&M students from various relevant colleges (education, nutrition, Spanish, sociology, kinesiology) to accompany us and help us carry out our goal
Rewrote proposal a second time Established contact with Susan Sargent, the listed English-speaking contact for Casa Hogar Don Bosco, who confirmed to us that yes! The people of San Miguel needed help in learning how to live healthier lives! Began to plan a curriculum and an application process for A&M students
Susan Sargent’s responses were inconsistent, answered questions we did not ask, did not answer the questions we did ask, and were very difficult to follow We realized we knew almost nothing about San Miguel and that we weren’t going to get the information we needed secondhand The orphanage was not located near Hacienda Santa Clara, where we hoped to run our workshops In speaking with Mr. Marvin and Janice Zimolzak, director of development for FTH, we learned that the girls in the orphanage may not be receptive to our efforts and would probably not benefit long-term from our project. Our attitude: we knew what we wanted to offer, and were looking for a group to “give” it to.
Our discovery that Susan Sargent was in fact not associated with the orphanage at all and hadn’t been for ten years Our conclusion that the orphanage was not an appropriate group of beneficiaries Contacting and meeting with Dr. Jenna Anding, Associate Department Head for Extension, Nutrition Department Discouragement, then most importantly… A change in attitude: we needed to spend time in this community, talk to its members, and find out what its greatest need actually was- nutritionally or otherwise. Then we could find a way to help and form a vision.
Travel together to San Miguel to assess the needs of the community, in particular those of: ◦ Women ◦ Young children ◦ Adolescents ◦ Families
Our week-long agenda included: ◦ 1) Interviewing/spending time with the female employees and team members at Hacienda Santa Clara ◦ 2) Becoming better acquainted with Janice of FTH ◦ 3) Meeting FTH’s nutritionist and director of programs ◦ 4) Visiting two elementary schools sponsored by FTH and spending time interviewing the older students
Margarita, Sandy, Yolanda, Elízabeth, Sofía, Rosario What we learned: ◦ “Machismo”- an attitude of male dominance- is responsible for many families’ decision not to send their young girls to school (approx. 70% of families –Sandy) ◦ The children in SMA aren’t any more nutritionally unaware than most places- like all children, they like to eat junk food ◦ Communities around SMA have benefitted greatly from FTH’s presence, particularly children ◦ Once a child has enough to eat and can find the energy to focus on things like homework, his/her next greatest need is educational resources/school supplies, and most importantly a reason to continue going to school.
What we learned: ◦ FTH only intervenes in a community when the community requests help ◦ The school kitchens employ local people to cook, providing a few much-needed jobs ◦ FTH is the most successful NGO in San Miguel and much of Mexico Why? Its founders identified a need, created a vision that centered around meeting this need, and do not deviate from the vision. They have created positions in finance, programs, development, and family nutrition within the organization, and run it like a business. ◦ When possible, FTH is interested in helping the children in the schools it sponsors in ways beyond meeting their nutritional needs
What we learned: ◦ FTH’s meals have made a noticeable difference in students’ ability to concentrate on their studies ◦ Many of the students’ families (boys and girls) always encourage them to do their homework and study hard ◦ The majority of students know where they will be attending secondary school ◦ Many of the students would like to attend a university someday, but are not sure how to achieve this goal ◦ There is a group of ten students in Primaria San Luis Rey that FTH is sponsoring to study English in a language academy in SMA. These students are devoted to English lessons and practice in their classes, but there are few fluent speakers for them to practice with outside of lessons.
Since education is the primary need of many of the disadvantaged children of SMA once they have enough to eat, we want to be a part of helping meet this need. 10 for 10: we are creating a group of ten A&M students who will be educational, English- speaking mentors for the group of ten students from San Luis Rey. ◦ The group will communicate with the students via mail and Facebook, if possible ◦ We will raise funds for the group to make a trip to SMA during spring break of 2014 to spend time with their mentees and put on after-school group and individual activities of their choosing
Continue contact with directors of FTH, who have told us they are willing to help in providing any information they can about the students and working with San Luis Rey Create profiles of the ten SMA students and remain in contact with their current teacher Finalize an application for A&M students who are interested in becoming mentors Finalize application release date and interview dates Raise funds to cover airfare for ten students at approximately $700 each, round trip Plan workshops and cultural education sessions
Incorporate a new group of students each year and continuously raise funds for an annual trip Possibilities: ◦ 1) Find a pair of students in next year’s AFIL class who have an interest in continuing our vision ◦ 2) Merge with AGE (Aggies for Global Education) ◦ 3) Run the project through an official student organization on campus ◦ Ideally a combination of 1 and either 2 or 3