Friday, January 13, 2012

Tamales and Scholarships

This morning I had a tamale for breakfast and some platanos … not an unusual breakfast at all.  But where the food came from is very special.
The platanos came from Blanca’s father’s land.  They are always delicious.  They make sure we have a supply of them on a regular basis. 

The tamales – there is a story about those.  I commented to Cecilia that they were very small.  Normally they are about 5” long and about 2” around.  These were about 4” long and about 1” around. And they were in corn husks and not the ‘normal’ banana leaf wrapping.

I learned they were a gift to us from one of the mothers of one of our scholarship recipients yesterday.  It was a way for her to express her gratitude.  And she is one who definitely would not be able to enroll her son in school without some help.  She sells tamales here in Berlín.  She is a single mom with 2 in high school and one in the middle school.  The kids work in the fields to earn a little pay.  They work hard to be able to survive and to be able to go to school.  The tamales may seem like a humble gift – but to me it was a huge gift. 

We had 45 students and about 60 parents here yesterday for our beginning of the year meeting. The chapel was full and there were probably 20 people sitting and standing outside the door listening. The third year parents and students were invited to hang out in the kitchen area since they knew the process and all.  This made room for our new families.

Cecilia getting ready to take 'roll-call'

Blanca talking about roles and responsibilities

Balmore explaining the funds, from where they come and the sacrifices we
ALL make to be able to send our children to school

Blanca reviewing the lists

Standing room only!!  the people sitting and listeing in from outside the chapel door.

I explained a little of what we talk about in that meeting in my last blog so I don’t need to repeat it all here … maybe just a little embellishment … We talked a lot about the responsibilities of all of us.  And we tried to explain that it is from the efforts of lots of people in the States that we are able to provide this financial help to the families … that we know it doesn’t cover all their expenses – but it is a help.  Several parents spoke up at this point expressing gratitude for the help because it is big.  And without this support they aren’t sure how their children could continue studying.  And it isn’t just our responsibility (the Pastoral House) to help their students be able to attend school – but also the responsibility and sometime the sacrifice of the family to help it be a reality.  There were beautiful words spoken.

After the meeting which lasted about an hour, we started the process of handing out the first “cuota” or payout.  The partner churches that have scholarships provide $100 per year to the family which is given in two payouts.  (One partner church gives $150 in 3 payouts).  We give the first $50 at the beginning of the year to help buy the uniform and shoes and some school supplies.  Then again in July, halfway through the year, the families get the other half.  This second payout can help replace worn out shoes or buy more school supplies.

Prior to the second payout we will have received grade reports for 2 periods.  And I always ask for some sort of written message from the students to share with their partner churches or the individuals who help support our general education fund.  We have 27 students who are being supported by 4 different Iowa churches and 33 students who are being supported by random individuals committed to education. 

We have students from San Francisco, Las Delicias, El Tablón and Virginia (partnered communities).  We have students from Loma Alta, San Lorenzo, Alejandria, and a few students from here in town (general funds).

I took photos of each student – that is included in the folders I keep which hold their solicitude (application), most current grade reports, letters of gratitude and any other information pertinent to the effort. 

Now I get to make a report to each of the partner churches as well as the donors (that I know about) of the general education funds.  I will include the student’s pictures so everyone can see that there truly are young people who will be able to go to high school because of their generosity.

My tamale tasted wonderful this morning. 
Below are a few of our students ...




Marvin (son of the tamale woman!!)




Perry Washburn said...

Kathy: I am leading a Habitat for Humanity group from Des Moines Feb. 18-26. We will be in Usulutan, and plan to visit Santiago de Maria, where we hope to help build a new planned community in the future. I met with some of the Companeros team after our first El Salvador trip in 2010. We would like to expand the connections. Is there a chance we could come up for perhaps an afternoon during our stay?

kathy said...

Perry: we would love for you to come up to Berlin to visit us! From Santiago, it is only about 25 minutes on decent road (with beautiful views!)
Email me kathymahler111 at and we can plan.