Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Placing Hope in Education for a Different Future

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best—” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called. — A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

I’m not sure what it was called either, but this quote came to mind last week as I was driving into the village of San Miguel el Progreso. I hadn't been there for about ten years, and I was really looking forward to seeing old friends. Just the anticipation of that encounter made the drive along the dusty road easier to handle (the view helped too: it was like driving to heaven; Elijah had his chariot, I had my truck).
Driving to San Miguel el Progreso
I was going there to deliver a supply of educational materials to the local high school. Forgive me for smiling as I re-read that line. The high school in San Miguel, with 104 students, is quite different from the image of a high school that most Canadians probably have. Consider the following photo of the outside of half of the high school:
The original classrooms of the high school (and still being used)
And the high school classroom is rather different than the classrooms that I used to teach in when I lived in Calgary:
A Grade 12 classroom in San Miguel
The parents in San Miguel have organized and formed an Education Committee that is, as they put it, “knocking on doors” of governmental and non-governmental organizations in the hope of improving their educational facilities. The state government did build them three new classrooms, but the committee is hoping for more: things like Internet service, a small library, a chemistry lab, a sports field (even if not regulation size), more teachers, etc.
Three classrooms recently built by the government
The 3,500 people who live in San Miguel basically live from growing coffee. Unfortunately, this year they are receiving a double whammy: coffee prices are low in the market, and many of the coffee plants in the area suffer from a plague called “coffee leaf rust.” I mentioned in a blog in September that “food and education” is a “marriage made in heaven” in terms of what most parents hope for their children. But food has to be the priority—and the upcoming year looks like it’s going to be a hungry one for many people in San Miguel.
Coffee beans drying in the sun in San Miguel
The principal of the high school is Fausto, a very committed young man. I used to teach him in the diocesan seminary before his life took a turn toward the field of education. He was born in San Miguel and understands the challenges that his people face. He is a wonderful example of someone who is using his abilities and energy to work for the well-being of his community.
Fausto and his wife, Adelina, in their kitchen-dining area
It is such a blessing to be allowed to be here and to accompany as best I can the efforts of so many incredible people as they struggle to create a better world for others. The many little and big things that Mission Mexico is able to do is multiplied by the renewed sense of commitment that many people experience when they realize that they are not alone in their struggle for life. Perhaps that is one of the best gifts that Mission Mexico offers.
Another (outdoor) classroom in the high school in San Miguel
So thank you to all who support Mission Mexico. You are making a difference in people’s lives. Have a great week.
Driving home from San Miguel at night can be an adventure too

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