Something new in ACJU this quarter is a tutoring group to help final year middle school students prepare for their high school admission test. In Mexico, the scores on this mandatory test will determine the quality of the high school students are able to attend, which in turn will have a tremendous impact on their ability to get into university. Unfortunately, students from low-income municipalities like Chimalhuacán are competing for admission to the most prestigious high schools with students from upper-income neighborhoods in Mexico City, where schools have far more resources and higher academic standards.
In February one young man from ACJU Deportivo, the sports project, came to request help preparing for his admission test. He was told to invite some friends as well and from there the group has grown to include 14 youth. Many of these youth have low levels of reading comprehension and severe gaps in their knowledge. Several did not even know what continent they lived on. However, at each tutoring session these kids learn something new they had never heard of before. Their noticeable progress has inspired them to keep on working hard in preparation for their upcoming admission exams in June.
Thanks to negotiations that have taken place with the Los Reyes municipal public health services in the last few months, a group of dentists will soon going out to San Sebastián to host an oral hygiene campaign. This event is part of the municipal of Health Secretary’s overall oral health campaign; however, it is strictly due to ProSalud’s advocacy that the campaign agreed to spend an entire day in the remote San Sebastián neighborhood.
Although ProSalud has arranged for dental services to be available in previous general medical campaigns, there has never been a campaign focused on oral hygiene in this neighborhood before. Currently, residents of San Sebastian have to travel at least a half hour to the public health clinic in order to receive low-cost dental treatment. The time and cost of transportation involved can be a barrier for many families. During the event, participating dentists are hoping to provide exams, fillings, cleanings, fluoride application and other preventative care to at least 50 children. ProSalud will also hold a workshop for children on cavity prevention and toothbrushing techniques and give away toothbrushes and toothpaste as door prizes.
The exciting work taking place in San José Palmas during the last few months has to do with water access. Since last year, several citizen groups in this neighborhood have been working together to try and bring running water to their community. Although the municipal water company has agreed to build the water tower and a donor has been secured to pay for the materials, the delay at this point has been securing a plot of land to build the tower on. The citizen committees figured out that the community itself could purchase the land if 300 families would pitch in about $75 U.S. each. They held a series of community meetings, where at first more than enough families were on board. However, opportunistic local area “strongmen” who sought to personally profit from bringing water into the neighborhood attempted to obstruct the process more than once.
Undaunted, the committees continued to talk with their neighbors. They opened a community bank account and developed accountability procedures to keep the process transparent. At this point, in spite of intense opposition from one local “boss” who has severely divided the community, the committees have raised almost half the funds needed to purchase the land. Although they have not yet reached their goal, spirits are high and there is a feeling of gathering momentum as the committees continue to work towards a collaborative solution.
In January, Comunidades de Shalom launched a music school for church members interested in learning to play music. There are now approximately 10 students, from children to adults, who are learning to play the guitar and the keyboards. A professional music teacher was found to teach the class who has been charging each student just $0.75 U.S. per hour. This is the first opportunity most of these students have had to obtain music lessons, which would normally be out of their reach financially. In fact, all but two of the students had no previous musical background whatsoever.
The idea is that the weekly music school will develop the participants’ musical skills to the degree that Comunidades de Shalom will be able to form its own worship team. This will give members more opportunities for direct service, by leading music during the service as well as playing at other events. So far the group is very excited about what they have been learning. Staff has noticed that the idea of creating their own worship team appears to have increased the participants’ commitment to participating in Sunday worship. They are very enthusiastic about the idea of being able to play during services, which the first of these students will begin to do this month in April.