LATIN AMERICAN CONCERNS COMMITTEE
REPORT TO REPRESENTATIVE COMMITTEE 2015
In 1997, PYM annual session established a standing Latin America Concerns Committee to gather and disseminate information to Pacific and other Yearly Meetings regarding Friends groups and service projects in Latin America. The intention is to support rather than replace spirit-led projects already supported by Monthly Meetings, Worship Groups and individual Friends.
LACC has met once since last annual session. LACC, along with Peace and Social Order Committee, encouraged the invitation of Paula Palmer of Boulder Meeting to present a workshop at Annual Session 2015 titled Toward Right Relationship with America’s Native Peoples. The director of the Guatemala Friends Scholarship Program, Miguel Costop, is planning to attend this coming Annual Session. The committee has requested Interest Group time for his presentation on Quakerism and Mayan Spirituality.
The Child Refugee and Migration subcommittee led by convener Lynnette Arnold has met 20 times since Annual Session and continues to meet regularly. We have a very dedicated group of 4 members who are on every call with another 4-5 who are generally on the calls. We also have an email list of about 25 who are kept in the loop of our work. A Western Friend article, Leading of the Spirit in Support of Child Refugees, was written by participants of the subcommittee. A letter and resource packet has been developed and was distributed to all meetings in PYM along with Minutes from four PYM monthly meetings (attached). Leading and Mission statements were posted to the PYM web site under LACC along with the Resource List and monthly meeting Minutes. An Annual Session Interest Group on Child Refugees and Migration is being requested along with Peace and Social Order Committee, as co-sponsor.
CASA DE LOS AMIGOS
Casa de los Amigos has had a full and productive year of diverse peace work in Mexico City, and has been held by our local and international community. The Casa’s Hospitality Program, which includes our social justice oriented guesthouse, has been active as ever, all year long. Our flourishing Migration and Economic Justice Programs are built on this fertile ground. We have strengthened our rich partnerships with many Mexican and international organizations, and continue to provide temporary emergency housing and daily Spanish classes to migrants and refugees from around the world. We installed a rainwater catchment system as part of an ongoing process of lightening the Casa’s environmental impact. This year the Casa has also expanded opportunities to share our work and witness with our community, by coordinating educational and awareness-building activities for many of our visiting groups. We offered a Quaker Social Action in Mexico Learning Tour and are planning more! Above all, the Casa’s daily life of faith, fun and good will is the Casa’s offering to the city and open to all.
EL SALVADOR PROJECTS OF PALO ALTO MEETING
The El Salvador Projects of Palo Alto Meeting currently support 13 university students from poor rural communities with student loans that can be repaid in cash, through community service, or through financial support for another student. The students’ fields of study are varied and wide-ranging, from law and medicine to art and teaching. Many students live in a house in San Salvador that we rent in partnership with other programs that also support university students.
Annually, our Field Director, Robert Broz, is the principal organizer of a university fair in Suchitoto, El Salvador, that brings prospective students together with representatives of institutions of higher learning and programs that offer financial aid.
The Projects also help to fund a few positions in rural schools that do not receive adequate support from the government. We also help to support periodic skills workshops in rural villages on such topics as how to build efficient and inexpensive stoves and alternatives to violence training. We collect unneeded reading glasses in the United States and send them to El Salvador, where they enable older people to resume work and activities that had been beyond them due to vision loss.
The Projects are overseen by a committee of Palo Alto Meeting that supports the Field Director in discernment and planning and raises funds, largely through newsletters that are sent to supporters 2-3 times per year.
GUATEMALA FRIENDS SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
In 2014, 20 students graduated from the Guatemala Friends Scholarship Program (known as Progresa in Guatemala) 15 at the secondary level and5 from university. We accepted 28 new students including 4 who are in medical school. Our total number of students for 2015 is 77 with the possibility of 1 to 3 more being added.
Last summer, a group of 20 Junior Friends from North Pacific Yearly Meeting toured around Guatemala with our director Miguel Costop. During their travels, they met several Progresa students and graduates. They learned first hand about the hardships Guatemalans face and came to realize how important Progresa has been in overcoming obstacles. The sixth Teaching English Experience was held in January with 14 North Americans teaching 14 Progresa students. It is such a rewarding experience that half of the teachers were returnees. We are looking forward to our Annual Student Conference in May when our students and former students come together to learn and network.
For all the work involved, we continue to feel encouraged and blessed when we see how lives and communities are enriched by the opportunities for social justice that education provides.
Donna Smith, Clerk