Thanks to your generous support, the Yo’onik Learning Center has been built!
The building is already filled with eager students and teachers, though some screws still need to be tightened as we gear up for more improvements. Just as the building was completed, Yo’onik received an award from México Lee (Mexico Reads) for its work promoting literacy.
With Yo’onik up and running in its new space, we are taking a moment to reflect and thank everyone who made this possible. Below founders Xunka and Yoli tell the story of all the donors and collaborators who came together to build the Yo’onik Learning Center.
In 2008, when some families asked us to help their children with their homework, we began an educational support project. Mujeres de Maiz en Resistencia supported us until 2010 with notebooks and pencils, and we worked in a borrowed storage area. Soon after we began working with Natik, and in 2012, the Church by the Sea (CBTS) in Florida donated money for books, art supplies, educational materials, and a storage cabinet.
Looking to enhance the program, Xunka in Spetember 2013 went with Anita, Devin (a Natik fellow), and his wife Caitlin to visit the Natik projects in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. Xunka returned to Chiapas inspired by the professionalism, creativity, and personal dedication of everyone she met. In October, the children named the project“Yo’onik”, which means heart in Tzotzil. This motivated us to apply for (and receive!) funding from Amigos de San Cristobal in 2014.
When the owner of our teaching space saw new tables and chairs, books, art supplies, and more storage units, he asked for rent. We decided it wasn’t worth it, so we ran the Saturday program under a tarp behind our house. During the first half of 2014, we continued to tutor more than 40 children every week, often ending up inside our kitchen to escape the rain! CBTS provided enough money for two high school scholarships, in exchange for tutoring the younger students.
In April, our family decided that we could donate part of our cornfield and some of the building materials collected from one of the local political parties. In June and July, Natik joined forces with the Lower East Side Girls Club, Church by the Sea, Loyola University interns, Mexican friends, and social media donors, to raise enough money for a new building!
In early August, we inaugurated the Yo’onik Community Education Center with representatives from many of the groups that had collaborated on this project.
Now, every Saturday and Wednesday, the building is filled with children who love learning. Twice a month, teens gather for a photographic, linguistic and cultural workshop sponsored by the Girls Club. Thanks to a nomination from our dear friend Jorge in México City, Yo’onik recently won a prize from México Lee (Mexico Reads). We recieved 50 books and prize money, which will buy a projector to present educational films.
Amigos approved funding for 2015, and CBTS is now supporting six scholarships. In February, the Girls Club will have a fundraiser to generate the funds needed to complete the building. In the first quarter of 2015, two interns from Antioch College will help us adapt and implement program curricula that the Puerta Abierta is team is working on right now!
One of the most effective ways to diminish poverty is to keep children in school. For boys, every year they stay in school beyond sixth grade, they earn an average of 10% more during their lifetimes. For girls, every year beyond sixth grade they start having children later, and have fewer. When parents only complete second or third grade, they need help to keep their children in school. That is exactly what Yo’onik is doing, with the help of our extended (and growing) intercultural and international friends.
From all of us at Yo’onik, thanks to all for your collaboration and support!