I am writing to send you a report on our recent trip to my Guatelinda this past November and wish everyone happy holidays too.
We traveled to Guatelinda last month without a delegation. The economy is hitting hard, i got tons of calls of students interested but no money. They were all asking for scholarship. Sadly, I had to accept we would not take a delegation this November. Just as I am accepting we would not have a trip, I get an invitation from Guatemala’s 1st lady to attend the UN campaign launch in Guatemala. We were asked to participate in one of the workshops and of course I accepted to sadly find out that the people from the United Nations had already planned their own agenda and the people from 1st lady were not able to make it happen. I had everything ready for the workshop and just one day before was told, thank you, but no thank you. It turned out to be that the people from the 1st lady jumped the gun and invited MIA without consulting with the UN people who already had their workshops programmed.
During our week there we used our time wisely and followed up with the Police Accademy, USAC, and the department of education. As you know, in Guatemala people are fired overnight without explanation and this is what happened with the Police Academy. We had accomplished getting in early this year and then found out that the director who enabled us to get in (a woman) was fired and when we ran to the head of Police who also approved of our work, who also was fired. This set us back to have to start all over again.
Early this year we were able to get in with the help of the U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala, but this time, so far, we are on our own. Luckily we made strong ties with different people in the Police Academy and with the old Director of Police and other people in different positions. All that goodwill is thanks to the workshop we did, many of the participants were in different positions and are willing to speak up for us if questioned about our trainings. The old director is today in the Vice Ministerio de Gobernacion asked us on this trip to coordinate with the Women Affairs coordinator to schedule an appointment with the new director and that she would back us up with a letter signed by her. We are aiming for late January, early February.
Taking advantage that we will have a trip early next year, we have taken the decision to start the paper work to have a satellite in Guatemala which we hope will allow us to get funds from the U.S. and the 1st lady. The people from the 1st lady asked us to file our paper work and that that is the only way they can help. They explained to us that there are 2 ways to get funds: one is becoming a nonprofit and another is to take advantage that we have a non profit in the US and we would only have to file for the same status in Guate, as a satellite.
We rushed to find an attorney and found out really quick that the attorneys are charging us by what we are wearing. I decided to back off and do my searching thru family and friends and find an attorney we can afford.
In Guatemala you need an attorney for this paperwork. It is not the same like in the U.S. where we did our paperwork ourselves. As we were doing the running around, Chris agreed with my conclusion that the only way we can make this happen is by me staying in Guate for a long period of time. This is something I had been talking about and explaining to him, but he had not undertand till this visit where he was with me in meetings, conferences, transactions and simply visiting.
While visiting a family that we helped here in California (true transnational work) the family invited us for dinner to thank us for the help we gave their daughter. Their daughter is back in Guate with her 2 daughters safe and sound from domestic violence. We had a big role in helping her go back home to Guate and the family has become a BIG ally of MIA in Guate. Through this family we will be talking to a company who may is interested in funding our workshops. Again, they want to speak to us and us only. I wanted to delegate one of our strong volunteers for this meeting, but they will wait for my visit early next year.
Also we made a new contact with a congresswoman who will coordinate for MIA to speak to all congresswomen and make them aware of our workshops to help lobby for us to get funds. So we visited the chairperson for education in the Green House and she wants us to start delivering workshop early next year. Plus USAC wants me to be present for the kick off of the next semester.
I was bummed all this time that we had not been able to take a delegation, but with all these visits, I felt better and I learned that Sarah at Soka University will be leading a delegation next month, I feel very happy to know that our work has led others to want to bring groups to Guatemala!
Marina Wood, who some of you probably do not think knows any Spanish, was down in Guate for 10 weeks leading 5 different sites in the Hombres Contra Feminicidio campaign. She was a great representative of MIA as were her co facilitators, two of MIA’s star men. Marina has also been blogging about her experience as she learned a lot about living in a “developing” country, doing prevention education, and greatly improving her Spanish. She is back in the US now, but deserves a big pat on the back for all the work she did in Guate as well as for getting accepted into her dream school, Claremont Graduate University.
The government (first Lady) say they are able to give us money for our program, but they won’t do that until we have a program in place. SO the question is, what comes first, the chicken (program) or the egg (money)? The answer is the chicken. We need some egg money to get things going to the point where the government will be able to get us money for the program. So we are working on the sources for private funding. As always, if you have ideas for donor/investors in peace, please send them our way.