Once month, the children of Safe Passage have a day off and their parents come to the project instead. This is called the reunión mensual (monthly meeting). Most parents come to Safe Passage while their child is at school, and they speak with their family's social worker, listen to presentations from the psychology and social work departments, and spend time in their child's classroom with their teacher and volunteer. They also pick up any supplemental food support they may be eligible for.
The October reunión mensual happened this past Friday, and a lot of work went into it, as you can see in these photos. Now that the Guatemalan school year is over, the students participating in Safe Passage’s Youth Leadership program have been assisting the project in a variety of ways.
As mentioned above, a large part of the reunión mensual resembles a parent-teacher conference in that all of the parents meet with their child's teacher and volunteer for part of the day. As I prepared this post to share with you, I reflected on own my time as a classroom assistant during fall 2010 and the impressions I wrote after experiencing my first reunión mensual:
“The teacher with whom I worked introduced me, and then instead of telling a little about me or letting me describe myself, she had all of the mothers ask me a question.
“The most interesting question I got was, ‘Do you have any kids?’ This was after they already knew I was 22. Especially with the group in the afternoon, I was really struck by how much I felt like I was talking to concerned parents in the US when it came to their kids. The questions those moms had for me weren't about me, they all wanted to know how their kids behaved and how to help them.
“At the same time, there were many times during the day – like when they asked if I had kids – when I was reminded of how different this community is from my own. Many of the moms cannot read and therefore can't really help their kids with homework. The range in ages of women represented was enormous. There were some very young mothers as well as grandmothers who are the primary caregivers.
“After the introductions and some announcements by the teacher, she met with parents individuall in turn while I played bingo with the waiting moms. I laughed so hard with some of the moms from the afternoon, and I loved learning a little bit more about the people with whom the kids in my classes live.
“Another great part about this day for me as a classroom volunteer was the way it opened the door to more communication with my classroom teacher. So far we've gotten along really well, but she hadn't really told me much about the students. After meeting with the moms, I was able to sit down with her and look at the grades of the students in both classes. I found out who the smartest ones were, and sometimes it really surprised me! I also found out about many who might have to repeat this year depending on how exams go. She told me about how she's had problems with a few of our 8th graders wanting to drop out this year. I also learned just a bit about the abuse many of my students endure at home.”
A little more than a year after recording those thoughts and impressions, I appreciate the importance of this day each month even more. It is crucial for facilitating communication between the families and Safe Passage. Giving up their time on this day is one way that the parents can show their support of and interest in their child’s education and we can better collaborate to ensure their success.