Wednesday, November 16, 2016

5 years of continued support for "Theater for Development" to empower Mayan Children in Guatemala

For the 5th straight year, Cause & Affect is supporting a program we launched back in 2012 in rural Guatemala to use a "Theater for Development" approach as a means of empowering Mayan Children in Guatemala. WATCH THE ORIGINAL YOUTUBE VIDEO HERE
Watch 2012 Field Report Video Here
BACKGROUND: Proportionately the largest indigenous population in the world, the Mayans of Guatemala have a proud cultural tradition, but sadly, they have been discriminated against for centuries. Though they have won a right to a free education in recent decades, the odds for their academic success are stacked against them. There are a few main reasons to explain this achievement gap:
1. Their rural schools are severely lacking in school supplies;
2.  Spanish is their second language (they speak Mayan dialects at home); and
3.  The discrimination they face from non-indigenous students.
As a result, they often feel out of place and afraid to express themselves in school, which adversely affects their performance and often results in drop out.

STRATEGY: What is needed is a way to create a more comfortable academic setting, where the Mayan students feel free to express themselves to fellow students and teachers. 
Theater for Development is an innovative tool used in the field of international development, 
wherein participants act out dramas, comedies, musical numbers and dance performances as a 
means of self-expression. The component of role play allows them to experience the situation from another angle and the improvisational component allows them to think on their toes and experience new forms of thought and action.

WHAT WE DID: Starting in 2012, Cause & Affect launched this program in Guatemala and has supported it every year since. On our 
recent field visit in July 2016, we pledged to continue our support for the coming year. For $300, we are able to finance the project.
Each year this Program has an increasing number of applicants from the scholarship population and the participants demonstrate a high level of commitment and enthusiasm for the Program.

Through their weekly meetings the members of the group participate in valuable therapeutic and pedagogical exercises that enable them to express themselves more freely, integrate into the group, overcome shyness and develop intrinsic communication skills.

CasaSito has been able to observe several positive changes amongst the young people participating in the program, due to the opportunity that it gives them to identify and resolve painful issues and the confidence and communication skills that it allows them to develop.

IMPACT: Theater & Personal Expression: Changing Students’ Lives:
Tangible Impact 1: The Theater Club allows students to express their dreams and develop their convictions and self-esteem:

One young woman´s wish is for her community and society as a whole to value and respect people with disabilities. As a child, she was unable to effectively and decisively address the injustices committed against her older brother who has a disability. She remembered, “There were times when they hurt him physically and verbally and this hurt me”. Today, she stands up for her brother and takes a critical look at her own behavior.

Another young man suffered verbal and physical abuse from his family and friends for expressing, through music, his desire for social justice in Guatemala. Despite this pressure, he is resolute, “No, I am going to continue with this, with what I like. And it [the social injustices] is what I want to change”. CasaSito gave him a safe place to share his ideas, beliefs, and convictions.

Tangible Impact 2: The Theater Club allows students to make better decisions:

One student was previously indecisive and uncertain: ‘’Now, I try to analyze and think, what is, what is convenient for me, or if it is going to benefit me”.

Tangible Impact 3: The Theater Club allows students to speak up and speak out:

Several youth explained that they have increased their communication skills, ability to initiate conversations, and analytical skills: ‘now I really feel - more than anything- liberated! Like free to express myself”.

A young woman affirmed she doesn´t keep quiet anymore, “instead I say what I want to say and stand up for myself. Stand up for my rights”. One young man experienced discrimination for his indigenous heritage and because of his involvement he now stands up for himself. He said, “I have had this done to me, but… no I didn´t defend myself…But after the theater. Yes!”

Tangible Impact 4: The Theater Club allows students to search for alternatives to their problems:

“I must find a solution at whatever moment. I can’t….I can’t let myself be put down by other people, and also something can always be done. In whatever circumstance. There must always be a solution”.

Tangible Impact 5: Students develop a social consciousness and a desire to become agents of change:

A young indigenous man reported, “Before I, maybe before I would have also been an oppressor, I don´t know, because the truth is that, I discriminated sometimes as well, and I am also indigenous. After the theater, my mindset changed and everything”.

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