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January 15, 2018: Barbara Young, Guatemala Literacy Project (GLP)     www.guatemalaliteracy.org

Barbara Young is known to many in the club for all the good she does in the world. She was invited to speak by our World Service Committee on her Guatemala Literacy Project (GLP). Steve Strang had the honour of introducing her.

Barb was raised in Regina – some "Go Riders Go" fans in the crowd! - and graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in mathematics and education. She has dedicated a large part of her career to developing personnel in the oil and gas Industry. The balance of her time is now dedicated to continuing a long-time commitment to volunteer work both within Canada and in developing countries around the world. She has been director of International Community Services and club secretary for the Calgary club, and currently chairs their WCS committee, which is the champion of the Literacy Program in Guatemala for 2018-19.

Barb was a humble presenter of her project. She quietly told us the 2018-19 Guatemalan Literacy Program (GLP) involves 137 clubs and 25 Districts. There are 48 Canadian clubs, four Guatemalan clubs, 19 UK clubs, 62 US clubs and four Caribbean clubs. Now, that is the power of Rotary working together!!! Her program has been given the Gold Standard by RI President, Ian Riseley.

Barb's son was studying Spanish, as he wanted to ski in Central America. In doing so, he saw the need for literacy. It would take the children two years to learn how to read due to a lack of, not just textbooks and reading materials, but also trained, engaged teachers in the classroom. The GLP started 20 years ago.

So how was this Gold Standard achieved? One of the key elements is the Rotary partnership with their NGO, Cooperative for Education. There are now 50 staff in Guatemala bringing education to the children. Leave education to the expert educators!

The components include elementary school teacher training and books. Teachers used to 'hide' themselves behind the one and only book in the classroom, but no longer. Rotarian Carolyn Johnson was instrumental here. Middle school textbooks for those students in Grades 7-9 utilize four textbooks in Spanish, history, math, and science.

Lastly, there is a component in the middle schools teaching computer skills to help the students get jobs. The problem is that most homes do not have electricity to run lights or appliances, let alone a computer.

Barb outlines the strengths of the program starting with Rotary involvement. It is effective given the expertise of their NGO on education best practises. It is sustainable, and it has an impact. The students are charged a nominal fee of $1 per year for five years. At the end of the five years, the books are replaced, and new ones purchased, and the cycle is repeated.

Let's look at the impact. The implementation plan for the 2018-19 year:

  • Elementary school program – 305 teachers and 8,350 students
  • Text books in middle schools – 1,458 students and 160 teachers
  • Computers – 700 students

Over 10,000 teachers and students!!

Now look at the impact of Rotary leveraging, starting with total club funding from Canadian clubs at $57,600 USD and other clubs donating $171,000 USD. This amount through matching grants grew to $625,600 USD!!! How did Calgary West contribute? Start with our club contribution of $4,000 USD ($5,000 CDN), apply for District Designated Funds and with subsequent matching grants our contribution now totals $64,500 USD. Outstanding!!!

Barb was asked about how this program impacts the drop off rate, which can be as high as 75%. Due to GLP, the failure rate dropped by 30%.

Ben was the thanker for Barb, due to Bill Fitzsimmons being ill. He recognized the magic of Rotary in this project with collaboration of multiple clubs all working together and, of course, the multiplying effect of club funds.

  • Ben Kormos and Barbara Young Ben Kormos and Barbara Young

reported by Judy Cochran

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