ASIVESCA is a small NGO, set up in the south-east of Guatemala, in the
semi-arid municipality of Zacapa. Its name stand for Asociacion de
Investigacion Y fomento del desarollo Cabañas, loosely translated as
Organisation for the promotion of development and research. It was
setp up in 2008 by a sociology-major then mother of 2 called Annie
Ruiz, and has managed to keep going with the help of some local
volunteers, though not nearly enough! They are currently focusing on:
education, environment and awareness. Under each of these umbrellas
they have several projects and activities:
1. A library (education), currently set up in part of Annie´s house,
though hopes are of having a separate building at some point in the
future. The town has never had anything of the sort before, and it is
mainly used by kids who come in to read books their parents cannot
afford, as well as some older students and adults who need specialised
research. In return, Annie asks for a small voluntary donation of 10
centamos (the equivalent of 1 eurocent). Smaller kids can have a book
read to them and others can even get help with their homework! Their
support network at school is abysmal, so its a wonderful chance for
the kids who really want to learn.
The library also has 2 computers in it (kind donations), one with the
internet and one with an encarta installed on it, as well as having a
printer. A lot of kids do not know how to use a computer and,
consequently, for homework will pay 10 quetzales (1 euro) to an
internet cafe to do it for them – keep in mind that this is more than
some people have to eat with a day. I did a week-long beginners
computer class to 5 kids (8-12 years of age) and by the end they were
searching google for games in their free time. What freedom for kids
who have so little at home!
2. Various other classes are held in the librry (education) such as
knitting. This is a way ASIVESCA is trying to motivate housewives
otherwise restricted by their husbands and glued to daytime TV to get
out of the house and do something for themselves. They have a class on
wednesday and thursday, making patterns and designs from books or
magazines with donated yarn. Hopes are to start selling some products
from September or so onwards, the proceeds of which would be for the
knitter herself, minus 5% for the NGO.
3. A recycling center (environment) – this is a building kindly lent
out to them for free, on the edge of town, and is open on mondays from
9-12 and then 3-5. They collect plastic which would otherwise be
thrown out on the streets. It is still very basic, and seems to have
had less response of late, but we are trying to increase awareness by
putting up big signs for now. Incentives for recycling are also there,
every trip being rewarded with a token for a notebook or book about
Guatemala donated by another organisation (Zootropic, who protect an
endemic species of lizard called the Motagua valley beaded lizard,
possibly one of the most endangered species of all lizards with est.
less than 200 individuals in the wild). Every time ASIVESCA is able to
fill a truck full of recyclables, they receive 1009Q (just under 100
euros) which they re-invest into improvement of the center. Taking the
idea of recycling a step further, they have been practising building
walls out of PET bottles with school kids.
5. They are involved with a partner organisation called Aliaza para el Desarollo Sostenible del Valle del Motagua. Alianza has a much wider span of influence, covering reserves in the whole of the Motagua Valley in the south-east of Guatemala. Currently they are trying develop of a tourism infrastructure, with an eye on university researchers (as there is such a high level of endemism in its bird, plant and reptile species) and archaeologists (there have recently been discovered constructions most likely of mayan origin).
6. Finally, for promoting awareness they do not focus on any
particular subject but they will hold talks about (for example)
recycling at schools, dental hygiene at the isolated villages in the
hillside, and joint educational talks about the beaded lizard with
Lack of government interest and support has left ASIVESCA to their own
devices for funding, which is few and far between. One of their sponsors are organisations such as Fundacion Defensores de la Naturaleza, or another called JADE which was set up by the Dutch government. With the kind
donations they have received they have done as much as anyone could.
One of their current ideas is to get monthly funding for the library,
so they are able to provide a minimal reward to volunteers of 30Q per
3-hour shift, about 2.5 euros. The total amount they are hoping to
secure is 200 euros a month.
One of the other great support schemes they have is that of
scholarships. Through scholarships, kids who otherwise not have enough
money to buy the shoes for school are able to enjoy a more worry-free
childhood. The amount varies depending on the age and grade of the
recipient – from 380 US dollars a year in preschool to 811 US dollars
in high school (which boils down to 67 dollars a month). The good
thing about their program in particular is that you receive an exact
breakdown, to the dollar, of the costs (including health insurance!),
and Annie sends you personal e-mail updates every 3 months.
Futhermore, the recipients MUST visit the library to make sure they
study. There are currently only 3 scholarships ongoing, but the
ever-positive Annie thinks this is great already!
They are desperate for other donations of any kind, and they will soon
be putting a list up on their website. The library of course welcomes
any books in any language (though Spanish is most useful), the ladies
group ould love more materials (yarns, threads, magazines etc). Used
things useful for the reserves such as cameras, binoculars,
identification books, computers, printers, laberl makers, backpacks,
markers and other freebies you may throw away as junk are more useful
than you know!
Their website is still in the works, and once it is improved, all of
the information they have will be easily accessed, but in the meantime
I´ve attempted to fill the gaps.
If you are interested in donating your time (they consider any input
as extremely valuable), money and/or materials of any kind, feel free
to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Annie Ruiz