UU Service Committee
We help people to deepen, connect and engage by engaging with communities suffering injustice and cooperating with them in respectful activism
It’s about love crossing borders
This Task Force supports the work of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), which promotes human rights at home and abroad. The UUSC works in partnership with local grassroots organizations by providing grants, training, education and political empowerment. The four areas of emphasis are:
- economic justice
- humanitarian aid in crisis situations
- civil liberties
- environmental justice
Our Task Force educates children and adults at JUC about the work of the UUSC through programs, movies, and trips abroad to visit partner organizations. The UUSC Task Force raises money to support the work of UUSC through memberships, sales of fair trade coffee, and holiday cards. We also support a scholarship program for Guatemalan children impoverished by civil war. For more information on the Guatemalan scholarship fund, including how to donate, go to www.uuguatemalascholarship.com.
The Guatemala Scholarship Partners have been busy! We provide tuition funding that allows more than 40 students to continue their education. We provide financial support for a tutor working directly with our students to ensure their success. Our book donations have doubled the size of the Rabinal Community Library and donations of sewing machines and materials have led to the Sewing Project and Mayan Women Art. Contact – Gretchen May
Partners for Guatemalan Scholarships
Our scholarship program in Pacux in partnership with ADIVIMA started a decade ago, with just 3 students in 2007, which seemed like a solid success. Next year we will have 59 students, more than we ever dreamed of when we first began the program. This incredible growth is thanks to the incredible growth in donations that you’ve given. Thank you for your support of the many students we’ve helped, and continue to help, over these many years.
As the program has grown we’ve learned a few things about our students and what helps them succeed. Sometimes that knowledge has come from our success, and sometimes it’s come from things that didn’t work as well.
Several years ago, we noticed that we were losing several students per year who had difficulties keeping up with their studies. ADIVIMA’s analysis was that the families, many of whom were illiterate, couldn’t help their students with homework. ADIVIMA wanted to hire a tutor to help these students stay in school. Even though this wouldn’t be paying school fees or uniform/supply costs directly, we know those things wouldn’t matter if our kids kept dropping out. So we tried it. Having a paid tutor for students, especially in their first few years of secondary school greatly improved the retention rate and the success of our students. From this we learned that funding things other than scholarships can make the scholarships more effective.
Another year, we received a large, one time donation. We provided that money directly to ADIVIMA and they added several students to the program. But since it was a one time donation, there were not enough funds to support those students throughout their high school years, and they had to be dropped from the program. From this we learned that we had to carefully manage the funds you donate. We count on the participants in our monthly donor program to stick with us, and our students for years. But other, one-time, funding sources had to be managed differently to ensure each student in the program could be supported all the way to graduation.
Last year, after a discussion with ADIVIMA about how to support our students, we had a separate fund-raising campaign for laptops. We raised enough money for 30 computers for ADIVIMA to share with our scholarship students. These computers will help our students compete on a more even playing field in school and when graduating and competing for jobs. We took 6 laptops down last year to start the program and are about to take 18 more computers down with this year’s trip. Already these computers are leveraging the dollars you donate to the fund to make our scholarships even more effective by helping our students succeed.
Over the years, as our fundraising has been more and more successful we have worked to apply all the lessons learned in earlier years. If a particular fundraiser brings in additional money in one year, we don’t immediately increase the number of students, until the next year’s event shows the increase to be sustainable. Due to several of these types of increases, as well as funds raised by coffee sales and other smaller fundraisers over the years we have accumulated somewhat more than $20,000 on the books, while also increasing the number of students in the program by another 10 this year alone.
We have had lengthy discussions with ADIVIMA and their leadership about what the best use of these funds would be. They have told us that building a study & computer center will be the best use of the funds. The center would be built adjacent to the current ADIVIMA headquarters on land ADIVIMA already owns. Like hiring a tutor, the center is an opportunity to leverage funds to help existing and future students succeed. Those of you who have had the opportunity to travel with us, or see presentations and photographs from those who have, know that many of our students don’t have good study spaces at home.
Many of them lack electricity, much less internet access, or even basic furnishings like a desk. These home environments are filled with love, but they aren’t able to support 21st century learning in the way that a dedicated space could. Having a study & computer center will help address these problems, and do much more. While some computers will continue to be loaned out to students who do have good spaces at home, others will be kept at the center, allowing more shared use and collaboration. And, by having the students able to work at one location, our tutor, Pablo, can spend more of his time helping students and less traveling to their far flung homes.
We believe it’s important for our donors to know how the funds you contribute are being used. All donations, no matter what source they come from, go directly to support the success of our students in the scholarship program. Our philosophy is that justice is advanced most when the people most impacted provide the leadership, telling us what is most needed and how we can best be of help. That means when ADIVIMA’s leadership speaks, we listen, because they know the conditions on the ground better than we ever will. While the funds that have accumulated could support a certain number of students for a period of time, the program would then have to shrink, supporting fewer students each year, as the funds ran out. Our commitment is to continue building on the success you have made possible, and this year that means doing something we’ve never done before, building and equipping space where our students can work together, be supported by each other and our professional partners, and laying an even stronger foundation for their future success.
Thank you for your ongoing support of the program, and be sure to be in touch if you have any questions about this exciting new development, or anything else you want to know.
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee Task Force