Updated: Sep 22, 2022
There is so much poverty in San Miguel that ex-pats don’t necessarily see because we live such privileged lives here. The influx of foreigners living and visiting here means``prices have soared, displacing locals from their homes, making life more difficult on a daily basis. Many kids end their education after elementary school so they can work and contribute to the families’ incomes. Free education (excluding the cost of uniforms, shoes and school supplies) is only guaranteed through 6th grade. It’s especially tough on kids who live in “the campo”, the small villages outside San Miguel, and even more difficult for girls as they come last in the minds of the adults who see education as superfluous for them. They need to get married, have children, stay at home and do traditional women’s work, taking care of the house. But educating women is a necessary component in raising the economic level of a nation, as long-running studies have shown.
We who live here have an obligation to do what we can to help. Mujeres en Cambio is a 30 year-old organization that is dedicated to providing funding for education for girls in the campo``who wish to continue in school all the way through university, if their grades are good and they receive recommendations from their schools. Since 1996 Mujeres en Cambio (Women in Change)` has helped 939 girls and young women from these poor villages get an education. in 2021, according to the organization, they have distributed $79,440 USD in scholarships to 177 students. In that same year, 14 of their young women graduated from university, and 10 obtained titulos (professional certifications).
I have donated to the organization before coming to San Miguel, and continue to do so. During the pandemic, all fund-raising efforts were on-line. Yesterday they held their first in-person event since Covid. It was incredible. Held in a magnificent Mansion, the enthusiastic members gathered for a lovely afternoon—-setting, food, entertainment, raffle prizes all donated so that every dollar spent for a reservation went to the girls. Two of last year’s graduates spoke about what the organization has meant to them. Through tears, they explained how the money and emotional support has changed not only their lives, but the lives of their fathers, mothers and siblings. One has become an engineer, the other a nurse who heads a wound-care clinic.
This is only one small example of what generous ex-pats, many of whom are North American, can and do contribute to this society. In addition, I pay for 2 women to get a nursing certificate and am teaching English to one of them, and am planning to take supplies to a family in need with my tutor on Saturday. The 5 year old couldn’t afford a uniform or shoes or a backpack, and when she showed up at school for the first day of kindergarden the teacher told her and her grandother she was too poor to go to school. So now she stays home with no education.
It is a privilege to live here, a privilege to give back what we can.