Saturday, December 15, 2007

End of year news in photos

Our last mobile play scheme of the year was for children with Aids who have been abandonded by their parents. The couple who run the home wanted to do something special for their children as an end of year celebration and said this was the answer to their prayers. This year over 1800 children from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds have had the opportunity to experience the joy of learning through play through FEISA's play scheme.

7 month old David was handed over to the home by his mother, who has full blown Aids and lives on the street. With the care and hugely expensive medication he is receiving to prevent Aids developing, the doctors say his future is very hopeful.

Thanksgiving service for graduating students. Each is given a rose as a symbol that they should be the aroma of Christ to the children they teach.

Rup with Pastor Augustin at the Thanksgiving service.

Graduation. FEISA's top students from 2006 and 2007. This year 13 students graduated bringing the total to 75 since FEISA began.

Andrea graduated second in her class and has been offered a job teaching in a Christian school in Oxford in 2008. She hopes to bring back all she learns to enrich her teaching in Paraguay and our curriculum in FEISA.

Rup with his admin team at the Christmas staff meal.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

FEISA produces first Bible materials for children in Enxet

We asked you to pray for an indian translator for the educational materials we are producing for Enxet speaking indigenous communities. The Lord provided an excellent translator called Remigio who has turned out to be a gifted teacher as well! (Photo 1) In September we were thrilled to launch the Bible materials we have been producing on The Creation Story. These consist of Bible stories, songs, flashcards specially designed for the indigenous context, prayers, activities and lesson plans all in Enxet (photo 2). They are the first of their kind for Enxet children.

We trained Remigio how to use the materials once he had translated them. Then he taught them to an indigenous Preschool class, training the teacher in their use at the same time (photos 3 and 4). We were delighted to see the enthusiastic response of the children and the effectiveness of the Bible materials. 10 other communities have heard about the project and have asked for the training and materials for their children. We hope to do this next year.

Please pray for wisdom and the resources to extend this project to other communities. We also hope to produce further Bible materials based on the life and miracles of Jesus next year.

October News 2007

Emergency Prayer for Paraguay
The unusually long period of drought that has hit Paraguay is having disasterous effects on the whole country. Fires have caused the destruction of 1 million hectares of forest and farmland and left over 40,000 families without food. Many have lost their homes and the fires are still raging in the Chaco. (Photo 1)

The severe water shortage is causing illness and difficulty in finding food amongst hundreds of people in indigenous communities. There is now a petrol and gas crisis as Paraguay's principal river is too low to allow large ships to bring oil in. This has resulted in fewer buses running, which is the chief mode of transport for the majority of Paraguayans. There is also a milk shortage brought on by the drought and fires. All this has lead to rising fuel and food prices which Paraguayans are barely able to afford.
Please pray for abundant rain in the whole country and for the speedy provision of fuel and other necessary resources.

We were delighted to receive a visit from David and Ann Varley - the chief fundraiser for the Mobile Play Scheme vehicle - in August. (Photos 2 and 3 with vehicle and FEISA staff and students.) FEISA students were deeply moved when Ann told them what people in the UK are doing to raise money to enable to them all to have high quality, affordable teacher training and to benefit needy children in Paraguay through their teaching and FEISA's social projects.

We were all particulary amused by the following sign David discovered in the men's toilet in a Paraguayan restaurant! (Photo 4)

In September Sam's Mum and her partner Tony came to visit and we had a great time travelling around Paraguay as well as visiting some of FEISA's social projects. (Photos 5 and 6 in the Chaco and at the mobile play scheme)

Children's Day
August 16th is Children's Day in Paraguay and FEISA ran a mobile play scheme for 50 children from Asuncion's largest shanty town. Here we discovered Rup's mistaken vocation working with spreadsheets! (Photos 7 and 8)

Other indigenous projects
Sam encountered her first baby crocodile on a recent visit to the Chaco (photo 9). After I attempted to kiss it, an indigenous lady showed me a deep scratch she had just received from the innocent looking reptile!

Please pray for us as we finalise our literacy, preschool and nutrition and health projects in November and as we begin our project with the Ministry of Education to set up an indigenous play scheme in the community of Yatnata and train the mums to run it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Meeting the Presidents

During the month of July, I had the privilege of travelling to Iowa, in the USA, to attend a Masters summer programme in Education at the generous invitation of a Christian university called Dordt College. I went with my Paraguayan friend and colleague, Ana, for whom the trip was a once in a life time experience, having never travelled outside of South America. (Photo 1 visiting Mount Rushmore with the first American Presidents.)

Ana only received confirmation of her visa one week before travelling so last minute arrangements were quite stressful. We left Paraguay exhausted and not knowing what to expect, particularly Ana who left 3 children behind. We found ourselves in a beautiful, peaceful, small town in the heart of the Midwest - corn country - with wonderfully warm and caring people and a town that did not have a blade of grass out of place! We read in the local paper that people were being asked to report any neighbours that had weeds growing in their garden! That would appear to be as bad as crime gets in this town! (Photo 2)

What we experienced was God´s provision in the most incredible ways. The course consisted of 3 modules: Week 1 Spiritual Formation in the Classroom; Week 2 Current Issues in Education; Week 2 Structuring Curriculum. (Photo 3 with our classmates.) All 3 modules were outstanding and we learnt more than we could digest in just 3 weeks. We plan to begin implementing some of what we learnt over the next few months as the leadership team looks again at the vision, mission and educational goals of FEISA.

On the second day we investigated the possibility of doing some tourism, only to discover, disappointingly, that Sioux Centre had neither a tourist information nor a single bus to take us anywhere! Later that day, in the supermarket, a kind, elderly man stopped to ask where we were from and invited us to tea. As we got to know Lawrence we learnt that he was a Christian and his wife had recently died from cancer. From this moment on we had no opportunity to feel bored or lonely as we experienced his wonderful kindness and hospitality taking us out for meals and picnics with his friends and family. To our amazement, he offered to take us touring in South Dakota , where we stayed with yet more generous and kindhearted people who took us to Spearfish canyon (photo 4), Mount Rushmore (photo 5 with Lawrence) and Crazy Horse (photo 6 Native American history.) It was beyond anything we could have asked for or imagined. He was truly heaven sent.

All our thanks to everyone who prayed for this visit. Our prayers for visas and finances were miraculously answered and the experience was a truly memorable one. We came back refreshed and inspired and would now appreciate your prayers for wisdom to implement all we learnt in ways that are appropriate for the context of Paraguay. Please also pray for our dear friend Lawrence as he adjusts to life after the recent loss of his beloved wife Audry.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

May News 2007

Family Holiday around South America
In April Sam's brother and sister in law came out to visit us. (Photo 1 Rup, Sam, Margaret and Paul) We had a fantastic time from Tango shows in Buenos Aires, to visiting indigenous communities in Paraguay to experiencing the spectacular Iguacu Falls from a helicopter in Brazil. (Photo 2) It was their first visit and a wonderful opportunity for them to meet our friends and experience something of our very different world here. We hope it won't be their last! (Photos of holiday on side bar)

Rup's 5 minutes of fame
It has been a rollercoaster ride for Analu in the competition "Singing for a Dream" but the public keep voting for her to stay! She was finally beaten last week by Paraguay's most popular footballer but she is back again this week with another opportunity to be voted back into the show! (Photo 3, Sam, Analu, Ana (her mum) and Rup.) It has been great fun going to the show to support her and Rup was delighted when he actually got on national TV with his Hola Madre (Hello Mum) poster and was beamed all over Paraguay! (Photo 4)

Many thanks to all who have been praying for us. Sam's laptop was returned within the week, we now have 19 students in the first year and the dengue epidemic has calmed down, helped by the sudden drop in temperature in May. We have also made the decision to delay the start of the degree course until March 2008, giving us plenty of time to prepare it well and publicise it widely.

We now have 53 students in FEISA and had a great day on 14th May at the student and staff integration camp. Rup found a new vocation as panel judge taking his lead from the outrageous comments made on "Singing for a Dream." He was nicknamed "Ruperto Rubin" which is Paraguay's equivalent of Simon Cowell! (Photo 5 Rup with his Admin team)

Sam has been invited to the USA in July with Ana (photo 3), a Paraguayan friend and colleague, to attend a Masters summer course in Christian Education at Dordt College in Iowa. As we have both been very involved in the developing of FEISA's Christian curriculum then the trip would greatly enrich our work. Please pray for the financing of this trip and Ana's entry visa which is not easy to obtain from Paraguay.

We are very pleased with the progress of the indigenous projects but have seen the need to translate the educational resources we are producing into the Indian language, Enxet. Please pray for the right translator to be found and also for the funding application which was sent off this month to cover the cost of the projects.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

FEISA provides Literacy Programme for Indigenous Women

We were greatly encouraged by the 50 people from the indigenous community of Yatnata who turned out in March to sign the agreement to work with FEISA this year. (Photo 1)

What excited them most was the prospect of having an adult literacy programme for the first time ever in the community. 2 teachers in the community have volunteered to run the literacy programme three times a week after school. FEISA is providing the programme (in their Indian language, Enxet), the resources, training for the teachers and supervision.

At 4:00pm, when school finishes, 23 women and 7 men are waiting outside the classroom eager to begin their lesson. (Photos 2, 3 and 4) They need to make the most of the daylight as the community has no electricity.

The teachers have shown tremendous commitment and the community are simply thrilled with the programme. It is hard for us in the UK to comprehend what it means for an adult to be illiterate and have the opportunity to be able to read and write. A Paraguayan lady that Sam was teaching to read said through her tears, "It's like I was blind and now I can see."

FEISA will evaluate the programme in November and, if it has been successful, hope to take it to other indigenous communities, where we have already had requests from women desperate to learn to read and write. Please pray for the teachers, whose role is vital, and for wisdom for FEISA to adapt the programme to the needs of the community if necessary.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Rup and Sam on National TV...almost.

It's something similar to Pop Idol, only the contestants sing in order to have a dream fulfilled. This is the latest popular TV programme to hit Paraguay and it's called Singing for a Dream (Cantando por un SueƱo).

10 members of the public are selected according to their singing ability and their dream. They are then paired up with a Paraguayan celebrity with whom they sing in an attempt to win the competition. The public vote each week to determine which couple will be eliminated. The prize is the fulfillment of your dream.

Out of the 660 people who auditioned for the programme, one of the selected 10 contestants is the daughter of our close friend and work colleague, Ana Maria Demestri. Her name is Analu and she is the youngest contestant - only 18 years old.(Photo 1) She is a wonderful Christian girl with a beautiful singing voice. Her dream is to fully equip a sparsely resourced rehabilitation centre for drug addicts. Her Paraguayan celebrity singing partner is an ex-drug addict and plans to do talks with her in schools and on the radio to educate young people on the dangers of drug use.

We were delighted when Analu got us tickets to see the show live last night.(Photo 2) However, in true Paraguayan style they gave out 150 tickets and set out only 100 chairs. We were able to stand at the side but sadly Rup's hand-made "Hello Mum!" poster was not caught by the cameras! It was a unique and memorable experience, not least to see the way the presenter interspersed his commentaries with sudden advertisments for everything from chocolate eggs to ladies sanitary towels! Somehow I don't see it taking off in the UK. We'll keep you posted with Analu's progress in the competition.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

FEISA working with International Development Bank to help Indigenous communities

In 2005 the indigenous Enxet community in Yatnata requested help from FEISA to improve their Preschool education. Indian teachers have no formal teacher training, the communities have no money for educational resources and children receive on average only 2 years schooling. Photo 1 shows an indigenous home, where there is no electricity, running water or sanitation.

In 2006 FEISA received a donation that enabled us to provide an 8 month training programme for 4 teachers and 10 mothers in Early Years teaching methods as well as furniture and educational games and resources for the classroom. (See photos 2 and 3 which show the Preschool classroom before and after FEISA's involvement.)

The 1st grade teacher commented that: “The community has been suffering from poor teaching in Preschool for years. Without a firm educational foundation it is very difficult for the children to advance in their learning. This project is wonderful and just what the community needed for its children to progress in their education.”

We were thrilled to see the results of the project. Hygiene improved as children learnt to wash their hands and parents told us that the children now love going to school and are learning more. The mums involved in the training have also benefited as they have grown in confidence and have started speaking up at community meetings to fight for their children's educational needs.

FEISA has been asked to continue our work with the community and also provide a literacy and numeracy programme for the women, who have realised that to help their children they need more education. Most can't read or write. As the saying goes, "Educate a woman and you educate a community." We have also been asked to take the programme to 5 other schools in another indigenous community.

We were encouraged in February to receive the news that the Ministry of Education and International Development Bank accepted our request for funding to set up the first ever indigenous play scheme in the community of Yatnata. So we have 4 indigenous projects planned for 2007!

We need great wisdom to manage the projects in culturally sensitive ways. Sam is coordinating the work and feels rather daunted! Your prayers are very much appreciated.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

February News 2007

Mysterious Silence
Apologies for our long silence. We were home for Christmas and illness in the family caused us to focus our time and attention here. We're both back in Paraguay now in time for the start of the academic year though Sam's journey was somewhat of a nightmare. Though it has always been Rup´s dream to get his flight cancelled and be put up in a hotel, it certainly was not Sam's! I can honestly say it's not all it's cracked up to be, though at least I was given a suite. But the worst was arriving in Buenos Aires to discover the flight attendents had removed my laptop from the cabin hold during a stopover in Sao Paulo as they thought it might be a bomb! Being fast asleep, I was totally oblivious to the announcements asking who the bag belonged to! No-one thought to wake me up! One week later, I remain laptopless. Please pray for its speedy return.

FEISA news
Please pray for all the staff as we begin the academic year and especially for Rup with the financial end of year procedures. So far we only have 10 1st year student applications for the diploma course and need a minimum of 20 to run the course. Photo 1 shows us with our FEISA colleagues.

Degree Course breaking news
Great news! Our degree course has been given the go ahead to start in April. Please pray for Estela and Gloria, the Head and academic coordinator seen in the front right of the photo, to make wise decisions in their hiring of teachers and organisation of the timetable. Pray also for the minimum number of 20 students needed to run the course.

Dengue Epidemic
There has been a lot of rain in Paraguay since the beginning of the year, which is wonderful for the crops and wells in the countryside. Unfortunately it has also caused an outbreak of dengue fever, which is a viral infection transmitted by stripy mosquitoes (photo 2) with symptoms of high fever, nausea, backache and severe headaches. It can prove fatal if the patient is old or has had it before. There have been over 12,000 cases of the disease since January including 4 deaths. Unfortunately there is no vaccine for dengue fever.

Please pray for the clean-up operation being carried out by the authorities which includes emptying all standing water and spraying insecticide to keep the mosquito population down. Having recently returned to Paraguay, Rup and I are prime targets for blood thirsty mossies so please pray for our protection as well as the staff and students of FEISA.