Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The President is my friend...

On Saturday 15th September we received an unexpected visit from the President of Paraguay, Federico Franco, in the small village of Quyquyhó. He came to inaugurate the recently restored altarpiece of the beautiful Franciscan church.

Osvaldo, the director of the children’s home, arrived where the ceremony was to take place and sat the girls in the last rows of seats at the back. They were all dressed smartly in their t-shirts from the home.

Waiting for the President

An official saw the well behaved and handsomely dressed children and asked Osvaldo who they were. When he explained they were from a children’s home she asked them to form a line at the entrance to be the welcoming party for the President! When the President arrived he made a point of greeting each child personally.

Welcoming the President

As he left the ceremony he allowed me to take his photo with the girls, seating the youngest, Andrea, on his knee. He did not have personal photos taken with anyone else. Afterwards I asked 3 year-old Andrea who the man in the photo was. She unhesitatingly replied, “He’s my friend!”

I was deeply moved by how God allowed these children, from such poor and humble backgrounds, to be given such privileged access to the President. They were even seated at the back so important dignitaries could be nearer the President. It reminded me of Jesus’ words, “For all those who exalt themselves will humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14) And, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16) The values of God’s kingdom are completely the opposite to those of the world.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

From Kung Fu Panda to Quyquyhó!

From 24th June to 4th July, a Group of 10 young people from a church in California, led by Guillermo, a Paraguayan ex-student of Sam’s, came to serve in the home and community of Quyquyhó. Guillermo works for DreamWorks as an animator and has been involved in the animation of such films as Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar 3.

The team had an incredible range of gifts and skills and these were exploited to the full!

Their ministry in the home and community consisted of Bible studies, games, music, sports, English, drama, dance, and jewellery and card making. We had great fun one evening learning how to make American cookies. They showed 3 films in the village and shared the message of God's love with testimonies. Their energy seemed endless!

They did a children’s club in a nearby poor community and bought t-shirts, socks and underwear for the children. Their activities included face painting, games, and an evangelistic puppet show.

They ministered in 6 primary and secondary schools throughout the area doing face painting, games, balloon animals, music and art. One of the group was a computer expert and helped the schools improve their computing facilities as well as giving training to the teachers. A social worker and training psychologist gave educational talks on life skills, women’s health, drugs, sex and abuse. These proved to be particularly powerful as no-one had ever given young people talks on these topics before. There were many questions and we were able to talk and pray with young people afterwards and see God begin a work of deep inner healing in their lives.

The team made many generous donations to the home including a data projector, medicines, DVDs and winter coats. The highlight, however, was the donation of 5 new laptops all installed with free open source software in Spanish, educational games, and word processing and spreadsheet programmes. Wi-Fi was installed as well as classroom management software so the teacher can see the screens of the students and they can see the teacher’s for demonstration purposes. Sam will begin computing lessons with all the older girls in the July holidays using the guides Rupert produced. Once the girls are trained we hope they will teach young people from the village. We are particulary excited about this as it has been Osvaldo and OSA's vision for some time to open a computer lab for the community.

On the final evening the boys decorated the dining room for a special meal in honour of the girls. They escorted them to their seats, served them their food, and afterwards gave small presents to each one. Their intention was to show the girls that as daughters of God they are precious and should be treated with honour and respect. In a culture where women are often maltreated by men, they wanted to demonstrate to the girls the attitude that a Christian man should show towards women and to encourage them to settle for nothing less. It was a unique and memorable occasion.

We were all extremely blessed by their visit. Guillermo (below) planned the mission carefully and prayerfully. They were a beautiful group of Christians who came with a heart to serve and bless the community and the Lord honoured their desire.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Supporting Education in Paraguay

In a previous post we mentioned the OpenOffice/LibreOffice guides that Rup had produced to support free, open source software in Latin America (link to guides on the side bar).

When Rup read that the Paraguayan Ministry of Education was planning to introduce computers in schools using open source software, he realised his guides may be useful to them. Aware that the government is beginning to train teachers in preparation for this, he sent the Ministry an email informing them of the link and free access to his resources. He was greatly surprised and encouraged to receive the following reply:

Dear Mr Rupert Parsons

Your ICT guides are extremely interesting, particularly as they provide a clear and easy introduction to people who are accessing these programmes for the first time. So with your permission, it would be an honour for us to use them in our next training session with teachers, which will be in March. Your resources will be a great help to the teachers.

Yours very gratefully

Director of Teacher Training for the Introduction of Information Technology in the Classroom,
Ministry of Education and Culture, Paraguay

God of Surprises

Last November Osvaldo and Maria Luisa's computer broke down irreparably and they did not have the funds to replace it. It is essential for their administration and communication with donors and the girls use it for their school work and writing to their sponsors. It is also vital for the monthly accounts which Maria Luisa produces with help from the girls Rupert trained.

In December a surprise donation from a friend arrived which was enough to buy not only a new computer but some much needed sandals and toiletries for the girls and cleaning materials for the home.

Osvaldo, Maria Luisa and the girls were overjoyed at God's generous provision, arriving at the perfect time, and the kindness of people in the UK who have never met them and yet have been moved to support them.

Special Educational Needs

State schools in Paraguay cannot afford educational games, readers or special needs teachers. This is a great challenge for educators here. If children cannot follow the pace of the teacher or access their "chalk and talk" methodology, they get left further and further behind until eventually they drop out of school.

Classroom in Quyquhó

Emotional trauma often inhibits learning and many of the children in the home and Feeding Programme were unable to read. This was also affecting their self esteem. Much of Sam's time in the home is dedicated to teaching literacy and maths in a loving, affirming environment. The children here are hungry to learn and this makes teaching a real joy. Since 2009 over 20 children are now reading, writing and improving their numeracy and it has been particularly encouraging to see the effects of this on their behaviour and confidence levels.

Marlene was Sam's first student

In December we were once again overwhelmed by a generous donation from another friend towards educational resources for Sam's work which enabled us to buy much needed text books, games and story books. The delight on the faces of the children says it all.