June 2018, by Connie Frisbee Houde
The people of the Tolepan tribe living in the La Laguna Mountains are very grateful for the gift that was given to NY/Help this year of solar lights. We had 42 small lights and 10 larger lantern lights. Our team got off to a slow start as the presidential election and following unrest made it difficult for us to make our usual early January/February trip. To have a presence on the mountain, we made the decision to shorten our trip to one week in the beginning of June while the children were still in school so we could visit as many of the 12 village schools as possible. This is not the easiest task, as roads are few and far between and most of the tribal members do not have transportation other than by foot. We decided as a team that we would divide the smaller lights among the 8 schools we planed to visit. The majority of the mountain villages do not have electricity and a solar light is a very welcome gift. Three off us set out to visit the lower villages – our team leader our educator translator and myself.
We visited the first school, a kindergarten, after the students had already gone home. School meets from 8am to 1:00pm. The teacher lived to far away to come back to meet us. However we soon had a room full of curious children and parents. Our able team set to work to discover what the school needed. Students volunteered to show us what they were learning and a team member played word games with them. We distributed the lights to a number of the children and parents. One had a birthday and others had participated with us so we gave them as incentives to those who had stepped forward to assist the “gringos” to learn about their school.
Our second day, we hiked up and down the mountains, forded swollen streams, as it was the rainy season and water was higher. We covered 10 miles and 3 schools all before the children went home at one o’clock. We gave the teachers the larger light/ lantern for the classroom for the dark days and dark corners of their small schoolrooms. We also gave the teacher the smaller lights to distribute to the students as incentives or to the students most in need.
The following day we returned to the upper villages staying in the health clinic constructed and supported by New York/Help. Leaving lights for the one school in the lower villages we were unable to visit. While staying in La Laguna we attended and participated in the graduation ceremonies for the 11 women who have attended the yearlong sewing academy. We gave solar lights to these women the previous year. Lights were distributed to 3 more schools.
We are all grateful for the generosity of One Million Lights supporters to assist various families to have light for evening work and study.