November 15, 2018 600 AM
Editor’s note: The Amigos of Kór ima support the impoverished school children of the native inhabitants of the Copper Canyon area in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, known as the Tarahumara, or Raramuri.
By PILAR PEDERSEN
It’s been a while since you’ve heard from us, and we apologize! We want you to know that Amigos de Kórima is still here. Our project has faced significant challenges over the past year, and we are still adjusting to them. First, the safety of our volunteers – in the face of increased drug-related unrest – became an issue early in 2017 and scuttled our plans for a robust spring service trip. Instead, I went down and with some locally-hired workers got a few significant repairs finished. Then, later that year, I was hit with health issues which persist to this day. This had the effect of slowing us down, both then and now. However, it is the school itself that has presented the biggest challenge. A long-brewing conflict between the school director and the village of Bacabureachi reached the boiling point. This resulted in a lot of fallout: Profesor Soriano, the director whom we have trusted and worked with so closely over the last four years, was moved to another school. The new director of the Baca school would love to keep receiving benefits from our organization, but we don’t know him and feel uncomfortable blindly supporting a new administration there. Starting over and building trust with the school and community will take time and a physical presence from our group that we are currently unable to sustain. The Department of Indigenous Education was for a time considering closing the school completely, and they still may be; their intentions are unclear. The students that made up the majority of the Baca school population, and whom we have dedicated ourselves to supporting – children from the slums of Chihuahua City – were not going to be allowed to enroll in the Bacabureachi School due to transportation issues. This has now changed. Magically, funds were found to provide for their transport where they were previously unavailable. It is unclear if the Chihuahua City students will continue to be supported in this manner in future academic years. Without the addition of the Chihuahua City students, the remaining children in the village do not amount to enough students to keep the entire school facility open. There was talk of downsizing into a one-room school for the local students, but again, no clear plan has been communicated to us. Though a few of the Amigos crew traveled to Chihuahua City to meet with school system administrators, we received very little information or real encouragement from this encounter. While we would like to be acknowledged for the improvements we have sponsored and be included in future planning, it is unlikely that this will happen because: We are foreigners and outsiders, and, ultimately, are not involved in the Administration or educational system. We receive inconsistent information from various sources and do not trust its accuracy. For reasons outlined above, we are not in a position to spend enough time on the ground to ferret the situation out and develop solid relationships with the new players.
The current picture
Our trusted director, Profe Soriano, is in a new, even more remote school. He is happy to be out of the line of fire and is engaging himself with this new community, called Guahuachérare. The new facility is in good shape compared to the Bacabureachi School. The dormitories and cafeteria are in fantastic condition and need no help from Amigos. Funding for the residential facility comes from a different source than Bacabureachi receives — all the boarding schools who are under this particular branch of the State Administration are similarly well cared for.The classrooms, however, need a bit of work – paint, some electrical, and plumbing repairs. We will initiate a small work project at this school to make these basic repairs and assess the potential to continue supporting the Guahuachérare school in the future. The Bacabureachi school didn’t close. In fact, almost all of the children who were attending from Chihuahua City are still enrolled, and continue studying and living there. Further, 16 alumni from our Baca school — who were in elementary school when the Amigos project began – are continuing their academic careers: 14 middle schoolers, and two in actual high school. Profe Soriano found them a boarding facility in the nearby town of Carichí, where he makes his residence, and helped them enroll in the schools they are now attending. We have sent money to help them with school supplies, backpacks, tennis shoes, and physical education uniforms. It is our intention to follow these learners and give them backing to continue studying as far as they can go – trade school, college, or university. Profe reports that they are happy with their new situations and doing well. He is their support person.
Amigos is down but not out. We will regroup and adjust our focus. We may or may not continue to have a presence in Bacabureachi. Even if we remove ourselves from further support of that school, there is no comparing the structure as it presently stands to the one we first visited in 2014. The improvements we fostered are real and current students are still benefitting from them: solid roofs, sturdy beds, better windows, better sanitation and hygiene, warm water, washing machines, many books, and lots of warm interactions. Regardless of what happens with the school, continuing to support our Baca alumni by sponsoring the 16 older students in Carichí is a rare opportunity to follow individual learners in the Mexican system. They (guided by their parents in most cases) have self-selected to step aside from the track of poverty, racial exclusion, and possibly crime into which they were born. It presents a unique option for us to continue making a difference in a few lives. I and the Amigos are indebted to you, the readers of this newspaper, for your long-standing care and support of these children, and for your trust in us, Amigos de Kórima, to husband your contributions with wisdom and integrity. Together we have made a difference in a few small lives, and fostered a bridge of caring and friendship with our neighbors. Thank you, matétereba, muchas gracias,
Pilar and the Amigos
Amigos de Kórima is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. For more information, go to: www.amigosdekorima.org , or call Pilar Pedersen: 432-294-0877.