Centro de Compartimiento, AC
2008 was a year of growth and change for Casa Isabel. We grew from three students to our capacity of six students; purchased a property and building for a permanent home for the program; increased our outreach to students from different areas; branched into radio programming; became tax deductible in Mexico, and began a new personal/spiritual growth program. There were challenges along the way, some that we still face today, but we are pleased with the growth and change of this past year.
In the fall we welcomed three new students and our three students from last year all returned to continue their studies. We currently have three high school students, one middle school student and two studying to complete their primary school. The new students have integrated well into the program. Recruitment was not as simple as we supposed. We had more than nine candidates apply to the program this summer, for the three spaces available. We refused no one and were surprised that we just filled the three vacancies. So many students backed out at the last minute, opting to wait for another year to begin the next level of school, or staying home to help the family’s financial situation improve. The attitude is that the situation at home is critical, which is often the case, and that they can begin their studies later, which is rarely the case. There is still much need in the few communities that we have visited, but the culture of the communities is such that they have a hard time letting their girls go.
In academics, the students are performing well. Their GPA’s are all at or above 8.0 out of 10. We are very proud of the effort that they are putting into school. Oaxaca’s problems with its educational system continue with frequent school closings for demonstrations and union meetings. In spite of these problems, the students are determined to take advantage of the opportunity to study.
Outreach to new students led us to a variety of new communities, some through contacts from the past and some from new contacts. Two of our new students came from contacts made through our supporters in the United States, who helped us meet others working to support communities and we found that we could supplement each other’s work. We made contact with a church in a Colonia of Zaachila, Oaxaca that was providing community outreach, community development and marriage counseling. They have contact with many families whose daughters have not been able to continue with their schooling and were able to persuade one family to allow their daughter to follow her dream of continuing with her schooling. In Tuxtla Guiterrez, Chiapas we have had contact with a group supporting college students and have tried to work on a service oriented curriculum with them. They suggested a young woman from their community who needed to continue her high school education and her family was unable to support this dream. We were also able to visit some of the smaller communities nearby and offer the program, although we seem to have better results in recruiting where some one knows the program already or has been recommended to the program.
In February of this year Casa Isabel completed the purchase of land and a building for a future home for the program. We had hoped to find a home nearly ready to move into but there was not an affordable combination of home and property large enough for growth. We found a nice property on the south side of Espinal, which has a large one-room building that needs remodeling before we can move in. We contracted an architect to draw up some plans and we can divide the space into three small bedrooms, a kitchen and a dining/living area. We will also need to add on a new bathroom, and perhaps remodel the one that is there. The building is good solid construction and in the future we can add on a second floor to house more students. This year’s goal is to raise the funds to remodel the first floor and move in with the current students, it will cost about $16,500 dollars. To build on a second floor we have a quote of $35,000 dollars, but that part of our long term plan. In the meantime we have double yard work, and the two giant mahogany trees that dominate the south side of the property provide us lots of fun raking leaves.
Earlier this year our parent not for profit organization launched a community radio station to help promote the program and solicit support from the local community. CDC Radio has been on the air since April of the past year and is
slowly developing its audience. I was happy this past fall when I took a cab from the bus station home and the cab driver was listening to CDC Radio. When we arrived at the door of the house he saw the Casa Isabel sign and said “Casa Isabel? I know about you, I listen to you radio station.” It is odd now when I go out and talk to people about the program that they already have some ideas about what we do, odd but nice. The students at Casa Isabel are also learning about broadcasting. We have our own show on Sunday mornings. We talk about topics that are of interest to the students or promote the values and ideas we would like to instill in our students. In the past year we did three series: values in the community, servant leadership and finding your purpose in life. We have found that it is also a good way to teach these topics to our own students as they have know the topic well to be able to talk about it on the radio. We hope to expand the students’ participation in the radio station next year by helping them to become proficient at the controls as well as expanding our on-air time.
Growing the Person
Assisting the students with critical thinking, communication and other life skills is as crucial to their future as their academic training. This year we changed our personal/spiritual growth program a little. We kept the weekly meetings with our sister house, Casa Angeles, and focused this year on Bible study and Servant Leadership courses with both houses. The curriculum included a 12 session Servant as Leader Program, a Purpose Filled Life by Rick Warren, and then three 12 session bible study courses. At home we focused on personal development, beginning the academic year with a course on values and then reading Sean Covey’s 7 Habits for Highly Effective Teens. The second semester home curriculum will include reading of two classic novels and Covey’s Six Important Decisions.
In October we were finally able to get our status as an organization that can receive tax-deductible donations here in Mexico. It was a lengthy bureaucratic procedure but one that will enable us to increase our fund raising efforts in Mexico and abroad. We remain affiliated with two US 501c3 organizations, which have made donations easier for our US friends, but need the tax status here in Mexico, and it is not easy to get. We hope this year to increase our fund raising efforts at home and abroad to continue to support our students and to expand the program. With the financial situation in the world today, we as an organization need to have access to a variety of funding sources.
Some goals were not reached in the past year. We were not able to expand our community service project beyond our weekly radio shows. This will be a top goal in 2009. We feel it is important for the students to see that they can give back to their community and are not just charity cases for the rich. We hope to work with the students and develop a house community service project in an area of interest to them.
We are looking forward to 2009 to see the new challenges that face us and enjoy the new contacts and experiences we will have as a community.