Melel Xojobal — September 2012 Update

Melel Xojobal — September 2012 Update

Read the update for Melel Xojobal in Mexico.

Melel Xojobal is a social service organization founded by the Dominican Friars of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, on February 2, 1997.  Melel Xojobal means “the true light” in the local Tsotsil language.  Melel Xojobal’s mission is to empower the indigenous urban and rural population in Chiapas, mainly children, through participatory processes of education and communication.  This is done with an eye toward improving their quality of life and reinforcing their dignity.  The philosophy is based on education and a humanist vision that promotes the strengthening of the cultural identity and the social transformation of the native towns. 

Melel Xojobal focuses on two project areas most overlooked in services targeting the indigenous population: education and communication.  The program this year has seen many accomplishments.

A total of 27 boys and girls between the ages of several months and four years participated in educational activities to promote their cognitive, emotional, socio-affective skills, and to ensure their healthy physical development. A cooked breakfast and lunch was served every day during the week and any health problems they had were dealt with.  These children also received a pre-school education and professional support to ensure their healthy development.  Talks were held with parents on enrollment procedures for pre-school.  They were also instructed in how to obtain birth certificates and the necessity of registering their children for school.   

Workshops were held with parents and community members on various topics including:  Your Right to Health Care, Healthy Development in Early Childhood, How to Monitor Your Child’s Height and Weight, How to Provide a Healthy Diet for Your Child, and Prevention of Childhood Illnesses.  The children were monitored as to their height and weight with special attention being given to those children who were underweight.  While the children are eating properly, only 70 percent have reached their expected height and weight.  Home visits were also conducted to help understand each child’s circumstances. 

Abuse and mistreatment were also addressed in workshops.  These workshops focused on violence in the family and preventing child sex abuse.  The workshops were well attended and participants learned to exercise their rights to a life free of violence and how to recognize the symptoms of child abuse and to whom to report incidences of child abuse.

Finances remain a challenge.  While funding continues for the direct educational programs during the current months, funds have not been available to replace the two full time researchers who left the organization in the spring.  Apart from this, the main challenges of the project relate to the nutrition and healthy physical development of the children.  Although substantial attention is paid to monitoring nutrition, providing breakfast and lunch plus supplements where necessary, the challenge remains in getting some children up to their expected weight. The most substantial issue is the poverty of their families, which often means they get less to eat than they need.  Another challenge was resolved by the hours at the Arrumacos Nursery being expanded to 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon at the request of the mothers, as many had difficulty picking up or looking after their children because they are working.

The Melel Xojobal program is well established and it addresses important issues.  The methods used work. No major changes are currently planned; however, the organization recognizes the need to undertake an in-depth impact evaluation of the programs to identify areas for improvement in the next period.

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