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 Colonia La Gloria
 Mza. 156, Lote 20
 Isla Mujeres, Q. Roo
 Mexico c.p. 77400

January 2008 - Life is good!

We continue to have success with the school and fund raising. The Salsa Fiesta held in Middleton in September raised about $7,000, it was less than we hoped, but we still made our budget for 2007 - $24,000 for the year. The U.S. non-profit Friends of La Gloria English School (FOLGES) continues to make ends meet every year. The budget for 2008 has been increased by $1200 to include some part time clerical help. FOLGES pays the teacher stipends, housing costs and any capital expenditures, like the computer for the office at the school.

We are now at a point where it makes sense to look for sustainable dollars to support the school. Until now, almost all of our funds are raised from our Salsa Fiesta, garage sales, and individual donations. Locating and applying for grants or for foundation money is the next step to insure our stability into the future. We are looking for a volunteer grant writer to work with us on this! Someone with experience in this area who has time to donate to this cause would be deeply appreciated. Please contact me (Maggie Washa) at mservais@tds.net.

On the school front, here on Isla, we have more good news. I just received this  - forwarded through a friend:
"We are ... sponsoring a La Gloria student ... Sergio, a waiter from Zama, (who) is on his 2nd set of classes and I cannot believe how far he has come from the first time we met him.  When we met him in September he had been studying some English sheets that his friend had copied for him and could not even put together a simple sentence.  Most of our conversations were spoken in Spanish.  Last month (December) while we were on Isla we conversed in only English the whole time.  Which doesn't help my Spanish much but we were so impressed by the amount of English that he had learned we wanted to keep talking to him.  Maggie is doing wonders over there!! "

It makes me breathe easily to know that my dreams are actually coming true.  It has been an overwhelming amount of work in the last 4 years, and I am starting to realize that I might be able to relax and enjoy my own life again, without worrying about whether the school will make it, and whether all this work is actually making a difference.  It is, and we will!

 In 2007 we gave out more than $9,000 dollars in scholarships at the school.  The average was about $30, but they ranged from $10 to a full scholarship of $60.  Without donations at the school, this would not have been possible.  We have been operating on faith for a good part of the last 4 years, giving the scholarships when we saw the need, and having faith that somehow they would be covered by tourist donations, and have not been disappointed.  We register about 450 students (many of them returning for the next class) each year (in five 2-month sessions, 9 different classes in each session), and if each of them paid the full tuition for each class, we would not need financial support at the school.  But the mission of the school is to not turn anyone away for lack of funds.  The requirement for a scholarship is that they have excellent attendance in the classes.  2007 was the first time that we finished the year with a very small cushion, instead of sliding under the wire by the skin of our teeth, or with a last minute 'donation' from our own checking account!  We are grateful to all of you for your support!

In the year to come, I hope to have more sustainable support at the school as well. I am trying to imagine life without the need to hustle for donations, and a school that is secure in the years to come.

It is clear to me that we are making a difference in people's lives. It is no longer a theoretic assumption. We have several students who started without any previous English speaking abilities and are now communicating easily in English. They have essentially 'graduated' from our school as we have it now. One of these students is just 11 years old. Her dream is to become an English teacher, and she is well on her way!

July 16, 2007 - one Salsa Fiesta coming right up!

We are in the dog days of summer, but despite the heat, all is going well, so no news has been good news for our school. Classes have been great since January, with an average of 100 students enrolling for each session. We will have a month off from late July until late August, and then start up again with 2 new teachers who will be with us through the end of July 2008. This will be the first time we have teachers under contract for a full school year, and it feels great! Finding good quality teachers and having some continuity is the key to having a great school.

Our annual Salsa Fiesta will again be at the historic Club Tavern (www.clubtavern.com) in Middleton, Wisconsin (just voted the #1 city in the U.S. - if you don't mind winter!). It will be on Saturday, September 8th from 5 to 8 PM. We will again have a silent auction with a lot of great things to bid on, including Packer tickets, language lessons, week long stays at homes on Isla, art, bead jewelry, pure maple syrup and much more! We also look forward to adding a raffle to our event this year. Tickets are $15 each or 2/$25 and include a free drink, salsa food, music and dancing. This benefit is sure to be a lot of fun again this year, as lots of Isla lovers and supporters of the school come and have a good time. Kids are welcome too. Our goal is to raise $10,000 for the evening. We hope to see everyone there!

On a personal note, Tom and I will be going to Isla in mid-August for 8 days, to orient the new teachers and say hello to old friends. We love Wisconsin and feel very fortunate that we have 2 great places to live. We return to Isla for the winter in early November.

Life on Isla – December 1, 2006

Tom and I have been on Isla for a month, but it feels longer.  We are settled in and life is going along nicely. The school has been holding classes since mid-September.  Our teachers, Deb and Lisa are excellent.  I sit in the office with my work and listen to English at all hours of the day and evening.  Most of the class hours are spent with students speaking in English, either repeating new words or responding to the teacher’s questions, all in English.  This is a very challenging way to teach, but we have found it the most effective. Reading and writing skills are not the top priority and can seriously bog down the classes. Students need to learn confidence to speak English first.  I am extremely pleased with our current style of teaching.

I think the school is slowly turning a corner, and our students are less and less afraid to try their English in non-structured situations. The other change is that the teachers are not leaving for another 6 months. When we first opened our doors, we asked for a commitment of only 8 weeks. This change will significantly reduce my work and stress, as hiring and orienting new teachers every 8 weeks was not easy!   We have also reduced our staff from 3 part-time teachers to 2 full-time teachers, and are paying them a bit more.  All of these changes are signs of the school’s increasing stability and maturity.

Regarding our current needs, we have several, in case anyone reading this is coming to Isla in the next month or 2.  We are in need of containers for the office.  Because we have limited space, we are constantly reorganizing the office and school supplies, to have them
both accessible and orderly.  If we had more plastic boxes at least the size of large shoe boxes or bigger, we could label and stack them for better storage.  Of course donations in pesos or dollars are always appreciated.  We are also still selling the Douglas and Cynthia DVD of Isla for a minimum $10 donation.  The proceeds are divided 50-50 to help both our school and the Little Yellow School for children with disabilities.  The DVD will put you right back on Isla Mujeres on a cold winter night, and it will also sell Isla to anyone nervous about
traveling to Mexico.

Our ongoing need for good used clothing is still there, and deeply appreciated.  We are asked on a regular basis when we will have the next clothing sale.  People in the neighborhood look forward to them, and it is also a great way to promote the school.   We can also use non-violent coloring books, but have plenty of crayons right now.  We also have plenty of books in English and have no room for any more.  We can always use more books in Spanish. We appreciate your good intentions but please remember when you bring donations that we have no apparatus to play DVDs or video tapes.  Please don’t donate these things to us, we have no use nor room for them.

With the start of new classes in early January, reams of copy paper, spiral bound notebooks, simple pocket folders, masking tape, white out and name tags will be needed, as well as more printer ink.  It is #56, for an HP1210.  We have color, but need black ink right now.  

The school is about to complete 3 years of existence, and it is important that we take a moment to say thank you for all the support we have received from everyone who has taken an interest in the school. Although Tom and I built it, there is no way it could have survived this long without your generous help.  In spite of some serious set-backs for Isla (Hurricane Wilma in 2005), and the school (our work visa problems last summer) we are have become established in the community and are doing well.  This idea of giving back just a little (and sometimes a lot) has been what has sustained the school from the beginning.

We have been able to distribute clothing, school supplies and food in the community in addition to offering English classes at affordable prices.  You may never know how many lives you have touched.  For all you have done, Thank you so much!

October 25, 2006 - Salsa Fiesta success

The school is in session, with 9 classes and about 80 students registered and coming to school. Deb and Lisa are getting rave reviews as great teachers. They will be there until the middle of May at least, so some of you might meet them if you are coming to the school
in early 2007.

Here in Wisconsin, we have just put on our 3rd annual Salsa Fiesta fundraiser. This year it was held at the Club Tavern in Middleton, and I think everyone had a great time. We were able to raise about $9,000 including donations from people who couldnft make it to the event. This is about half of our annual budget for the U.S. non-profit. Needless to say, we are delighted with the outcome, as it is more than double from last yearfs! The Club Tavern has agreed to host it again, so you can look forward to it next year if you missed this one.
We also had a great article in the local newspaper, The Capital Times. You can read it on line here.

Tom and I are heading back to Isla in less than a week. Given that we had 2.5 inches of snow on the evening of the Salsa Fiesta, we are ready for some warmer, friendlier weather! In case anyone is interested, we have filled out our absentee ballots and returned them to city hall. Thank you once again to all of you who support the school. This is a labor of love and a small bit to do in this messed up world, but we are making a difference in peoplefs lives.

September 17, 2006 - We are on our way!

It has been a long summer for the school! After we were forced to cancel the June-July session of classes, we promised students they would be automatically registered in classes for the August session. Lisa and Debra arrived in mid-August and immediately applied for their volunteer-work visas in Cancun. Unfortunately we were told that just having all paperwork provided was not enough. They would have to wait for the actual Visas to be handed to them before they could do anything but act like tourists. Since we felt we were still being watched closely after the June closing, there was no way they could do much of anything! In previous years we have taught whole courses flying under the radar so to speak, on tourist visas, but no more.

The good news is that it has taken only one month. Often it is a 2 or 3-month process to get a work visa. We have gotten exceptional help from some attorneys in Cancun who specialize in getting work visas, and with their help we are now ready to start teaching again!
This set of classes will be extended 11 weeks instead of the usual 8, as a bonus to the students who have stayed loyal to the school during this crisis.

What will be hardest to recover from is the financial blow all of this has caused. We usually take in tuition from students for each course they take. Although it isn't much per student - the equivalent of about $20 USD by the time all scholarships are averaged in - it does add up and is enough to keep the doors open, paying the overhead for the school and the staff who work in the office. This year we will not have 2/5ths of that income, as 2 of the 5 courses were essentially canceled. At this time we are delighted to just have the doors open and classes starting, but some time before the end of the year we are going to feel the pinch. Any donations in pesos to the school will help us overcome this setback.

Your caring and support for the school has been incredible, and we are deeply grateful for all of it!

June 30, 2006 - some bumps in the road -

The school has had a very successful spring, and our classes for the June-July session were set up, filled up and begun when we were hit with a blow we didnft see coming.

Since the school was established, most of the teachers taught for just 8 weeks. Getting a work visa took 6 to 12 weeks and cost $200 USD per teacher, so we had not gone through this process for each teacher. For the last several years most of our teachers taught while holding a tourist visa. It should be noted that in Mexico, it is illegal to volunteer in any capacity while on a tourist visa. In the past this has rarely if ever been enforced. Isla Mujeres has hosted hundreds of volunteers who have done everything from pulling teeth to neutering dogs to painting buildings to teaching kids to play the violin, play tennis and of course to learn English, all on tourist visas.

On the 13th of June, Immigration officers from Cancun came to Isla Mujeres, specifically to check the visas of the teachers at our school. Someone must have specifically filed a complaint that we were not 'legal.' My suspicion is that it was not a Mexican, but a North
American who was not in a good mood that day, and happened to be going through immigration. In any case, our 3 teachers were rounded up and taken to immigration at the airport in Cancun, with the intention to deport them immediately. Their tourist visas were confiscated and they were in custody for about 24 hours and although they were treated well, it was not a good experience!

The school does have friends in high places however, and instead of deporting them immediately, they were released and told they had 15 days to leave Mexico and return with another visa. Of course if they were caught doing anything other than being a tourist, they would be deported immediately, and possibly prohibited from returning to Mexico for a year or more.

After hard discussion we decided that it would not make sense to start the application process to get the work visas, because it would take several weeks and by then they would have just a couple of weeks left in the course. It would be an expense of about $600 for just 2 weeks of teaching, if we could round up the students again. So, our June-July classes were canceled. The teachers will stay, but cannot hold classes at the school this summer.

We have another session starting the 21st of August, with 2 new teachers coming to the school. They will be applying for visas immediately upon arrival, which will be valid for a full year. These teachers will be at the school until at least mid-May 2007, so the expense will be worth it.

The final blow to the school was when the teachers took the trip to Belize, to leave the country and return ,as they were required. It was the least expensive way to do it, or so we thought. The travel costs were about $250 for the 3 of them, however the border officials would not let them return to Mexico unless they stayed in Belize for at least 72 hours or paid a hefty bribe. In the end it was quite expensive.

The school has absorbed most of these costs, so we are hoping that donations to the school continue to come in, as this financial hit will be paid from the same fund source that we use to give scholarships to students who couldn't otherwise afford the tuition.

The bottom line is that we are alive and well and getting wonderful support from the community and our tourist friends. The school will continue, with only the loss of one set of classes. We now plan to offer the exact same set of courses in August. We are smarter and stronger for the experience!

March 2006

Classes started on the 9th of January with only 25 people registered. Wilma has continued to disrupt peoplefs lives. But by the end of the first week of classes we had 90 students registered, and have been going strong ever since! The main difference is that of the 90 students registered, only 39 could afford to pay the full price. At least 9 of them were sponsored in full by Mark Howe, a generous benefactor of the school from Michigan , who lives here part time.

The donations coming to the school have been very generous this year, and it looks like we will have enough to sustain us through the year. This is excellent. In the past, the financial stress of not having enough money to pay utilities or the office help made running the school even more challenging. I will be going over the finances soon to get a better picture.
Guadalupe has been working in the office for almost a year, and her help has become indispensable to us. Recently another woman from the community, Maria de los Angeles (Angeles for short) has started volunteering at the school. Keeping the donations and office materials organized has become a part time job in itself, and she has been extremely helpful. We also have a couple of long term volunteers from Wisconsin, namely Doris and Eric. Doris was here for 6 weeks and able to help in the classroom as well in the office. I think some people on this island stole her heart, and she will be back next year! Eric is here for a total of 5 months, and has become a part of the school. In his quiet way he has made a huge difference.

We will start registering new students for the next session of classes soon. The contract for all 3 teachers ends with this session, so the school will again change its personality with 2 new teachers on board.
We are again doing well.

Sunday November 6th, 2005

Tom and I have arrived on Isla Mujeres on Friday the 4th of November, after waiting a week until transportation was available and safe. The island looks and feels a little different after Hurricane Wilma. It sat over this area from Friday morning early until Sunday afternoon, and dumped 65 inches of rain in 36 hours, a new record. I don't think Wisconsin averages that much in a year! But the attitude here is very upbeat, everyone happy that no one died in it. The cement block houses all survived, with just some windows out. But the poorer tar paper shacks were basically all destroyed. Every electrical pole on the island was knocked down and the downtown had 5 feet of sand washed into the streets. The center of the island, where there were already 2 salinas (inland body of salt water), the rain flooded them until there was one big salina, including a lot of people's homes. It was up to 6 feet deep in places, effectively cutting the island in two. There was no potable water to the island for a couple of days because it is pumped from Cancun and needs electricity from Cancun. But the Mexican government got right on it and had helicopters coming one after another bringing water and food to the islanders, got pumps working to pump the water out and everyone pitched in to shovel sand away. Soon the ferries were working again, bringing semi loads of water and food. Electricians have come from all over Mexico (license plates from as far away as Nuevo Leon) and have already replaced every light pole and line on the island, and the whole island is again lit, and also has water, except of course, us. When we built, we had to purchase our own transformer for the pole in front of our house, to get electricity. We lost the transformer when the pole went down, but when the electricians came through, they didn't put a new transformer up. We have pointed it out, asking if we will get one, and have been reassured. It is the weekend though, so we will see when. Until then we are camping out at the school, not bad, but not home.

Overall, I have been extremely impressed at how rapidly the help came, how organized it is and how calm and optimistic everyone is. People who lost half or all of their homes are just happy to be alive. There is also a group of extranjeros - foreigners - mostly American and Canadian, who have all pitched in and are buying lamina so the tar paper shacks can be rebuilt rapidly. One house costs about $600, vs a cement home which is about $6,000 to $10,000.

People have no money because the tourism is non-existent. Everyone has been laid off, so there is no money on the island, and none coming in. The aluminum window man has work. Some men have work cleaning and building, but the clerks and restaurant workers are all laid off. Everyone is planning that there will be a lot of tourists for Christmas and things will be back to normal after that.

What has impressed me more than anything is how relaxed they are. Even though there is no work and no money, people know that they will eat somehow, and so don't seem worried about it. They are doing what they can and want to work or help if they can, and are patient about waiting, whether in line for purified water, or for the tourists to come.

The school will not offer classes until January. Even though people are not earning money, they are working to clean up their homes and streets, and are not considering school at this time, as studying is somewhat of a luxury. There is no attention for it during these times. Of course the kids have returned to school, but most had their school supplies either lost or destroyed, as everything on isla got wet with all that rain. So our school will be helping by handing out what we have to the local grade school - things like pencils and paper. Those donations are MOST appreciated right now. It is hoped that whoever comes down to Isla will bring them. I think most hotels will be ready to receive guests within the month, if not sooner.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Here is the latest update on Wilma and Isla Mujeres:

People are getting around the island even though there is still some standing water and flooded areas. Buses, taxis and mopeds are running. There is now telephone service to the entire island, water is back on, and electricity is coming very soon, maybe by the end of the week. The stores are open again with food to sell. I am amazed and delighted with how quickly they have recovered! The government was there immediately to restore the basics within a week, which is fantastic! It seems there was no loss of life, and the main damage was to the palapa (palm frond) roofs and the wooden houses. There is a lot of sand in the streets in town, it almost looks like piles of snow. They have some hard work ahead, shoveling it back onto the beaches, which seem to have grown much bigger! There is also a lot of rebuilding and cleaning to do.

Tom and I will be going back next week, as soon as we can get tickets and finish packing and go. The school will not open for classes until January 9th at the earliest, but the doors will be open for activities for the kids, tutoring for those asking for it, and to cook and serve meals for those who might not have money to buy food.

We have some minor repairs to do on the building, like screen windows and rebuilding the palapa in the back yard, but we and others are counting our blessings!

Tuesday, October 25 Update

Many of you have asked to be kept updated about the current situation on Isla Mujeres, after hurricane Wilma, and the damages to the school.

I received a cell phone call from my lead teacher, Daniela this morning, and that combined with Spanish newspapers on line from the Cancun area has given me a picture of the situation.

I have heard of no loss of life on Isla Mujeres, which seems like a miracle. As we learn more, we may hear bad news in this regard, but so far what we hear is that everyone survived.

We understand that the cement block structures NOT DIRECTLY HIT by waves have survived intact, with only broken windows and water damage to contents, nothing too serious. The school did sustain flooding and I am sure things inside are water damaged, from books and school supplies to the computers and other office equipment. But the people living in carton houses, and they are the poorest, have lost absolutely everything.

Isla Mujeres gets its electricity and water supply from a huge underground/underwater pipe from Cancun. Because the power is still out in Cancun, there is no way of knowing if it is still operational or not, but at this time they think that this underwater pipe might have been damaged by the force of the water during the hurricane. In any case, when the power is restored to Cancun, they will learn what the situation is. This may take anywhere from a week to several months to get this service restored.

As long as there is no water or electricity, there will be severe shortages on Isla Mujeres. Most of the poorer indigenous Mayans drink the tap water, but now only bottled water will be available to them, creating severe shortages. Food and water were being airlifted via helicopter, but as you can imagine, each delivery quickly disappears. There are more than 10,000 people still on the island, and many of them were already in the middle of the hungry time of the year, and literally did not have enough money to stock up on food or water at all in the days before Wilma. I know they are getting desperate now.

The ferry service to the island has been restored. This is good news, as hopefully more food and water can be transported, assuming it is available in Cancun.

In Cancun, the roads were blocked by fallen trees and power lines, we have heard of extensive looting and general chaos there, as those hungry folks look to any source available for their basic needs. Needs of those on Isla Mujeres probably can't be seriously addressed until Cancun order has been restored.

Daniela, our teacher, is planning to go to Merida and wait all of this out, assuming she can get out of Cancun and roads are clear to Merida.

We have decided that it makes no sense for us to try to get down there until we know there is a water supply and electricity to the island. We would quickly become a part of the problem ourselves. As you can imagine, I am very anxious to get there and get involved with the clean-up and restoration of not only the school, but also the La Gloria community. I have many friends there!

When we do get there, the school will be helping in the community any way we can. This includes giving food and clothing to people as they need it and we have it, but we will not be able to help anyone rebuild their homes from the school funds. Tom and I plan to help on a personal basis, as we can afford to, and as people give us discretionary money for this specifically.

I will try to update you as we get more information, and as things - hopefully - improve!


Maggie Washa

September 2005 update

Salsa party!

We will be holding our second annual Salsa Party to raise funds for the school. This year, it will be hosted by the Middleton High School Key Club and Spanish Club, at Middleton High School in Middleton, Wisconsin (near Madison).
We will have a silent auction with many exciting things to bid on, including one week accommodations on Isla Mujeres, as guests of Tom and Maggie Washa!
We hope that all of you in the Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois areas will consider coming to this event. We look forward to a great gathering of Isla lovers and school supporters. Here are the particulars:

Middleton High School Key Club and Spanish Club present a
Salsa Fiesta

Benefit for La Gloria English School
Sunday, October 23rd, 4-7 pm
Middleton High School*
Free salsa and chips donated by Pedro's Restaurant in Madison,
Free orange drink donated by McDonalds in Middleton
Free bilingual Bingo Games
A great silent auction with many great items to bid on,
and a
Presentation by Maggie Washa about
La Gloria English School

*Directions to the school:
From Madison go west on University Ave into Middleton. Turn Right on Bristol St. and go 2 blocks, the school is on the left.

From outside of Madison, Follow Hwy 12 & 14 to Middleton. At the Hwy 14 west exit towards Cross Plains, exit and go EAST into Middleton on University Avenue. Turn left on Bristol Street and go 2 blocks to Middleton High School.

We hope to see you there!

Computer essay contest report - by Daniela at the school

As you know, La Gloria English School depends on generous donations from people like you in order to offer our students resources not otherwise available. This includes everything from pencils, crayons and notebooks to learning to speak English and a chance to win a laptop computer. Our students cherish their school and teachers. Here we offer them a friendly place where the learning is accessible and reliable. There is nothing like the reward of a smiling student who has just won stickers or a new notebook for good work done. Thanks to the organized communication system used by Maggie Washa and your generosity, we have a steady flow of volunteers and donations.

We have been requesting the donation of laptop computers to La Gloria English school, knowing that they could offer new learning opportunities to students and adults. In the spring of 2005 we received a donation of 4 laptops, and after changing the operating system to Spanish we were ready to donate them. But to be fair, we needed criteria for choosing the lucky recipients. Students were chosen from the pool of those with the best attendance in their English classes. Then they were asked to write an essay on "Why I want to learn English". The winners were randomly chosen from these participants. We were able to give one computer to a contestant at each of four levels: Children, Young Adult, and Adults I, and Adults II.

The best part of the competition was to watch the students take ownership of their learning. Culturally, school is not a priority, and usually comes second to daily life responsibilities. Absences are common at all the island schools, but last semester we noticed an increase in attendance. We saw that they were motivated by the possibility of winning a computer. Also they were required to write essays, which is something most of them had never done. For some of our adults, this was the only academic work since elementary school. So you can see why we are proud of our students! Below are some excerpts from the essays. All of the essays expressed gratitude towards the school and its donors who are offering them this wonderful opportunity to learn another language.

Viviana Aurora Martinez Chan is long time friend of Maggie Washa and La Gloria English School. She is a housewife, housecleaner, mother of four, and overall problem solver. If you need something on the island, she's the one to ask. As her essay illustrates, Viviana knows the importance of English and is very grateful for the opportunity to learn English. Here is a translation of her essay:

Hello, I'm Viviana and have been studying English for three years. Now I have a stupendous teacher who speaks Spanish and English so I can better understand and learn. My goal is to speak English better so I can communicate with my employers. They are American and have taken great interest in my family. La Gloria English school is very beneficial to us here in La Gloria. cI have seen personally how hard the teachers work voluntarily and teach, and the generous donations we receive. The teachers always come to class enthusiastic to teach English, which is the language most spoken around the worldc. Mrs. Margaret Washa should be very pleased with how useful and helpful her school is for us islanders. I want to say thank you to all the teachers and visitors who bring donations, like for example these computers. It will be very useful to my children with their homework if I win one, but if luck isn't with me, there will be another opportunity. Thank you.

Juan Martin Osorio lives around the corner from the school. His sister attended the Kinder classes and hopes to return. Martin, as we call him, is only nineteen but works hard to help his family. Unfortunately his mother passed away a few years ago. Although Martin did not win a computer, his essay expresses his gratitude, and his serious need for English to help his family get ahead. He was a dedicated student who never missed a class. Hopefully he will return to classes, but thanks to his English he just got work at one of the main restaurants downtown, and that will keep him very busy. Here is his essay:

It is difficult to find a job that doesn't ask for a foreign language and English is the principal foreign language and recognized worldwide. I have tried to learn English on my own and with the help of friends but it is difficult. Then I tried to learn using books and tapes but it is not the same because when you want to try to use it, you get shy and embarrassed. Here at La Gloria English School the learning is practical and useful. I can afford it and learn fast, and because the teachers are foreigners I can immediately put into practice what I learn. This way when I go to work and try my English, I am not embarrassed. Here I get the most important thing, confidence to speak. I have not learned English one hundred percent but I am getting practice speaking with foreigners and am learning authentic English. Our teachers help us a lot and give us a lot of encouragement to learn, something that other schools do not offer. I am going to put forth my best effort to learn here. Thanks to this school, I will get employment according to my needs. Thanks teachers, for your support for people who need to learn your language.

Flor is another dedicated learner. She is ten years old and has taken several classes thanks to a scholarship. She presented a lovely piece that was very neatly written. She enjoys her English classes and hopes to continue. She simply wrote:

I want to learn English because it is fun and besides being fun, I really like it.

Rosely was the winner from the Children's group. She was shining star in her group and was very excited to participate in her first academic contest. She is also at the school through a scholarship. She writes:

My parents say that English is important for everyone. I want to learn English so I can communicate with others from far away places.

MarJosely was our lucky winner from the young adult's group. She was extremely happy to take home not just a new computer, but also new ability to speak English. She also studies thanks to a scholarship. Her father is a welder who works with Americans that are building on Isla, and has taken an adult course. MarJosely writes:

I want to learn English because whatever work I get, I will have to speak English so I can assist people well. Also sometimes tourists need directions.

Maria, the winner from our adults 1 group, is a homemaker and mother. She is a dedicated student and almost never missed classes. She is a good friend of the school and the teachers. Despite losing her mother last semester and being diagnosed with an illness, she stayed optimistic and cheerful and her classes were place of refuge. Maria studied on a full scholarship. She wrote:

I want to learn English because here where we live it is indispensable. We depend on tourism here.

Our winner from the Adults II group, Ana Laura, is a store clerk at Garrafon, the water park and main attraction on the island. She is an enthusiastic student and frequently stayed after classes to ask extra questions. She learned so much very quickly and wrote a moving essay. The following is a translation of it:

Knowing English allows us to have a better job and therefore a better quality of life. Now women have a better opportunity to get ahead and knowledge of English gives us the chance to find work and help out economically at home. I personally am a young person with good luck because I found work in an important company where they hired me even though I did not speak English. I only had the opportunity to finish junior high school. I am from a humble family and my parents could only afford that much. But then came the opportunity to take these courses, which have helped me so much at work and have helped me get ahead. Now I have the desire to continue learning. I am proud and happy to have this opportunity. I feel confident with myself and feel I can apply for any job and say I speak English. Thanks to my teacher for her time and patience. I am a happy and secure young person thanks to all that I know.

Lorraine Charlotte Baas Garcia did not win but accomplished a huge feat in typing three hundred words. She had never written any personal composition before even though she is in sixth grade. Both of her parents have remarried Americans and she has a personal desire to communicate with her new family. Just in the last month, Lorraine relocated to Hershey, Pennsylvania. She felt more prepared, thanks to her English. She wrote:

For me, it is necessary because my family does not only speak Spanish but also English. I want to go to live in the United States because my mother lives there. It would be lovely to live with my little sister Leah who will speak Spanish and English when she grows up.

Lupe Chi Tuz is a member of the La Gloria English School family. She worked for many years at the Red Cross before joining us. Although she is busy running our office, she found time to attend classes. Her daughter and nephews also attend our classes. She is extremely grateful to the school for the opportunity to learn English, something she could only dream of before. She wrote:

One day I will speak English. Although I don't have a high level of education, I have the desire to improve my life. Now I can achieve my goals because of this opportunity. I also want to learn English because I have a lot of foreign friends and they would be very happy to know I speak English.

Lupe's nephew Jonathon also took his first English course and was an amazing student. He hopes to be a doctor someday and knows English is vital for higher education. He really enjoyed his class and his teacher. He writes:

I want to thank my parents for allowing me to take advantage of this opportunity and always offering me the best.

Noel is a surfer and son of a taxi driver. He loved the school so much he often stayed around after classes. He made friends with our star volunteer Matt Plitch and they often hung out together. He unfortunately was expelled from junior high school and since there is only one on the island, he stopped studying altogether. As was obvious here, he loves to study and hopes to return. He was very thankful for the personal interest that the school took in him. He even took some drawing lessons form our teacher Linda. Here is part of his essay:

I always knew that English was important for getting a job, but I never thought I would enjoy it so much. I could never pay you all back for all that I have learned here.

Thanks to the ongoing financial donations of individuals, we continue to have the money to pay our hard working, dedicated teachers. Anyone who has contributed to the school should know that they personally have helped make a difference in the lives of people living on Isla Mujeres. Since the need is ongoing, donations are deeply appreciated and go directly to helping the school.

July 2005

La Gloria English School is one of THE centers of energy on Isla this summer. We had more than 90 people register for classes in June, and it is going well, with good attendance and lots of activities between the classes. People are coming through the door daily, asking when the next course will start. The school is getting a great reputation on Isla. Thanks to your donations, we will be giving away 4 laptop computers to the winners of a written essay on the last day of classes later this month. The students are extremely excited about this.

This summer we have 2 volunteer teachers, Linda and Susan, who have done an incredible job of teaching. Daniela is becoming a permanent teacher there, and loved by all. Lupe and Viviana, who both work there are taking English classes and finally overcoming their fear of what they thought was impossible – speaking in English! There were several volunteers including 3 young men, Matt, Caleb and Jeremy, who spent a month on Isla this summer, volunteering at the school. Needless to say, they had their hearts stolen.

I just spoke with Linda, and she gave me the school’s current wish list. If you are going to Isla and wish to donate something to the school, please take a look at this list first. Thanks so much to all of you for your generosity in the past. This school could not have survived this long without your help. Sad but true, learning English is key to a better life for Isleños ...

Here is the list, not necessarily in order of need...

colored pencils
colored markers
small spiral notebooks (suitable for teen boys)
small stuffed animals (clean used are fine)
frisbees (for those teen boys!)
base balls,
art supplies, like paints
simple pocket folders
rain ware, all sizes (not umbrellas)
large size women’s clothing
good used clothing in general
“crazy balls”
decks of cards
masking tape
dollar store stuff for prizes
The big ticket items we need are:
laminator (we have the ”paper”, but the machine died)
many copies of “Ingles Para Latinos” book 1 and book 2
Good quality English-Spanish dictionaries

We are also in dire need of financial donations. Although Linda and Susan were able to donate their time, others live on Isla and must be paid. Their dedication to the school is incredible, but it doesn’t put food on their tables! We now have officially been designated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in the US, so if your employer can give matching funds to your donation, please take advantage of that! Some friends of the school are collecting donations from other Isla lovers and giving it through their employer matching fund program, doubling the donation. Any way you can help, you will make a difference.

Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom, I look forward to seeing you on Isla, I’ll be there in late October until May!

Maggie Washa

Linda and Susan

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