As many of you already know from our past newsletter, 2011 has been a difficult year both for Volunteer Petén and for Guatemala in general. As the social integrity of Guatemala continues to decline and collapse, tourism, the major component of Volunteer Peten, has also declined greatly and, in the Peten region, has virtually collapsed. Earlier this year, we made a plea to friends and past volunteers from our program to donate so that we could make ends meet and finish our school program, as well as maintain programs in the ecological park and community library, and we received a great response and are deeply grateful for all your aid and assistance. Upon facing this crisis, both the decline in tourism and the increased violence in the region, only two decisions were available to continue with Volunteer Peten; one was to continue our projects based solely on donations from friends and family, or to find other sources of income to run the projects based on sustainable projects such as selling firewood, animals, plants, and produce. Since 2002, when our project first began, our philosophy has always been to manage our program more like a business than a charity and that our success would be based on the participation of international volunteers. With the volunteer program financially sustaining our program, we were able to put all extra donations towards some amazing projects such as the ecological park, the community library, and building schools for the community. Therefore, the option of having donations sustain the program is does not fit with our philosophy or goal as an organization. This past year, most of our efforts were put into projects for our students in the natural resource management school, where they participated in growing and selling produce, animals, animal products, plants, and firewood. And even though these activities are important and integral for the survival of any society, the market doesn’t exist in the Petén to economically sustain these activities. Therefore, the second option is only viable to sustain one person or one family, but is unable to sustain any type of project or formal program. Also, since the lack of security and violence is growing in the region, right now it is not even feasible to sustain a project without investing in private security, which also goes against our goals and philosophy.
Having explained the current situation, we have decided to wrap up our project in the next few months and to end all programs in February or March of 2012. We apologize to those that have already made plans for 2012, and hope that you can make the necessary changes to your agendas.
Our project is completing its 10th year this January, and we still have some work to accomplish before we close our doors next year. We are soliciting donations for one last time to help us put some closure to our projects, as we will be working diligently during the next couple of months to pass our projects to local authorities in hopes that they can sustain the park, library, and school projects that we have created. Our goal is to raise $6,000 during the next two months to help us with the following goals; continue to fund and organize the 2012 school year for 6 students ($400 for each student for one full year, for a total of $2400), training park personnel to continue running the park in coordination with the local authorities ($2,000), training a community librarian and establishing a community fund to sustainably manage the library ($1,600).
Thanks to all your help and support for our program, and we will keep you informed of our accomplishments during the next few months.
Matthew R. Peters
Monday, December 19, 2011
A Message from one of our Guatemalan partners, Volunteer Peten
Dear Friends of Volunteer Petèn,