Café Jubilee decided to create a fund to give something back to society. The fund was launched in July and the money collected is going to the setting up of an internet “café” in a remote region in Guatemala for the benefit of the school children and the community at large. This project is now finished and Café Jubilee is now in the process of setting up a fish farm in the same community to help in two ways, by adding another very important food product in the village’s diet and create employment and income.
San Manuel Chaparron is a municipality in Guatemala bordering El Salvador. Apart from being geographically dispersed and isolated, technological advances, have often bypassed our community, a symptom of the great inequalities prevailing in the country where poverty and deprivation are concentrated in dispersed rural areas like ours.
Poverty and isolation have done much to retain San Manuel Chaparron and its neighbouring villages in a state of perpetual deprivation, lacking education, some households still deprived of electrification and running water and inadequate sanitary facilities. Our school Colegio Madre Teresa has been one successful project offering quality education to hundreds of village children, most of which would have never been able to access any form of education and hence building the required human capital to take up opportunities later on in life.
The rural digital divide has hit our village too, a vital source of information, technological advancement and education unnecessarily bypasses young people and adults in the region, depriving villagers and students of valid sources of information, alienating their integration in a globalised world and enhancing their isolation. Low access to education and timely information prevail.
Where the rest of the world is increasingly “connected”, our community and its economy are increasingly isolated. It is in this setting that I believe internet access is fundamental in our community (just like any other community in the world) and our school in offering online education, updated training resources and teaching materials that are otherwise inaccessible in such small communities, and to offer computing education. Internet can do much to hamper the feeling of isolation and deprivation that our people and our students feel. Many of the people in the Chaparron have never been out of the village and low financial capital probably means they will get little opportunity to do so in the future.
I believe an internet connection can help our students and community enhance its human capital base, can enable students to work on online diplomas, offer a plethora of information possibilities and help integrate people normally left out of development processes, and understand what is happening around them, at least in their own country. Internet can offer a valuable resource for students especially those unable to relocate to study, lack funds to do so, and have work or family obligations. Online communities can also reduce isolation and enable people to exchange ideas, regardless of the distances separating them.
It is in this context and setting that I am asking for help in setting up such a service in our community. Needless to say, expenses in our parish are many, often struggling to get by with our projects, and help would be deeply appreciated, especially in such a service that can help our people and students generate a wealth of information and be part of the global community, hampering an isolation that so often defines the boundary between the very poor and the non-poor.
Rev. Fr. Anton Grech