I love everything about Proyecto Itzaes, from its mission to the students and communities it serves. I have had the privilege of experiencing PI in action, and it is a truly life-changing, sustainable organization. I cannot say enough good things about PI, the people who work both for and with PI, and the students who both give and receive classes at PI centers around the Yucatan. PI transforms lives and gives young students the strength, as well as the resources, to stay in school and become young professionals. I have gotten to know many of these PI students (and graduates) and they are the future leaders of Mexico and the Yucatan.
I like so many things about Proyecto Itzaes... Where do I begin? Do I begin with the fact that the Director and Founder, Cindy Wilber gives her own sweat and resources to this Proyecto on a regular basis--and has for decades? Do I talk about how Proyecto Itzaes brings so many educational and other resources to these local towns, towns with very high poverty rates. Proyecto Itzaes brings educational programs to local kids in three (I think four now) Yucatec Maya towns. PI inspires community members with topics that range from Maya Math to solar ovens to ecology to local herbs to ecology classes. What don't they offer to the local communities?! They even offer local scholarships to several students every year. They give the $100 that makes the difference between these kids attending high school--and even college. Proyecto Itzaes helps to break the cycle of poverty in these local towns--and it promotes ecological sustainability. Last thing I know Proyecto Itzaes had established three (may be four now) sites. One is in the birth place of Jose Tec Poot--a local Yucatec Maya anthropologist. I had the opportunity to volunteer to help at a couple of these sites. It filled my heart with joy to see these local kids enjoying this local resource--playing, creating, learning in an excited manner at these three (4) sites. Another unique quality of this Proyecto is that they recruit local leaders and scholarship recipients to lead and participate in teaching and offering classes. Local leaders like, Vero, lead all kinds of activities that are culturally responsive to the needs of the community. Also, they train local scholarship recipients to teach the younger kids math, science, writing, and computer skills.
If you are wondering where to donate this year or where to volunteer, do it at Proyecto Itzaes. The Director/Founder, Cindy Wilber and many other volunteers give so much of their time and their own resources to the Proyecto, because the projects inspired everyone to do that--seeing the kids' faces so happy, seeing young men and women graduating college... It is not just the multitude of individuals supporting PI, there are big, generous donors as well--like individuals and the Rotary among others. So many of the people who have volunteered are volunteers for life, because when you become involved in Proyecto Itzaes, you make new friends for life.
I am a Doctoral candidate in math education at Stanford University specializing in teacher education of linguistic and ethnic/racial minority students, and I have been a mathematics teacher for 22 years. What I like most about Proyecto Itzaes is that our donations translate into real differences for people at both the everyday and big-life levels. For example, the summer science projects brings engaging enrichment activities to children in these Yucatec Maya communities, and not only does this put smiles on their little faces, but it also lays the groundwork for their lifetime love affair with education. I have seen photos of children buried amidst mountains of legos, and they are building, creating, and flourishing. I have seen pics of children making games and activites, armed with only their imaginations and cardboard. I met a 22 year-old woman who was ushered through their programs since elementary school, who is now teaching at Proyecto Itzaes and is finishing her degree in math. She will be helping me with my research project in the Yucatan next year, and we are hoping that she goes to Stanford in the future to study math education to bring back her expertise to her local community. When you donate to Proyecto Itzaes, you are not just teaching a child for a day or a week or a school year, you are teaching a kid to love to learn for a lifetime.
Is an incredibly focused, driven and hard working individual who has devoted herself to this charitable organization that she single handedly founded, formed and contiues to serve. She is opening a window of opportunity to these children that would never be opened otherwise, since they live in a remote area with nearly no access to proper education. I have worked with her on a professional level with my own high risk, high need students in a California, and the compassion and creativity and committment that she demonstrated in this capacity is something that I have rarely seen in the field of education. She is extremely focused, organized and passionate about what she does and her organization deserves every bit of support that it can get, so that it can continue to focus and flourish far into the future. She is changing lives and changing the future and giving hope to these children, who live in such dire poverty.
Proyecto Itzaes fulfills a much needed role in the Yucatan. From library books to computer literacy to varied educational opportunities, PI works hard to serve thousands of families in the Yucatan. Other projects include education about the environment, including reforestation and beach clean-up. I am the board chair of Mujeres de Maiz Opportunity Foundation and can attest to the uncountable hours, untiring effort, and total devotion to her cause that Cindy Wilber, founder and executive director of PI, invests in her organization.