Under the Same Moon presents on community development

The Global Health Studies Program, the Allegheny Gateway and education studies sponsored a presentation from two members of the board of directors of Under the Same Moon, a nonprofit organization that raises money for school and community development on Friday, Nov. 11, from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Tillotson Room of Tippie Alumni Center.

Amelia Darrouzet-Nardi, assistant professor of global health studies, invited two members from the board of directors of Under the Same Moon to give a presentation. The organization fundraises for Bendición de Dios, an independent pre-primary through grade six school that educates the poorest children in San Juan, Alotenango, Guatemala.

Under the Same Moon President Mark Robert Schneider presented a short history of Guatemala, giving the students a base for when Rebecca Center, Under the Same Moon’s founder and director, talked about the nonprofit. He discussed  how some people make a living out of digging through trash and turning selected items into jewelry.

It’s important to me because this group was started just by people who were interested in making a difference.

— Amelia Darrouzet-Nardi

Rebecca Center, Under the Same Moon’s founder and director, spoke about families in Guatemala who live below the poverty line and cannot afford to pay for a child to attend public school. Through fundraising, Under the Same Moon helps fund the preschool and kindergarten programs, stoves and healthy snacks at Bendición de Dios.

“Whatever I have here [in the U.S.], I want them to have there,” Center said during the presentation. “I am a bilingual educator so what I do in the states, I do in Guatemala.”

Center discussed how difficult it can be for some to get filtered water in Guatemala.

“We use our drinking water to flush the toilet in the U.S.,” Center said.

Center shared her personal story of adopting her Guatemalan daughter in 2006 and how during her trips to Guatemala she admired the unique handicrafts created by indigenous artisans. She saw this opportunity to both support the school and these talented artists even more than her volunteering every summer. Center travels to Guatemala twice a year to work with artisan families, and there she chooses and purchases the jewelry to sell in the U.S. All profits go to the women who make them and to Bendición de Dios.

Darrouzet-Nardi and her brother are some of the many volunteers who have helped with housing improvements in San Juan, Alotenango. According to Center, Darrouzet-Nardi and her brother would work through rain and heat to help build homes.

“It’s important to me because this group was started just by people who were interested in making a difference,” said Darrouzet-Nardi. “They didn’t necessarily know what to do or how to do it, but they went into the community and they asked the people.”

Daniel Larson, ’19, attended the event because he was curious to see how a teacher from the U.S. can make an impact in Spanish-speaking countries. He said he found it interesting that Center has been able to connect with a lot of community activists within Guatemala.

“She’s working with transgender activists, and they have helped with raising funds for the school,” said Larson. “She’s able to connect with the culture of Guatemala and all of these different groups, so it’s more than just a school that this organization from the U.S. is coming into; they are trying to work within the community and that’s something that I thought was pretty memorable.”

Center also spoke about the issues that often interfere with children attending school. She said Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world and $6,000 a year could give 100 kids snacks during school.

“You can have the best teachers, the best resources, but that can only go so far if the children aren’t able to develop mentally and physically,” said Larson. “Everything is integral and they address multiple injustices at the same time.”

After the presentation, Center displayed some of the items she is able to sell in the U.S. Jewelry, scarves, purses and keychains, according to Under the Same Moon’s website, are sold on fair trade principles and practices, paying the women who make them fair market value on the crafts they create.