Update: Tim's Back from Panama

I'll get straight to the point. Please read it all, as it took a long time to type and is extremely important information. After a talk with Aly and Gillian, this is what we came up with... Timeline (tentative):

August: Gillian Locascio travels to Ngobe Area to talk about scholarship, ask questions/discuss with community, and distribute applications (details below) --> Sometime During First Semester: Aly will go to Ngobe to receive the applications and send them to us. --> December: After discussion and deliberation we choose who the scholarships will go to. --> January: Aly will return to Ngobe to give the scholarships to said people

Now before you ask a million questions, here's the FAQ:

When does their school year start? February/March, depending on the region.

What will the application consist of? Our hopes are that it will contain questions about what they want to study, why they merit the scholarships, and if all works out, a part of the application in which the community would be able to offer their opinion on the strength of the application (community recommendation). We would also require grades from their Primer Ciclo (middle school) in Guabo.

To what will the money apply? As previously decided, the scholarships will apply those going into Segundo Ciclo (high school) in order to offer the greatest chance and completing a full education (going to high school has more financial/geographical barriers than does middle school.

To who will the money apply? The applicant pool will be limited to the graduates of Guabo, in order to best facillitate control of the process (knowing which high schools they could potentially attend, the cost of transportation, managing the size of the applicant pool for our first year.

What all will Gillian be doing in/for August? Thanks to her extensive work with the Ngobe, she has connections in the area as well as a greater knowledge of how to proceed. She will be talking to some people who run scholarships down there to see how we can best transfer the money to the people, i.e. finding a way to pay the school directly rather than hand cash over to the parents. She will also be finding more detailed information about costs for public and private schools, costs of transportation and living, and other basic information. Furthermore, it is our hopes that she'll be able to discuss with the community about their opinions on how to proceed (although will already have been decided) in terms of preferring to offer more half-scholarships over fewer full scholarships and how to best manage a way to get a "community recommendation."

So uh... how are we giving them the money? Inevitably we have to face the possibility that we might have to give them the money directly, if this ends up being the case, we'd set up a continued incentive, meaning in order to be up for renewal the following year, we would require evidence of grades (report card) and possibly a teacher recommendation (we'll see). We would not be able to guarantee that all the money would be put towards education, but at the least, this would (hopefully) provide motivation for using the money correctly. Our first option, as mentioned, is still finding away to pay the school directly.

How goes the 501c3 status? People want tax-deductions! Unfortunately, the many organizations we've contacted have not resulted beneficial. However, our best lead right now is to go through World Learning (as they have the status). Aly will be going up to Vermont soon, so let's hope her convincing skills are powerful.

Final comments: We're still hopeful that one day we'll be able to partner with the FirstGiving program set up through SIT, but until then, we continue forward by ourselves. PLEASE send all comments and questions ASAP. Also we will have a meeting next Thursday June 11th at 11:00 pm EST. Please all make a point to attend as this will be a very important meeting. Thank you.

Tim Soo