Education for Impoverished Guatemalan Youth

Jun 18, 2014

Former student uses his passions to help youth

Henry, pictured far right.
Henry, pictured far right.

Henry started his journey with Common Hope as an affiliated student at nine or ten years old. Years later, after graduating from high school and starting his career, he became the Youth Development Coordinator at New Hope. A genuinely kind person, Henry's passion for working with youth is readily apparent to those who meet him. He is an example of the great difference the youth program can make, thanks to your support.  

Henry says that before graduating from high school, it was a bit hard to have a clear vision for his life. “I imagined myself with a simple job, such as selling things at a store. I didn’t have big expectations,” he says. But he says he did have strong remodels, in New Hope Director Renato Westby and Country Director Tamalyn Gutierrez. “I wanted to be just like them,” Henry says. “With everything that I learned from them and Common Hope, I started to have the desire to help others.”

Henry also says he had great opportunities to explore his interests with Common Hope. As a Common Hope student, he took advantage of every opportunity that came his way, including engaging with the volunteer teams that came to Guatemala. They brought artistic activities and sports, and also volunteered to teach English classes—so he always went to these activities after school. He also had the opportunity in 2010 to intern with Tamalyn Gutierrez, Common Hope’s Country Director. He helped by filing documents, organizing her schedule, and planning graduation for Antigua and New Hope. The internship was a great learning experience, Henry says, especially learning to managing challenges with working with others, from the communication to the collaboration with many different people.

After graduation, Henry started working in Guatemala City, doing publicity for a business, writing emails and creating special flyers and promotions. It was a very small, entry-level job, he says, with a terrible salary and a massive commute—two hours both ways. Plus, it was all about “selling selling selling,” Henry says. “I felt that it wasn’t a good fit for me, and that it wasn’t putting my skills to their best use.” After a time, Henry decided to resign, and within a couple of weeks, Tamalyn and current New Hope Director Mynor Lemus contacted him about working with young people in New Hope. The new role has been such a welcome change for Henry, and a great fit.

It seems that Henry has allowed his own challenges in discerning a career path to inform his work with the youth program. He has made some changes to the program since his arrival, including more focused attention for students who are about to graduate. Youth program staff are prepping students with classes and immersion in the work force so they are able to arrive at a job interview prepared, and so that they will have the interpersonal skills they need to succeed. The program staff also works to prep youth with the tools and skills they need to go out and find a job—using the Internet, responding to postings, etc.

Henry also focuses a fair amount of time for the youth program on sports and physical activity, so students are healthier and happier in everything they do. In addition, he is encouraging more reading activities for youth—“just because of the simple fact that if a young person can read, he or she automatically knows much more than a young person who cannot.” And finally, the program is dedicating more time to more diverse extracurricular skills—such as skateboarding, dancing, and street art. “We’re doing this so we can focus on the many different talents our youth have,” Henry says. He hopes that through these varied activities, youth will have more skills and inspiration to contribute to their communities and schools.

On why he was attracted to working for Common Hope, Henry says, “I always had thought that you can make positive changes with young students, if you just spend some time with them.” And why young people? “I really enjoy working with young students,” Henry says. “There are a lot of people who think that youth are just a problem—but really, they’re a solution.”

Henry says a key challenge he sees for the youth he works with is adapting and understanding a new world, outside of the New Hope community. “In New Hope School, things are run very differently than in the mainstream public school system. The outside world, especially in Guatemala City, is much more accelerated and moves at an extremely fast pace. In New Hope, we try to give the students the opportunity to experience success, in many different ways. Within their own spaces that they feel comfortable in, students find success.”

Henry says that youth are more vulnerable to falling into bad situations when they are young, but when they are in a safe environment, with healthy activities, they are going to have more opportunities for their jobs and futures as they grow up.

But Henry also encourages youth to accept and embrace challenge. He advises students that “in any moment or situation, one should always look at things as a challenge to be overcome. It’s important to recognize that they are challenges so that you can learn from your mistakes.”

The youth at New Hope are very fortunate to have Henry's wisdom, enthusiasm, and vision. They are also very fortunate for the support of donors like you that makes Henry's work possible. Thank you!

Henry helps a student in the leadership program.
Henry helps a student in the leadership program.
The youth group (Henry in back row, yellow shirt).
The youth group (Henry in back row, yellow shirt).
Mar 20, 2014

Youth leaders continue to strive for greatness


Last year, our youth leadership group in Antigua was refreshed and re-energized, and the results have been inspiring. The number of youth leaders has more than doubled—from nine members last year, to an astounding 21 members this year.  

The program works to develop leadership qualities, and the students participate in a number of different training sessions like exercises on public speaking, for example. The group members also give talks each week on a variety of topics ranging from self-esteem to drug prevention.

Two students from last year have continued to participate in the youth leadership group. One student is Dulce, who started getting involved in youth activities in 2010. Dulce loves to draw and wants to be an architect one day. She says, “My dream is that people recognize me in the world of architecture.” Dulce’s ambition is apparent. She says that she decided to be in the leadership group because she likes to participate in activities and if other kids were doing it, why not her? Last year, Dulce was the youngest and quietest member of the group.  She was very shy and had a particularly hard time with public speaking. Thanks to continued encouragement from her peers, Dulce says she’s gotten better at expressing herself. “Before when I had to talk in front of people, I felt sick to my stomach. Now it’s not as hard,” she explains.

Another student who continued to participate this year is Erick. Before joining the group last year, Erick wanted to study technical and industrial drawing. Now, his dream is to graduate as a teacher and continue to give talks to youth. He wants to replicate Common Hope’s youth programs and have spaces for youth to go where they have positive and healthy activities like cooking, music, and sports. He has already taken the initiative to lead a cooking group on Thursday afternoons. Erick credits the youth leadership group for bringing him out of his shell. He says, “When I started coming to youth groups, I opened up more. At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to get up an speak in front of the group, but they’ve taught us how to handle it when we got confused, how to be dynamic when we speak, and how to handle big groups. I’ve learned a lot.”

The youth leaders don’t have everything figured out, of course. Like their peers, they too struggle with passing classes, dealing with family issues, and staying on the path to graduation. But their own challenges only strengthen their influence on their peers.

The group facilitator Teresa, says that the group constantly encourages each other. “There’s something about hearing the advice from someone who is the same age, from the same place. There’s more trust and a better understanding,” she says.

We anticipate that the program will continue to grow and thrive thanks to leaders who encourage their peers to join, and also thanks to supporters like you. Your support makes it possible for this year’s 21 youth leaders, students like Dulce and Erick, to continue to strive for their dreams.

Thank you!

This year
This year's youth leadership group
Dec 20, 2013

Maria Jose, a trailblazer with your support

Maria Jose
Maria Jose

We first shared about Maria Jose back in 2011 ( as someone who has been active in our youth programs. This fall, she graduated from high school, and we learned a bit more about her story and challenges along the way.

As the only girl studying to be a mechanic, Maria Jose has encountered a few extra hurdles. During her first year of high school, her classmates gave her a really hard time. They teased her a lot. But her teacher supported her completely, and she also found support in Common Hope’s youth groups, which she has attended for many years.

Maria Jose says she used to hang out with just her sister and one other friend at youth groups, but program leader Rigo challenged her to open up and get to know everyone. He told her, “One day, you’ll need other people.” Maria Jose took his advice, making new friends, and becoming very involved in the program. She even began giving motivational talks and trainings on Saturday mornings. “It’s so beautiful when your peers seek you out for advice,” she says. “You can’t be prideful in those moments. I’ve learned to be humble and friendly.”

Maria Jose graduated this fall and started a month-long internship with Common Hope’s mechanic after that. She is well on her way to a promising career in her chosen profession.

Your support makes it possible for students like Maria Jose to blaze new trails and succeed. We celebrated 156 graduates this year, each with their own challenges surpassed with the help our programs, which you make possible. Thank you!


Sep 24, 2013

Nelson Avoids Dropping Out - And Lands a Great Job

Nelson at Graduation
Nelson at Graduation

Your support makes it possible for students like Nelson to surpass serious hurdles that could have caused them to drop out of school.

In tenth grade Nelson was struggling mightily to stay in school. It wasn’t that he didn’t have the aptitude—just a year before he had finished top of his class. But with growing commitments at work and other family challenges, Nelson had missed too much homework and class.

Nelson approached Flor, a member of our educational support staff, who advocated for him at school, explaining the difficulties causing him to get behind. Nelson was allowed to stay in school, and Flor continued to meet with him as he worked through his challenges.

Through hard work and the support of Common Hope, Nelson graduated in 2012. What's more, he got a great job this year, as a graphic designer with a printing company in Guatemala City. Nelson feels so grateful for his job, knowing how hard it is to find a good one.

Looking back, Nelson says he was overwhelmed by the support Common Hope’s support staff showed him. "They really believed in me," he says.

Thank you for make education possible for deserving students like Nelson. Your support funds the work of Flor and many others working hard each day to help students like Nelson to stay in school. For more stories and statistics from the past fiscal year, visit our recently-published Donor Impact Report for 2012:

Jun 26, 2013

New Engineer Pays It Forward


Jaime Obando and his wife Laura recently sponsored a student, Dennis, who is working hard in school to create a better future for himself. When corresponding with Jaime about his sponsorship, we discovered something extra special about him: he used to be sponsored by Common Hope himself. Jaime's story is a great example of the difference that your support can make for impoverished Guatemalan youth, and the way you can create ripple effects long into the future.

With the help of Common Hope and supporters like you, Jaime was able to stay in school and get the support he needed to be successful. Through his hard work, he graduated from university in 2010 with a degree in engineering, and now he is the first former sponsored student to sponsor a student of his own.

For a long time, Jaime has striven to give back for the help he received. “I have always had this feeling inside of me,” he says, “wondering how I can return the education that I received from Common Hope. I helped friends in other NGOs, I helped my community group in San Pedro las Huertas—always sharing ideas, finding ways to develop and giving tools to success.” In sponsoring, Jaime says, “My wife and I had this idea to help other kids like me.”

The difference his sponsors made is clear for Jaime: “They helped me get the education I needed to succeed, even if they didn’t know me.” I asked him about what has changed in his family’s circumstances since he was a child. “Everything has changed,” says Jaime. “We have a decent house with a big yard. My parents are retired. They don’t have to work as hard for us as they did in the past, when my mom worked as a housekeeper and my dad as a gardener. My parents can relax more and do what they enjoy doing—for my mom that’s quilting, and for my father that’s gardening. They are so proud of my success, but I know there were a lot of people involved in it, and for all my life, I’m going to remember where I came from, who I am, and how I achieved this.”

Jaime is an inspiration to so many students working hard on their goals, and to so many supporters like you helping students get there.

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Common Hope

St. Paul, MN, United States

Project Leader

Kate Lucas

St. Paul, MN United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Education for Impoverished Guatemalan Youth