Empower Maya Youth in a Post-Genocide Community

 
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Marlena
Marlena

Thanks to your terrific support, we were able to welcome 18 new scholars at the start of the Guatemalan school year in January. And Francisco, Esperanza, and Marlena are three we’d like to highlight! Starting their first year of middle school at the San Gaspar Middle School has been a big change in the lives of the three adolescents, and they would like to thank you and share their impressions on this experience.


Marlena is 14 years old and started school when she was 8. Despite this delayed beginning in her elementary years, Marlena finished her primary studies with exceptional grades and never had to repeat a school year—which is especially notable in Chajul. She enjoys mathematics, and speaks three languages—Ixil, Quiché, and Spanish. Her Spanish literacy and writing skills have considerably improved since participating in our intensive Spanish course a few months ago, and she is very eager to learn. She says that her experience with Limitless Horizons Ixil so far is "great and I feel more comfortable in speaking Spanish. We receive a lot of support for our education and I am very grateful and happy. Without Limitless Horizons Ixil, I could have never gone to middle school. When I am older, I would like to be a secretary because I love to read and write."


Francisco is 13 and started school when he was 7 years old. Unlike many students in Chajul, he also never had to repeat a year of school. This is a testament to his dedication to his studies and the value his family places on education. He says he is very proud to be a Limitless Horizons Ixil scholar and so happy to be able to continue studying into middle school. He also feels lucky to have the support of his family. Francisco would like to be a music teacher, and has already started learning how to play the trumpet in his school band.


Esperanza is 12 years old and started school when she was 6. She is a very bright student. When asked about her experience as a Limitless Horizons Ixil scholar she says: "I really like being a scholar at Limitless Horizons Ixil because I love going to school, studying, and learning new things and I wouldn’t be able to do those things without this opportunity. I would like to be a teacher in Chajul so I can help the community."


These three bright youth have big aspirations for their futures and we could not be happier to have such enthusiastic students who so avidly participate in the weekly activities of our Youth Development Program. These opportunities include computer, Spanish, and tutoring classes, as well as workshops on themes like positive communication, bullying, and teamwork. Because most of the parents of our scholars do not speak or write Spanish, and have never been to school, getting support for their studies can be very challenging for the youth of Chajul outside of what our programs provide.


Community members in Chajul have great hope for their young generations to become positive role models and leaders, and our ability to support this community development is only possible thanks to generous donors like you. We at Limitless Horizons Ixil and the community of Chajul are so grateful for your support!


Thank you!

Esperanza
Esperanza
Francisco
Francisco
Creative Collaboration!
Creative Collaboration!

Limitless Horizons Ixil is always looking for innovative and creative ways to facilitate learning, expression, and collaboration and we are often afforded fantastic opportunities thanks to supporters like you! Last week, we were fortunate to host a photography project with visiting high school students from Catlin Gabel and Oregon Episcopal School (OES) that engaged Limitless Horizons Ixil middle school scholars with questions of identity and voice. Photovoice or Fotovoz combines photography with community action by encouraging participants to explore themes, create a narrative, and express themselves through photos. Through the project, our scholars were able to frame their community and their culture through their own eyes. With some helpful photography tips, suggested themes and guidelines (including an image scavenger hunt), and the support of the high school students, our Youth Development Program (YDP) scholars were given free reign to photograph their community and capture what Chajul means to them.

Photovoice focuses on community consultation, creativity, and ownership. In a culture where illiteracy affects 39% of adults, and middle schoolers often struggle with expressing themselves in Spanish, images and photography offer youth a new medium of self-expression. Furthermore, it is a site of real cultural exchange, as both students from the US and Chajul quickly develop an understanding of their own lens: their experiences, biases, and backgrounds that color their interpretation of the world. Where the US youth saw poverty, our scholars saw their friends playing. Where they saw novelty, Limitless Horizons Ixil scholars saw the rhythm of daily life. Where the American high schoolers saw weathered but beautiful old women, our middle schoolers saw their grandmothers and neighbors. Through observing what their counterparts deemed worthy of photography, students from Catlin Gabel and OES gained unique insight into how Chajulenses define themselves.

After two fruitful and fun sessions of exploring the community and snapping shots, the groups gathered to discuss the photos and present a slideshow. Students spoke of the rich paradoxes of Ixil daily life (natural versus artificial, modernity versus tradition, old and young) and discussed what images and symbols represented their community (corn, friends, traditional dress,daily rituals of washing and weaving). The students from Oregon observed that their counterparts were drawn to deeply familiar images and scenes. We learned how our YDP scholars conceptualize their experiences and see their culture. Some images were deeply personal—Gaspar described the bond he shared with his grandfather, and Juana showed us a beautiful shot of her kind and generous neighbor.

Political issues were explored as well; we reflected on the problems of irresponsible and exploitative photography, and Francisco explained the perception that visitors’ photos were a way of stealing a part of Ixil culture through selling images of Chajul to tourists and in the US. Always themselves being objects of photos and gaze from visitors, handing the cameras to our students gives them the power to dictate how their community and its inhabitants are presented and perceived.

We are confident that the themes of the project will last in all the students’ minds, along with the shared experience of two different cultures on different sides of a border. Limitless Horizons Ixil is so thankful to our supporters for making exciting and engaging experiences like Photovoice possible for our scholars!

Culture and Chajul
Culture and Chajul
Market Maize
Market Maize
The Cemetery
The Cemetery
A View from the Bridge
A View from the Bridge
Daily Life in Chajul
Daily Life in Chajul

Links:

Thanks to your generous support, we witnessed remarkable development in our Youth Development Program in 2014, with more students than ever graduating and more aspiring to higher education. We want to take this opportunity to thank you for your participation and share with you our results:

  • 100% of youth in their final year of high school and middle school graduated. This is in a community where only 11.5% of the community’s youth graduate from middle school and a mere 3% from high school.
  • We had a significantly higher number of high school graduates than ever before (and more than in all prior years combined) with 19 scholars graduating. Four of our girls graduated from middle school with excellent grades and will continue onto high school in 2015.
  • Of our 19 high school graduates, 100% aspire to continue on to university. Three have already been accepted into a university scholarship program, and a number are currently working on grant and college applications with LHI support.
  • We enrolled a total of 57 indigenous youth from Chajul in our Youth Development Program in 2014. Of the 57, 56 scholars passed their academic year in 2014. Just one student dropped out for health reasons; the student has since recovered and will be continuing with our program in 2015.
  • With the exception of one student, all of our scholars passed their grade. In fact, this year our middle school grade point averages were higher than ever before!
  • Aside from our high school graduates, 100% of our youth will move onto their next grade level in 2015 and will continue as LHI scholars.
  • We provided 9 workshops to youth and their parents on a wide range of topics including communication, sexism, health, hygiene, decision-making, self-esteem, and leadership.
  • Our scholars benefitted from 80 hours of computer classes, 60 hours of tutoring, and 80 hours of intensive Spanish language classes.Participants in our intensive Spanish course took a pre- and post-course exam to measure progress. Students improved their scores by an average of 20.2% after just four weeks!
  • Heading into 2015, we have one of our biggest incoming classes yet with 19 bright and ambitious young scholars starting middle school with LHI in the new year.

Our success rates in 2014 are attributed to our holistic approach that has been honed to ensure our scholars have the supports to overcome obstacles to education and develop into independent-minded and ambitious leaders in their community. We thank you for the pivotal role you have played in empowering and educating our scholars. 

After 10 years of progress, our programs are achieving incredible results. In 2015, we look forward to organizational growth and program expansion. We need your help now more than ever as we grow into 2015. Help us reach even more youth in Chajul, Guatemala. Please give this holiday season.

Best wishes and warm thanks  from all of us at Limitless Horizons Ixil.  Happy Holidays! 

The LHI rascals; our first year boys
The LHI rascals; our first year boys
Our youth celebrate Ixil culture
Our youth celebrate Ixil culture
Our second year girls
Our second year girls
Our new scholars!
Our new scholars!

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Marcelia wants to attend university one day
Marcelia wants to attend university one day

While all of our scholars are bright and brilliant, three students have performed exceptionally well this year. Your backing and goodwill have given Angelica the resources to study math, have driven Marcelia’s ambition to attend university, and have shaped Regina into a leader and artist in her community.

Angelica is in her second year of middle school thanks to her Limitless Horizons Ixil scholarship. Her favorite subject is math and she loves learning new things. Angelica believes that her education is a resource that she will carry with her for her entire life, and a tool that will shape her into the person she wants to be. Angelica has seven siblings and neither of her parents received more than two years of formal education.

 “My parents are very proud of me for my studies since they never had the opportunity. They hope that my siblings and I will finish our education so that we can have better futures.”

Marcelia was deeply disappointed when her father told her that he would be unable to afford for her to study past elementary school. With six children to support, her parents lacked the resources to send them all through school. One day she heard about our Youth Development Program on the radio.

“I wanted to keep studying because I saw how my classmates were in school and I kept thinking ‘what am I going to do?’ I didn’t want to live a life of poverty.”

Marcelia was accepted into our program and is now in her third year of middle school. She passed her classes with flying colors this year and has the best grades in her group. She plans to graduate and find a job so that she can support herself through university.

Regina is an intelligent, assertive, and creative young woman in her final year of high school. She has proven herself to be a talented individual who excels as a leader and an artist. Regina writes poetry in her free time and hopes to study psychology in university after she graduates this year. She cites her curiosity and a thirst for learning as her motivation to keep moving forward with her education.

From Angelica, Marcelia, and Regina, thank you for your belief in our programs and their potential. Please continue to support the bold and brightest of Chajul—these young men and women who have the courage to envision a different future and the ambition to make that future a reality. 

Angelica is a math whiz!
Angelica is a math whiz!
Regina will graduate to a bright future this year!
Regina will graduate to a bright future this year!

Links:

Rony, our prodigious scholar!
Rony, our prodigious scholar!

While it’s misty and dreary in Chajul, nothing can dampen our spirits! We are excited to share some good news with you. The first round of report cards for our middle school youth were delivered in May. We are delighted to report that our students have an average of 75%, grades considered quite high in Chajul!

Starting this year, all LHI middle schoolers are enrolled in our partner school, Colegio San Gaspar, which provides the best education in Chajul. The school’s director, Balthazar Raymundo, recently told us that the LHI scholars are leading in all their classes and making great progress! We are so pleased that our youth are setting a good example to their peers!

While we are proud of all our scholars, some deserve specific mention.

Rony just started his first year of middle school. Known around the LHI Community Center for his cheeky grin and somewhat mischievous nature, Rony has also attracted our attention because of his outstanding performance in class. Not only does he have the highest average among the first years with 77%, he also received a 92 in English. Congratulations to Rony!

Last year, Roselda received the highest grades among her entire cohort of LHI peers. This year, she continues to excel, earning the highest average of all our middle schoolers while also scoring a 95 in Spanish. Terrific!

As part of our efforts to motivate our youth to earn good grades and provide a correlation between fun and learning, LHI rewarded all students with an average over 75% with a field trip to a local waterfall. 13 students met the qualifications, and were rewarded with a wonderful day of hiking, swimming and – against all odds – sun!

Thanks to your generous support, Limitless Horizons Ixil scholars have the opportunity to excel academically. We look forward to keeping you updated on the incredible progress you are helping to effect in Chajul and in the lives of our ambitious scholars.

Tantiuxh, gracias, and thank you!

Alice Stevens on behalf of all the LHI scholars

P.S. Donate after noon (EDT) on June 25th and see your donation doubled!  Microsoft Youth Sparks Match Day is an amazing opportunity to meet our fundraising goal; we hope you come out in support!

We are delighted with Roselda
We are delighted with Roselda's success.
En route to the waterfall
En route to the waterfall
We hiked the beautiful countryside of Chajul.
We hiked the beautiful countryside of Chajul.
The incredible Chichel waterfall
The incredible Chichel waterfall

Links:

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Organization

Project Leader

Alice Stevens

Operations & Development Associate
San Gaspar Chajul, El Quiche Guatemala

Where is this project located?

Map of Empower Maya Youth in a Post-Genocide Community