Jun 23, 2014

The Community Sees a Difference

Proud Father and Daughter
Proud Father and Daughter

As I was leaving Guatemala last February after spending over a month there, I was approached by a man who wanted to share his observations of ADIMTU’s work in the villages of San Pedro Sacatepéquez and especially what he thought about the impact it was having on the adolescent girls in the communities where they work. His opinion was of great interest to me, as he was from that region, had extensive experience working in community development, and had followed ADIMTU’s work over the last several years as it evolved and deepened.

What he said was profound. He had observed significant differences in the attitude and behaviors of girls in communities where ADIMTU is working compared to those of girls in neighboring communities where there is no ADIMTU presence. In communities where ADIMTU was not working, the incidence of early pregnancy among teenage girls was disturbingly high, he said. Girls commonly began bearing children at puberty, lured by the entreaties of local boys to become novios (sweethearts) and live happily ever after. As a result, 15–16 year old girls would often be trailed by several offspring and the course of a life of deprivation and poverty for them and their children would be set. In addition, the incidents of human trafficking were mounting, he reported, as when a shining pick up truck rolls into town and its driver promises a future in which a girl’s dreams would come true. Too often, the girl would climb aboard, never to be seen again.

In contrast, he’d observed that the girls who participated in ADIMTU’s programs had a much stronger sense of self. They knew they could stand on their own and that they had the internal capacity to set their own goals and make positive decisions in their lives that would help them achieve those goals. They knew that others valued them. They wanted to live lives in which they could make a significant contribution to their family, their community, and possibly their country. They were not lured by promises of others – neither prospective novios nor traffickers, to whom they would say, “I don’t need to leave, I have a place right here.” And, he noted, their peers, also program participants, agreed with one another, unknowingly but effectively shifting community norms along with their personal changes.

These differences are profound, and yet, when one examines the experiences and learning the girls acquire over the 3 years of their work with ADIMTU, one can see the reasons why:

In Grade 7 (La Vida de Mi Mamá) they learn first-hand about the hardships their mothers faced, and resolve to continue their education so as to be better prepared to lead a better life, with more opportunity.

In Grade 8 (La Lectura Familiar) they learn to really read, with access to wonderful books that explore lives and worlds outside of their own and that are selected by ADIMTU staff to include examples of inquiry, exploration, goal settling, persistence and success. As they share these books with their families, the girls bring new ideas and experiences into the family discourse, simultaneously opening the thinking and expectations of the whole community, family reading time by family reading time, household by household.

Finally, in Grade 9 (Mi Hermanita) they each take responsibility for a little sister, guiding her to success in school through weekly tutoring sessions while also demonstrating to themselves, their families and community members that they indeed have the power to create permanent change in themselves and in the people around them.

The girls who develop this sense of their own capacities want to grow and achieve their own dreams and they know they have the internal resources to do so. Of course, we can not claim this is true for all girls in ADIMTU programs, as the factors influencing their lives are many, but to hear a local man’s observations of such a general trend is very heartening.

The reports of the overwhelming numbers of young children and teens being detained at our borders as they flee their homes and try to enter the US to find a better life are startling and deeply troubling. These young people must be so very desperate to take on such danger and uncertainty. Surely, it must be because they feel they have no future where they are.

While relatively modest, as ADIMTU’s programs evolve they may well become a significant intervention to these overarching trends. We are conducting a 3-year longitudinal evaluation both to learn if this is so and to help ADIMTU improve programs in the field. We believe this to be true, and it has given strength to our ongoing resolve to help them continue this work.

As ever, each and every financial contribution gives the ADIMTU staff the resources they need to go out each day, armed with books and art supplies and activities which help turn these girls’ faces toward a brighter future. We hope you will find it in your hearts to make a contribution to support their work.

Thank you.

Girls learn leadership skills in the classroom
Girls learn leadership skills in the classroom
2nd year girls read aloud to their families
2nd year girls read aloud to their families
Delivering books to schools
Delivering books to schools
Mar 14, 2014

Evaluation Program Underway

ADIMTU Team in San Pedro Sacatepequez
ADIMTU Team in San Pedro Sacatepequez

Evaluation Program Underway - Programs Set for Expansion

Our top-notch program and evaluation team of Wendy Baring-Gould and RoseMarie Perez Foster spent several weeks in San Pedro Sacatepéquez during January & February working intensively with the ADIMTU team to prepare for the new school year. During their first week in San Pedro they worked with ADIMTU to refine and pilot our expanded evaluation plan, digging into every detail from student profile categories to data collection plans and protocols. The subsequent week was devoted to curriculum planning, teacher training and implementation preparation.

Utilizing a controlled pre-post experimental design, RoseMarie, a psycho-educational researcher at the Institute for Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, has constructed a longitudinal outcomes study to assess the efficacy of our program. Standardized testing instruments will be used to assess the girls’ literacy skills and psycho-developmental strides. The statistically analyzed impact of ADIMTU’s program will be compared with matched schools in San Marcos that do not receive the intervention. Preliminary results are expected at the beginning of 2015. Significantly, as the National Ministry of Education has learned more about the breadth and depth of ADIMTU’s Leadership Institute programs, they’ve expressed their willingness to and interest in cooperating with WWT and ADIMTU to accomplish this evaluation.                                                                   

Under RoseMarie’s leadership and her continuing skype consultations, ADIMTU has begun the process of data collection in the thirteen schools where we are providing all of the Leadership Institute programs, aka “the intervention.” ADIMTU’s data manager will soon be collecting data at the 6 control schools as well.

On the program front, Wendy worked with the ADIMTU team to develop a detailed curriculum guide that specifies week-by-week activities for the 3 core programs, La Vida de Mi Mama (My Mother’s Life), La Lectura Familiar (Family Reading Time), and Mi Hermanita (My Little Sister). Each change agent, supported by a university intern, will annotate and critique the curricula as she implements them, with regular group reviews to improve content and delivery. Between field visits, Wendy also supports the ADIMTU team from Boulder via email and skype calls.

On the very practical side, the group revisited their materials needs in light of program expansion, including the need for many more books, art materials and the like. Also in light of growth, they reviewed the practical logistics and related cost increases, such as transportation to the more distant schools and increased computer and cell phone support, and determined that their 2014 operating budget is $80,000.

During this field visit, the team also met with teachers from our 13 schools to prepare for the programs’ incorporation into the school day. The group reviewed the updated curricula and enthusiastically validated its synergy with Guatemala’s national curriculum. They also discussed the evaluation design and offered recommendations, always taken into account as these educators are very important allies on the ground.

And so the work continues. All indications are that 2014 will be a banner year for Leadership Institute programs. Our colleagues at ADIMTU are now reaching nearly 1100 middle school girls, their families and teachers, plus 300 or so 2nd and 3rd grade Little Sisters along with their families and teachers. The multipliers and ripple effects are terrific @ “just” $80,000 annually, which breaks down to a cost of few dollars per beneficiary with a rather high social rate of return on investment.

Your support for Women Work Together aligns you with ADIMTU’s genuine grassroots effort to shift community norms so that girls regularly attend and achieve in school and become community leaders in San Pedro Sacatepéquez, San Marcos, and across Guatemala. ¡Muchas gracias!

Teachers Working with ADIMTU Staff
Teachers Working with ADIMTU Staff
Wendy (left) and RoseMarie (right) at work
Wendy (left) and RoseMarie (right) at work


Dec 12, 2013



Guatemalan Ministry of Education Makes It Official   

ADIMTU, Women Work Together’s sister organization in San Pedro Sacatepéquez, has been awarded national accreditation from the Guatemalan Ministry of Education for the comprehensive Leadership Institute. They are one of only twelve organizations certified to deliver educational programming in the schools during the school day.  This followed a year-long program review that included field visits, written applications and in-depth workshops.

The program’s certification carries significant weight and prestige and will be an important asset in our efforts to attract more sustainable and in-country funding. It also places ADIMTU staff in the company of other similarly innovative organizations, to learn from them, build local capacity and bring more direct benefit to all parties.

Collaborations Count

Girls' premature romances and ensuing pregnancies are frequently cited as a reason why girls leave school. Fathers in particular have been very forthright in asking for ADIMTU's help in addressing this problem. While eager to respond, the staff is not trained in this very specialized field. Through the Education Ministry's accreditation process, ADIMTU connected with the Fundación Juan Bautista Guitiérrez, a long-established and highly-regarded Guatemalan foundation dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable communities, including programs for teens on reproductive health.  FJBG agreed to partner with ADIMTU and spent most of November working with students in 10 of ADIMTU's middle school sites during the school vacation.

Girls Leadership Institute Reorganizes to Maximize Impact

All of our programs for girls and their mothers, fathers, teachers, and community leaders are now under the umbrella of a newly configured Leadership Institute. This brings together our girl-centered, 10-month in-school programs with the workshops, community conversations and trainings for adults. ADIMTU will work in each rural community more frequently, carrying the message that Educated Girls Can Change the Future. Look for an expanded description of the Leadership Institute on our updated website, 

Will You Stick With Us?

We believe we're establishing a sufficient track record to qualify for larger scale grants. During 2014 and 2015 we will be working to secure more sustainable funding for ADIMTU, perhaps as a demonstration site for other Guatemalan communities and schools. 

However, this will take time, during which we will still need to raise $120,000 annually to support the ongoing work which will impact over 800+ girls and their families in San Pedro. 

This breaks down to just $150 per-girl-per-year, and barely $75 per person once you factor in affected mothers, fathers, teachers, and community leaders.  

And so we ask you to please stick with us and continue or even increase your support so we and all these wonderful girls don't lose all our hard-won gains.

Your investments so far have already paid off. These young teen girls have a greater sense of themselves than ever before. They love to read. They look you in the eye. They express their own ideas with confidence. And they speak up in public as never before. The girls are seeing themselves as important people...contributors to their families, active members of their communities, and valued participants in society.

Moms w/books written about them by their daughters
Moms w/books written about them by their daughters
Sep 5, 2013

Programs Flourish in Rural Middle Schools

Big Sisters with books for Little Sisters
Big Sisters with books for Little Sisters

From the outset, teachers and school administrators across San Pedro have been important local partners, helping to open the doors of schools and classrooms to our programs for middle school girls.

With the conclusion of the 2013 school year coming up (Guatemalan schools are in session January-October), we're about to celebrate the girls who've participated in our three core programs--My Mother's Life Story, Family Reading Time, and Big & Little Sisters. Each of these programs was offered this year in five different rural middle schools across San Pedro.

Concluding programs held in each local school community will highlight the girls' accomplishments for their families and communities. And, nearly 200 girls who are about to graduate from San Pedro's 13 rural middle schools will gather in central San Pedro where they will be publically honored for their academic achievement. On this same day we'll be hosting a school fair for them that features secondary school options, financial aid information and motivational workshops with local professional women.

 Do these programs (funded by supporters like you!) make a difference in the girls' view of themselves, their lives, their place in the community, their commitment to staying in school?

Just listen to what these girls say about what they've learned:

1. About gender and education.

In the middle school where I study, there aren’t many girls because parents say that girls get married and have a family and leave their studies behind. Only the boys are sent to study because some people think they are more capable. I learned that I must fight (for myself) to move forward in life, to be someone, a young woman graduate. - Carmela Miranda Velásquez, 14 years old.

2. From hearing and writing her mother's life story.

"When my mother saw other girls her age going to school, she wanted to study, too, and dreamed of bettering herself. But she couldn’t because her parents didn’t have enough money for her to study. Now I go to school, even though it is hard for my parents to afford to send me. I'm lucky that my parents want the best for me and they want me to become someone in life." –Yessenia Magaly Clemente Orozco, 12 years old

2. From reading, both on her own and with her family.

"I learned that through reading I can acquire new knowledge. Reading more helps me understand things. I can analyze and understand the concepts behind the information I get in school. And I learned that I can be a leader in my home because I can teach my siblings that reading and learning come from valuing books. In school I have learned to better my character and to go to the front of the room to speak or to read aloud. I also encourage everyone else and tell him or her that reading is important for everyone. It is healthy and it can help us to know how to live on this planet. – Melisenda Dubelis Ruiz Miranda, 13 years old

3. From one big sister.

"I learned that by teaching my little sister, I could also learn from her about how to develop my own character as a person. If one day I am in front of a group in public, my character will be more developed and I could speak with everyone there." – Sandy Fuentes, 14 years old

With your financial support Women Work Together is poised to expand our reach and bring these 3 programs to all 13 rural middle schools across San Pedro, plus support them with local staff development, teacher training, and outreach to mothers, fathers and others.

Help nearly 1,000 girls, their teachers and families work together to Keep Guatemalan Girls in School.



Girls With a Future
Girls With a Future
Bank manager tells girls about her job.
Bank manager tells girls about her job.


Jun 7, 2013

March 2013 Evaluating Programs--Progress Ahead

The focus for the first two weeks of our March trip to Guatemala was to support our sister organization, Mujeres Trabajan Unidas on an in-depth evaluation of our current programs.  Board member and anthropologist Dr. Theresa Preston-Werner along with Program Director Wendy Baring-Gould led the effort.

The goal for these two weeks of program evaluation was the establishment of a baseline against which we can measure the impact of each of our three projects (Family Reading Hour, The Life of My Mother, and Little Sisters) on girls’ choices to stay in school. To do this, we needed to know about the specific family situation of each girl and her experience with our projects. We are confidant that through the use of a series of quantitative and qualitative tools to learn both the outputs and outcomes of WWT’s campaign to send and keep girls in school, we will determine the best route toward ending the cycle of poverty in Guatemala.   

Each day, our team climbed into the back of a pickup and traveled into the mountains to meet with the girls and their parents. In each school, MTU personnel met with the parents of girls who are just entering básico (junior high) in order to explain the benefits of the projects and to get their permission. They also administered a survey to all of the girls, which creates a program registry and solicits household socioeconomic status information, such as the jobs of their parents and what types of homes they live in. We can compare this information to larger community-wide statistics gathered previously in order to understand the living conditions experienced by the girls in our programs. 

The results were astounding and unexpected in some cases. In one village, the girls flat out said a project was boring. Together we worked to determine the underlying reason and potential ways to make the project more appealing. In another village we learned that the girls spoke eagerly and regularly with their parents about one project but not at all about a different project. Finally, in a third village the girls suggested an entirely new way to structure a project, which has sparked excited discussion all of us.

We witnessed the projects that we developed fifteen months ago in action and changing girls’ lives. For instance, there are eighty-five girls involved in the Little Sisters project, and of those eighty-five, only two dropped out of school last year. This is an incredible success! We have also had the good fortune to observe our MTU staff in action, and each member is as passionate, hard-working, and thoughtful as we could hope for. Our days were filled with bumpy roads, delicious chicken soup lunches, and girls who use their own free time to walk for miles just to speak with us. It doesn’t get any better than that.  

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Project Leader

Tracy Ehlers

Boulder, Colorado United States

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