Sep 28, 2021

Proyecto Impulso: Jump-Start Academic Success

Girl Pioneers actively engaging in a class
Girl Pioneers actively engaging in a class

Young women hold a unique power to change the world for the better when their ambitions are met with the right opportunities to learn and grow. Structural barriers, discrimination, a culture of machismo, and a global pandemic are all threatening girls' ability to continue their studies and achieve their goals. The transition from primary to secondary school has the highest dropout rate for girls. At MAIA, we are committed to identifying outliers, girls who are at risk of ending their education after elementary school, who when provided the opportunity will shift paradigms and set a bold new standard of expectations for girls in Guatemala. We call these young women Girl Pioneers, and for too long, this population has been perceived as the problem. MAIA shows that girls are the solution that will illuminate the path for others.

Each year MAIA conducts a yearlong recruitment and onboarding process in preparation for welcoming a new cohort of Girl Pioneers to the Impact School. Proyecto Impulso, a weekend preparatory program, is the culmination of this process and creates a smooth transition from primary to secondary school by working with aspiring Girl Pioneers to reinforce academic skills and strengthen their and their family’s commitment to their education goals. Throughout this 6-month program, educators support students to create a strong academic foundation, while mentors work with families and their daughters to create a common vision of the future centered around her education.

The Impact School’s design and dosage make it impossible to replace students who drop out. Proyecto Impulso enables MAIA to evaluate the resiliency and commitment of girls and their families, ensuring that the MAIA scholarship goes to young women who are going to see this challenge through to graduation.

The strength of this academic preparation lies in its adaptability and innovation. Proyecto Impulso activities are continuously revised and evaluated by MAIA Academic Director Victor and the team of MAIA educators to improve effectiveness and adapt to the unique needs of each new cohort. “Compared to previous years, we have improved mostly in reading comprehension and analysis in Spanish language arts, and in basic concepts of arithmetic for mathematics,” shared Victor.

Along with building an academic foundation, Proyecto Impulso aims at sparking transversal skills that are critical to socioemotional development. Jerónima, Recruitment Coordinator and Kaqchikel Educator with years of experience in leading and supervising Proyecto Impulso, tells us, “The ability to lead a group, apply critical thinking, and use an empowered voice to meet one’s needs are only a few of the key skills future Girl Pioneers have grown to manage during this intentional onboarding process.”

Girl Pioneers working hard to achieve her dreams
Girl Pioneers working hard to achieve her dreams
Activity to develop their socioemotional skills
Activity to develop their socioemotional skills

Links:

Jun 8, 2021

WATER A SEED, AND IT WILL GROW

Girl Pioneer at the Impact School-Ph:Livvy Runyon
Girl Pioneer at the Impact School-Ph:Livvy Runyon

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the most vulnerable communities around the globe, girls’ access to education is at risk more than ever. The Malala Foundation estimates that COVID-19 may push 20 million adolescent girls out of school permanently. In Solola, Guatemala a department with 35% youth literacy the opportunity and access to quality education is a challenge. This 2021 we welcomed the 5th generation of Girl Pioneers at the MAIA Impact School. They started their first day of school with a hybrid model that has been in diverse changes throughout the first six months of the year by Government restrictions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19. We’ve adapted changes to our hybrid model by giving virtual and in person classes to 236 Girl Pioneers. 

In the last few weeks the restrictions within the department have changed due to the increase of cases in the area, the Girl Pioneers have virtual classes at the moment. This hasn’t stoped them from sharing and creating change within their lives, families and communities. Back in 2019 Marisol a 10th grader at the MAIA Impact School won first place in the Ella Impacta competition organized by Vital Voices Guatemala, receiving seed funding for her Family Gardens project. She started by providing five mothers from her community with workshops and support of basic information in regards of building their own organic garden. At first it was difficult for her to lead the implementation of this project since she had no knowledge of how to start. Thanks to Senacri, an association that works with Creole and native seeds, preserving agricultural history, Marisol was able to give seeds to families and the project started. The mothers who where part of the workshops were very innovative and curious in each workshop, they asked questions and participated. Due to COVID-19 families in rural areas were affected by an increase in unemployment, lack of economic activity, poor diets, and the double increase in malnutrition in the country. That is why the Family Gardens project impacted the families in Marisol’s community they were able to take advantage of the land in their homes to grow some herbs and vegetables such as radish, peppers, cilantro, and others. Marisol’s leadership showcases the importance of supporting young women with the correct tools to learn, grow and take action in their lives. 

We’ve developed a vaccination campaign by sharing reliable information of what a vaccine is in Kaqchikel, K’iche, and Tz'utujil the main languages within the department of Solola. This message has been shared in our social media platforms and local tv channels. This initiative started in 2020 by sharing information about the COVID-19 virus. The Maya communities need this vital information in their languages to take into account their unique rural context, they have the tools they need to take realistic steps against the propagation of this disease and put less strain on an already fragile medical system. In Guatemala the access to vaccines against the COVID-19 are not yet available for all of the population. We’ve started to share basic information so our communities understand and are prepared when access to the vaccines against the COVID-19 becomes a reality.

Marisol a Girl Pioneer at the MAIA Impact School
Marisol a Girl Pioneer at the MAIA Impact School
Communications team recording informational videos
Communications team recording informational videos
Marisol leading a workshop with community members.
Marisol leading a workshop with community members.

Links:

Feb 17, 2021

Continuing to Put Girls' Education First

Elvira, Girl Pioneer participating in a webinar
Elvira, Girl Pioneer participating in a webinar

From Social Distance to Social Impact

2020 has been the year of the pivot. MAIA has leveraged technology, partnerships, and above all our local team to propel the talents of Girl Pioneers to evidence the transformational power of educated girls. With each new response to COVID-19, MAIA has maintained our commitment to our mission and creating long-term solutions.

Continue to Put Girls’ Education First

In mid-March, Guatemala suspended all classes in both private and public schools through the end of 2020 due to COVID-19. This interruption of classes represents both a crisis and an opportunity for Guatemala. The Malala Foundation estimates that COVID-19 may push 20 million adolescent girls out of school permanently. In doing so, the other areas of risk (abuse, childhood marriage/motherhood, increased economic hardship) become more acute. It is estimated that 300,000 people in Guatemala will slip from poverty into extreme poverty due to the pandemic, and this will tempt many vulnerable families to reconsider their commitment to schooling.

MAIA prioritized adolescent girls before COVID-19, but now efforts to keep this talent from slipping back outside the margins are even more critical. The pandemic disrupted MAIA’s normal routine but not its commitment and momentum. As a learning organization focused squarely on the bold trajectories of a new generation of Girl Pioneers, MAIA is experienced at responding to unforeseen variables. 

The onset of COVID-19 accelerated MAIA’s use of technology to maintain academic momentum in rural homes previously bereft of Internet access. Before the pandemic, only 3 percent of Girl Pioneers had access to internet at home. Now, Internet-equipped tablets are in the hands of ALL Girl Pioneers so they are able to maintain academic growth while also broadcasting their voices, perspectives, and leadership into new spheres. MAIA’s innovative response to COVID-19 has been highlighted and recognized by MIT Solve, IDEO, Guatemala’s major newspaper Prensa Libre, and Guatemala.com

The dedicated team of MAIA educators and mentors received additional hours of professional development on virtual instruction so they could adapt the curriculum to remote learning. MAIA is now a part of the One World Network of Schools (OWNS), an education nonprofit whose mission is to improve student achievement by developing the next generation of school leaders in under-resourced communities around the world. They currently operate in 6 countries on 4 continents, and MAIA in Guatemala is their newest partner. MAIA is working with OWNS to prepare a reentry plan for 2021 to provide Girl Pioneers with the academic and socioemotional support they need to stay in school and be resilient in the face of the many challenges they will face during and after this time of crisis. 

The Girl Effect in Action

Recognizing how fortunate they are to continue their studies during the crisis, Girl Pioneers have set up community libraries and hygiene stations in their towns to ensure all youth have access to books and learning materials while schools are closed. The three Girl Pioneers who led this initiative wrote an article about the project that was published on Assembly, the Malala Fund blog: “During COVID-19 school closures, Indigenous girls increase access to books in rural Guatemala.”

Guatemala already experienced the highest levels of chronic malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere. In 2020, the number of people experiencing food insecurity in Guatemala has already doubled due to the extenuating impacts of COVID-19. In May, 20 Girl Pioneers launched a family garden pilot program to model how each family could address many nutritional needs through small-plot organic gardening. Since then, 100 more families have been trained on how to plant their own gardens to sustainably address food insecurity. 

With the devastating economic impact of COVID-19 on rural communities, Girl Pioneers put their leadership skills into practice by working with local leadership to identify 270 of the most vulnerable households in their communities and set up a program to deliver food support to those who need it most.

MAIA Voz al Mundo (MAIA’s Voice to the World)

Girl Pioneers are positioning themselves locally, nationally, and internationally as voices of their villages. MAIA designed a journalism program at the Impact School to provide training of Girl Pioneers to continue to advocate for their communities. MAIA has implemented the following strategies:

 

Voz de MAIA Podcast (Spotify, iTunes, MAIA website, and local radio stations): Girl Pioneers and MAIA’s local team produce a Spanish language podcast that covers topics relevant to Maya communities. They tell their own stories using their empowered voices to advocate for a more inclusive society. https://maiagt.org/covid19-podcast 

 

Tzijonem (“discussion” in Kaqchikel)—Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and local radio and television stations: MAIA leaders and Girl Pioneers produce live discussions with public figures; including thought-provoking analysis on current events, culture and identity, gender equality, racial discrimination, family health and well-being, food security and nutrition, environmental sustainability, and violence prevention. In 2020, Girl Pioneers have shared their perspectives with Academy Award winners, Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Olympic athletes, vice presidents, and other global influencers. To date, more than 36,000 people have viewed the programs on social media, and they have reached over 2 million people through local radio stations. 

 

MAIA co-created The Colectivo, a network of female-focused organizations focused on integrated services and synergy for and among Maya women in Guatemala. The Colectivo has disseminated informational videos and audios about health and safety during COVID-19 in Kaqchikel, K’iche, and Tzutujil to over 100,000 people, broadcasted on local radio stations reaching 2 million listeners. 

 

MAIA’s Impact by the numbers

  • MAIA achieved 98% retention among Girl Pioneers and families in 2020 and 98% of students passed to the next grade (based on the Guatemala Ministry of Education standards).
  • While global data demonstrates the increased incidence of sexual abuse and early marriage of adolescent girls, 100% of Girl Pioneers delayed motherhood and marriage.
  • 186 families of Girl Pioneers (students at the MAIA Impact School) received 6 trainings in organic gardening and established organic gardens in their own homes in 40+ surrounding rural communities in Sololá.
  • MAIA team: 15 received training and implementation of organic garden project
  • 50 graduates of the MAIA Legacy Program received organic gardening training sessions virtually.
  • Girl Pioneers worked with local community councils to identify and distribute emergency food baskets to 254 of the most vulnerable families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic (making three deliveries, totalling 763 emergency food baskets).
  • 273 seed kits provided by the Guatemala Ministry of Agriculture were delivered by Girl Pioneers for planting of family gardens. 

Awards and Recognition

Girl Pioneer having virtual classes online
Girl Pioneer having virtual classes online
Girl Pioneer participating on virtual classes
Girl Pioneer participating on virtual classes
Family garden program addressing nutritional needs
Family garden program addressing nutritional needs
Family receiving food from the organic garden
Family receiving food from the organic garden

Links:

 
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