Oct 20, 2020


2020 has been the year of the pivot. With each new response to COVID, MAIA aims to keep an eye on our mission and long-term solutions. We have leveraged technology, partnerships, and above all, our local team. This work was made possible by our generous and committed community of support. We all knew Girl Pioneers would grow into transformational leaders. This pandemic simply moved the timeline forward.

Putting Her Education First


The Malala Fund estimates that 20 million more secondary school-age girls could be out of school after the COVID-19 crisis has passed. We are proud to share that the MAIA Impact School has maintained a 100% retention rate so far in 2020.


  1. When schools closed, only 3 percent of Girl Pioneers had access to internet at home. Virtual classes were not an immediate option. MAIA's team of educators and mentors put together take-home learning packets so Girl Pioneers could continue their education safely.


  1. Now, 100 percent of our students are participating in virtual classes with data-loaded tablets. Our team of educators has been receiving twice as many hours of professional development to adapt to the new remote learning model.


  1. Recognizing how fortunate they are to continue their studies during the crisis, Girl Pioneers 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.



Combating Food Insecurity


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 coronavirus.


  1. Around the world, food insecurity is a growing problem. In Guatemala, this has almost become a bigger crisis than the actual pandemic. MAIA has delivered over 1,000 food baskets to the families of Girl Pioneers since the pandemic started.


  1. 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, 72 more families have planted their own gardens to sustainably address food insecurity.


  1. With their own needs met, Girl Pioneers demonstrated their leadership potential 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.



Ensuring Access to Critical Information


Guatemala has 24 official languages; however, the coronavirus response and national policies to limit transmission were only made available in Spanish. In March, MAIA recognized this information void and quickly stepped in to ensure equitable access to critical information.


  1. MAIA responded quickly by creating contextualized videos and radio PSAs in three Maya languages to ensure that MAIA families and the communities where we work would have access to critical information. To date, our videos have over 100,000 views on social media, the radio PSAs have reached over 2 million people, and our model is being replicated by organizations in other parts of Guatemala with teams who speak different Maya languages.


  1. Graduates of MAIA’s legacy program partnered with the National University, Quetzal University Fund, and community-based nonprofits to create a call center to answer questions and provide resources about the coronavirus in Maya languages.


  1. Girl Pioneers are now positioning themselves locally and nationally as the voices of their villages. MAIA is designing a journalism program within the Impact School to provide training of Girl Pioneers who can continue to advocate for their communities.


Supporting Healthy Families


The World Bank predicts that over 50 million people in Latin America will fall below the poverty line in 2020, setting poverty reduction in the region back 20 years. In March, when the pandemic arrived in Guatemala, masks were mandated outside the home. However, the economic impact made purchasing masks unattainable for many families.

  1. MAIA partnered with Humans in Action to deliver masks and hygiene kits to all Girl Pioneers and their families in the 40+ communities in which we work. In total, over 4,000 masks were delivered.


  1. To further support our families, MAIA and Humans in Action invited mothers to work on mask production by cutting the mask patterns from scrap fabric. MAIA moms cut over 15,000 and earned a fair wage to support their families.


  1. To ensure they continue earning a dignified income, the mothers are now receiving training on how to further upcycle the fabric scraps into rugs and pillows, which also reduces the waste from mask and clothing production.

When you invest in girls, they earn higher wages and make their own financial decisions, wait to start their families, and have fewer but healthier and better-educated children. Their own health also greatly improves, and they participate in their communities, all of which combine to create a positive ripple effect and break cycles of poverty. Globally, countries that have greater levels of gender equality are safer and more prosperous. Educating girls is also among the top forms of combating climate change.  With our 100% model, all donations directly support MAIA students, educators, mentors, and families. 
A monthly donation is the most sustainable way to create a profound impact and support the bold new trajectory of the MAIA Girl Pioneers at the Impact School. As a monthly donor, 100% of your donation will be invested in unlocking and maximizing the potential of the MAIA Girl Pioneers to become leaders and changemakers. 


Jun 25, 2020

COVID-19 Response

MAIA is working on responding to the immediate needs of both the Girl Pioneers and their families in the new context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as adapting our regular programming to continue to educate and empower girls in rural Guatemala. MAIA’s response to COVID-19 has been highlighted by IDEO and Prensa Libre. Here are some of the ways that MAIA is pivoting during this crisis:


1. Maintain academic momentum for Girl Pioneers: In times of crisis, girls are at risk of having to quit school. This is why MAIA continues to put girls’ education first. MAIA has provided Girl Pioneers with take-home study kits with scheduled phone check-ins with educators and mentors to ensure students continue to work towards their academic and socioemotional goals. Technology is a crucial component of remote learning. Currently, the 10th-grade class has tablets with access to online resources and virtual sessions with their educators. We plan to expand the use of tablets with internet access to other grade levels in the coming months. Please see this video of some of the Girl Pioneers sharing their experience of studying remotely.


2. Educator Training/Professional Development: MAIA has been training and coaching our educators in how to shift to online instruction and remote learning and is now focusing on how to assess the learning of Girl Pioneers remotely. In addition, as part of MAIA’s work with a district of five NGO schools, MAIA is working to support educators to prepare for when in-person classes resume. Time is going to be a huge challenge for all educators, and they will need to be as effective as possible with the little time they have to help students catch up academically. Starting in June, the District schools will participate in a series of trainings to equip educators with the pedagogical skills and tools on time management and engaging teaching techniques to maximize student learning in the classroom.


2. Disseminate information into communities: When Maya communities receive reliable information on the coronavirus in their own languages that take into account their unique rural context, they can take realistic steps against the propagation of this disease and put less strain on an already fragile medical system. MAIA’s informational videos related to Coronavirus in Kaqchikel, K’iche, and Tz'utujil have already reached over 100,000 people, and our model is being replicated by organizations in other parts of Guatemala with teams who speak different Maya languages. Thanks to the generous support from Partners Asia and Move92, MAIA is part of a formal partnership now called The Colectivo. Together, this network is taking an active role in creating contextualized information in Maya languages for indigenous communities. MAIA and the Colectivo are now widening their reach through the use of radio platforms to address COVID’s potential consequences on each of the network’s thematic areas, including one of the top online media outlets in the country, Guatemala.com.      


3. Create the first-line filter to help communities correctly diagnose the virus:

Nurses and nursing students who are graduates of MAIA’s legacy program and are now Quetzal University Fund scholars are providing Maya language support for the national hotline for COVID-19 and serving as health information resources for all of MAIA’s families.


4. Sharing the realities of rural Guatemala with the world: Girl Pioneers are piloting a program to become spokeswomen for their communities by reporting on the realities of living in a rural community amidst a global pandemic, bringing visibility with a gender-focused lens to indigenous girls and their voices. Girl Pioneers have created short video clips on social media and a podcast where they use their empowered voices to share the realities of how this pandemic is affecting them, their families, and their communities. In May, Girl Pioneers interviewed the Director of Education of the Department of Sololá and asked some powerful questions about how the Guatemala Ministry of Education is responding during the pandemic.


5. Food Security: Economic pressure on indigenous families to pull their daughters out of school is now more intense than ever. Food scarcity has become a real issue in rural areas as prices fluctuate wildly and movement is increasingly restricted. MAIA is proactively engaging with parents during this crisis to address their immediate needs by providing emergency food baskets while also piloting a family garden program to train families to address food security and nutrition, to create a sustainable plan beyond the COVID-19 crisis. Girl Pioneers are also putting their leadership skills into practice by facilitating broader efforts in partnership with other organizations to distribute food to the most vulnerable families in their communities.



The COVID crisis has revealed unique opportunities to reimagine what education for indigenous girls in Guatemala can look like moving forward, defying the notion that Maya girls in poverty are “the problem” and instead casting them as “the solution.” Now is a crucial time for Girl Pioneers to exercise their resilience and leadership to lead the pathway forward.


Apr 2, 2020


Girl Pioneers, Photo by Anna Watts
Girl Pioneers, Photo by Anna Watts

The past few weeks have been unforgettable. As we watch the COVID-19 situation evolve in the US and Europe, our hearts go out to our friends whose lives are deeply affected by this pandemic. Guatemala is still approaching the intensive phase. We expect our situation will grow more critical very soon. 

Today's news is tough to endure. Many in the MAIA community are used to being a part of the solution (not sitting something out and "sheltering in place"). Your investment in Girl Pioneers continues to be critical; you, too, play a key part in this solution. We confess that for the first part of last week we were just focused on trying to maintain the course. Our concern was to get Girl Pioneers their academic kits in time to keep up their momentum. Over the past few days, we have had more time to reflect and assess. 

We have always said MAIA was built to respond. Of course, we never imagined how we would react to a global pandemic. However, as our heads pivot back and forth from the global situation to the realities of rural Guatemala, we realize that MAIA has some critical resources that can make a big difference. Thanks to our incredible supporters, MAIA has been creating invaluable social capital for over 10 years. With the onset of COVID-19, we realize that now is the time to use it. 

Clearly, no country is ready for this virus. MAIA is acutely aware of the vulnerabilities of Guatemala’s rural areas, where access to health services and information was extremely limited before the pandemic. Many of you who have visited MAIA can identify with the major concerns around access to information about how to prevent and address COVID-19. Families in rural Guatemala often do not speak Spanish and cannot read. There is precious little information flowing back and forth from these villages. 

MAIA is uniquely qualified to respond to this challenge, and we need to pivot. MAIA's wholehearted belief in the "Girl Effect" has equipped hundreds of Girl Pioneers and staff in over 100 remote communities with the knowledge and know-how to lead and educate. These Girl Pioneers come from supportive families and village councils in communities familiar with MAIA. MAIA’s entire intervention has been designed to be culturally relevant. 


Over the past few days, MAIA tested out a few messages in three Maya languages on social media. These messages have been viewed by over 25,000 people in Guatemala in just a few days. Clearly, we are onto something. How can MAIA strategically utilize its resources to help fill this critical information gap? Here’s what we are assessing:

  • Production: Low-tech educational videos and audio spots can be made easily. MAIA is consulting with experts to ensure that the information we disseminate is accurate, current and contextualized.
  • Sharing information among villages: Just 14% of families in MAIA have access to a smartphone. Radio is still a widely used medium for communication. How can we combine our insights with new and traditional techniques to get messages into the villages?
  • Competencies at work: It is not easy to discern accurate information and strategically share it. How can Girl Pioneers maximize their vocal empowerment, critical thinking, and resilience to address this enormous need?
  • Sharing information from the villages: How can Girl Pioneers act as conduits and advocates of information out of the villages? 


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