Jan 21, 2020

Starting High School with a Big Change

LHI's 2019 middle school female graduates.
LHI's 2019 middle school female graduates.

January is an exciting time of year in Chajul and brings a big change for Limitless Horizons Ixil's new high school scholars. Scholars finished middle school in November and are now packing their bags to move away from their homes and families. Given Chajul's lack of high school options, the vast majority of fourteen and fifteen-year-olds leave their community in order to continue their studies elsewhere in Guatemala.

This is the case for 15-year-old Leeisvi. She is currently saying her farewells to friends and family as she departs for another regional department to obtain her high school degree in Biology. The journey to get there will take at least five hours and will involve four different public buses.

Most of Leeisvi's peers in Chajul will not be making this journey alongside her. Leaving their home, a remote mountainous community over three hours away from the regional capital, presents yet another challenge for youth to get an education. It is often an insurmountable one. This is one of the reasons why only 5% of Chajul's youth finish high school.

At Limitless Horizons Ixil, our graduation rates are ten times higher than the community's average. The young people we work with receive financial support to allow them to enroll in institutions outside of Chajul, as well as to help cover travel and accommodation costs. Many girls who are unable to study outside of the community marry young and become adolescent mothers. Some youth, especially boys, end up migrating to the USA in search of work rather than continuing with their education.

Of those who stay in Chajul, the options are limited further by the fact that only two high school degree programs are offered. High school in Guatemala is most often tailored to a specific career, such as teaching, accounting, nursing, or secretarial work. As far back as primary school, Leeisvi knew she would eventually have to leave her community to get the education she so desires. She has always been determined to finish high school and study medicine at university. She dreams of working as a doctor and eventually opening her own clinic back in Chajul.

Of the 13 LHI scholars who finished middle school in LHI's Chajul partner school last year, all of them are now making the journey to study outside of the community. With Limitless Horizons Ixil's support, they have been able to choose the high school degree they would like to study, knowing that they will have the means to live away from their families but also afford the return for visits throughout the year.

Leeisvi isn't nervous about the big change she is about to experience. She is looking forward to living in a community where another one of Guatemala's 22 Mayan languages is spoken and learning about the Kaqchikel and Tz'utujil Indigenous cultures. She is excited to see the different styles of traditional dress and share her Ixil culture with new friends.

We are grateful to our supporters who work alongside us to reduce the obstacles for Chajul's youth to achieve a high school education. With your help, young people like Leeisvi are overcoming the challenges to be able to graduate and become a new generation of professionals in Chajul

Leeisvi
Leeisvi
LHI's 2019 middle school graduates.
LHI's 2019 middle school graduates.
Nov 4, 2019

Celebrating the End of the 2019 School Year

Library members enjoy a fun day outdoors
Library members enjoy a fun day outdoors

At the Limitless Horizons Ixil Saber Sin Límites (Limitless Knowledge) Community Library, the end of the school year was celebrated with a day out in the countryside. In Guatemala, the school year runs from January to October, and this year when classes finished, librarians David and Olga organized a field trip to a recreation park near Chajul. Olga explains that the trip is a way to recognize and reward the youth who have consistently participated in the library’s activities over the course of the school year. 

The main goal, Olga says, is that the library users have fun. She states, “the children tell us that at school, their teachers don’t teach them games. Students play by themselves, and the teachers monitor them. Meanwhile, at the library, we are always learning new games together. For the children, it’s their moment to feel whatever they feel and play with each other.”

Sixty library users celebrated together by playing soccer, splashing in the pool, and running between the swings, slides, and monkey bars. “The best thing was swimming and playing soccer altogether,” Maria, who is 9 years old and attends the library, says excitedly before running back to jump in the water.

“The field trip is a moment of harmony and coexistence for the children, who don’t go to the same school and don’t have other opportunities to play together,” David says. “At the library and during the day out, the children have the opportunity to play healthily and productively, and work together as a team.”

Library member Calamina explains that she attends morning classes, whereas Estefany attends in the afternoon. “I like coming to the library because we meet new people and everyone always wants to play together.” David reinforces the cooperative nature of the library when he describes how the children work together; “When they’re with us, they try to help each other. They all play well together even with the age differences between them.”

David and Olga work hard to maintain this harmony in the library and during field trips. Calamina loves that in the library, everyone gets along well together; “I go to the library every day. I prefer it there to my school classes and now that it’s school vacation, I can spend even more time in the library!”

The field trip marks the beginning of school vacation for Chajul’s youth. David and Olga have many activities planned for library users over the coming weeks, until the 2020 school year starts in January. There will still be weekly story hours, but the schedule will now also include new activities, like chess tournaments and drama games, in response to the requests from library users.

In a town where youth often have to work while on school vacation to help earn money to support their families, having a safe and welcoming space to learn, play, and engage in games with other children makes a huge difference to their quality of life. Your support of the Saber Sin Límites Community Library provides Chajul’s youth with a safe and enriching environment to spend their time when classes are not in session. Thank you from all of us at Limitless Horizons Ixil and our enthusiastic library users.

Monkey bar fun
Monkey bar fun
Oct 23, 2019

Celebrating the International Day of the Girl: Freedom, Power, Feminism, & Choice

“Girls should be able to participate in any activity they choose, without suffering discrimination”Diana, LHI Fellow

Limitless Horizons Ixil’s five fellows, all alumnae of our Youth Development Program, have no doubt about their strength and capabilities as young women striving to complete their education and launch their careers.

For the International Day of the Girl on October 11, the fellows met in the Limitless Horizons Ixil office for a workshop on women’s rights. After defining human rights as a set of norms which ensure everyone has access to a life of dignity; Juana, Diana, Teresa, Cristina, and Regina then began to discuss the rights of women and girls. They listed the articles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as the right to life, the right to consensual marriage, and the right to education, while also acknowledging the challenges that women and girls face in their own community.

In Chajul, women traditionally have had little to no access to education. “When parents aren’t able to feed their children, they think that marrying off their daughters is the best thing they can do,” says Cristina. She goes on to say that now in Chajul, more girls are being educated than ever before; “with education, we realize that we have the power to achieve our dreams and to demand our rights. We have the ability to do many things.”

At Limitless Horizons Ixil, we are proud of our progress in reversing trends of gender inequality in Chajul. 84% of our participants’ mothers had children before age 23, compared with 19% of LHI’s Youth Development Program graduates. Last year, 100% of our middle schoolers graduated, while on average, only 16% of Chajul’s youth achieve this level of educational attainment.

During the workshop, Juana, Diana, Teresa, Cristina, and Regina exchanged ideas on themes such as freedom of expression, feminism, and choice. They defined the ten rights that they wanted to see listed in the Global Girls’ Bill of Rights, which was written for and by girls for this year’s International Day of the Girl. It will be presented to the UN later this year.

From the right to hold any type of professional position and be paid the same salary as their male counterparts, to being respected for whatever clothing they choose to wear, and being free to choose their romantic partner, Limitless Horizons Ixil’s fellows created a powerful list of rights that they are working to make a reality in their own community.

Juana, Diana, Teresa, Cristina, and Regina are currently five months into their thirteen-month paid professional development fellowships with LHI. Some of them are also studying university courses and all are implementing the leadership, communication, and female empowerment trainings in their daily lives.

A few days after the women’s rights workshop, they delivered interactive presentations on conflict resolution strategies and gender violence reduction to a group of fifty teachers from the Ixil Region.

With Limitless Horizons Ixil’s support, these five young women are shaping the next generation’s attitudes to women’s rights. Over the coming months, they will continue to grow and share their knowledge of women’s rights as they dramatize a play on adolescent domestic work, marriage, and pregnancy which will then be performed to scholars’ parents. Through engaging our scholars and the wider community on these important topics, Juana, Diana, Teresa, Cristina, and Regina are breaking barriers and embodying what female empowerment can look like. We thank you for continuing to make it possible for our scholars and alumnae to be the face of change in Chajul.

 
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