Apply to Join
Dec 10, 2018

Manuel and the Inaccessibility of Higher Ed

Manuel arguably loves the camera most of all
Manuel arguably loves the camera most of all

Manuel is a smart, kind, and outgoing 12 year old from Santiago Atitlán. He is the third son of Mercedes, one of our artisans who has been with us for more than 20 years.

Manuel and his family were victims of Hurricane Stan in 2005, which had disastrous repercussions for the entirety of Santiago Atitlán and destroyed their home. While other Cojolya associates chipped in to support the family, the financial burden remained significant. Since then, Manuel’s dad has worked as an agricultural labourer, which is unfortunately very unstable, yet very common work in Atitlan. In his case, days can go by without being able to find work.

Manuel has 3 brothers, two of whom are older than him. At the moment, Manuel is the only child of his family attending school. His 2 older brothers and sister unfortunately did not get the opportunity to go to school, and are now working as artisans to support their mother and father, who both earn insufficient incomes to support the entire family of 6. 

There are 3 different levels of education in Guatemala. The primary school level is mandatory, and the enrollment cost is mostly free, which makes it accessible to most families. High School, on the other hand, is optional, and the cost gets more expensive over the years. This is when a lot of the families make the decision to take their children out of school, mostly for financial reasons.

Manuel hopes to continue pursuing his studies, despite all the barriers he knows he will have to face. There is still a year left until his parents decide whether he can or can’t be the first of his family to receive a secondary education. His situation and his family's past struggle after Stan is noteworthy going forward considering how climate change has progressed since 2005. Families in the global South are far more vulnerable to financial instability after natural disasters due to insufficient infrastructure. 

At Cojolya, our everyday motivation is to see these children become the first in their families to graduate. Our program’s mission is to empower the artisans' families to flourish and be less burdened by financial insecurities. For the Mano a Mano para el Desarrollo program, working with kids like Manuel is the greatest, yet most rewarding challenges there is.

We sincerely hope that Manuel can be the first in his family to have the opportunity for higher education. 

Help us support Manuel in this decisive year for his education along with our other first gen students. Together, we can make a difference in Santiago Atitlan. Please donate <3 !

Manuel and fellow students at Summer Celebration
Manuel and fellow students at Summer Celebration
Cojolya
Cojolya's favorite boy band
A younger Manuel watching his mother at the loom
A younger Manuel watching his mother at the loom

Links:

Dec 5, 2018

How Our Donors Supported Tz'utujil Families

Jose our Program Director gives Manuel supplies
Jose our Program Director gives Manuel supplies
As the year comes to an end, we are feeling incredibly grateful for the generosity of those who have done what they can to donate to our fundraiser on GlobalGiving. Thanks to every one of you, we were able to support thirteen children of artisans at Cojolya across the 2018 school year. 

Still in our first two years as a program, Mano a Mano para el Desarrollo (Hand in Hand for Development) is a young project. Yet, we are already succeeding in combating structural problems that have consistently affected our community through taking small yet significant steps to confront the problems that prevent our students from continuing their studies. The challenge for our project is to combat three central problems that affect our students: financial barriers, a lack of academic mentors, and lacking academic support. The main area we began tackling this year was financial barriers as we were able to minimize the financial burden parents feel each year. While our artisans are paid nearly 6 times the average amount in order to respect the slow handmade work going into our creations, often times this income is not sufficient on its own to support families where there are on average 4 children. Furthermore, many of our students are nieces and nephews of our weavers, and their parents' income is more unstable. 

The main reason families in our community of Santiago Atitlán do not enroll their children in school is due to a lack of resources. Academic costs are more manageable at the younger level, but once students begin attending secondary school, they spend about 260 Quetzales ($35) per month on their schools supplies and enrollment fees. This is nearly 40% of the average rural parents’ monthly salary, which is about 700 Quetzales ($940). As most families have more than one child, the parents are forced to sacrifice their child’s enrollment in secondary school as providing basic household necessities for multiple family members is deemed more important. 

This schoolyear, our project Mano a Mano managed to support local parents with a notable portion of expenses for their children still in school. We want you to know how we have been using your donations as the year comes to a close so that you can see the impact that your generosity has had upon our students. 

Students of all ages often need to use computers, and once they are in secondary school this digital access is even more necessary for conducting research. Yet, our students don’t have access to any personal computers, so Mano a Mano participants had two computers in our offices so that they had the resources to conduct research and print their homework. We reserved these desktops for them all day, and our Mano a Mano coordinator taught them how to use the computer as many had little to no experience working with one. 

Beyond our Computer Access Program, we also stored some school supplies in our offices. We offered our students the necessary amount of materials each day, and we were able to support the kids so that they could continue studying without as much financial burden for their family. Across 2018, we were able to able to cut 50% of the costs of educational materials and computer usage for all thirteen students participating in Mano a Mano. Our students were very grateful for the support as they felt more relaxed and focused in their school attendance and did not worrying as much about dropping out and saving money for their families during the schoolyear. 

We hope that you, our donor, feel proud of your generous donation to our project Mano a Mano because you supported thirteen students through offering them the basic resources they needed. Now our objective as a project for the following year is to manage to support the sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews of the Maya weavers of Cojolya with 100% of their schooling costs so that they can continue studying. 

As they year comes to an end, consider donating to our Mano a Mano project in order to support the children of maya weavers so that we can reach our goal and necessary budget of $10,000 to benefit the next generation of our community.
Our Director guides students in computer usage
Our Director guides students in computer usage
Julissa stands by our school supply stock
Julissa stands by our school supply stock
The "silly photo" at our summer celebration
The "silly photo" at our summer celebration
Nov 27, 2018

Our 1st Graduate: Maria becomes a Teacher

Maria at her graduation
Maria at her graduation

In Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, our school year ended in November. This time of year is full of excitement for students and families alike. For families whose children are graduating from advanced levels of study, this is also a season of immense pride as higher education remains inaccessible for many young people in our community.

As the year comes to an end, Cojolya’s team is thrilled by the progress our Mano a Mano para el Desarrollo students have made this year, in large part thanks to our supporters. María Isabel is one of the thirteen students in our program who graduated with a degree in teaching early education in October. María was one of the first three students to participate in our program beginning in April 2017, and she is the first student to graduate with a secondary degree as a professional teacher.

Financial barriers are a primary obstacle impeding students in our community from continuing their education. Many students manage to finish primary and elementary school, but only 24% continue studying in what is called “The Diversified Level” (el nivel diversificado) in Guatemala. Helping students and their families overcome this financial hurdle is a key focus for Mano a Mano.

Though María could have gotten by through her hard work and determination, in a family of five with only one primary income from her sister’s weavings at Cojolya, financially supporting herself through school would have been incredibly costly. Thanks to your donations on our GlobalGiving fundraising campaign, we were able to support María this schoolyear through school supplies and usage of computers. As her family cannot afford neither computers nor Wi-Fi, she was able to come to our office to conduct necessary research and print her homework in order to offer the necessary didactic materials to her students as she worked as an assistant teacher this year as part of completing her teaching degree.

In our year-end oral and written evaluations of the Mano a Mano program, she explained how Mano a Mano helped her most, “Before the program existed, I could get by, but I had to spend plenty of my own money and do artisan work in order to support myself.” Rather than resting or studying after her school day, María worked as an “urdidora” (a thread warper) which is a time consuming and physically demanding form of artisan work. “Studying and working full-time is very difficult,” she said.

Her last year studying to become a teacher was the most academically demanding, and she was relieved to receive substantial academic and material support, “From the bottom of my heart, I am so grateful to all of those who donated and hope they continue supporting the other students in the Mano a Mano program.” María is thrilled to receive a job that will support herself, her siblings, and her dreams, “I am so happy I achieved my goal of becoming a teacher, and I am so excited to work with kids.” Yet, the work is just beginning for our young program and for María herself as she hopes to be able to afford to attend university as well.

Our multi-generational, local vision for Mano a Mano is that the thirteen students in our program can achieve their goals and become professionals to help our community develop. Your continued generosity would help us continue to provide necessary resources for the sons, daughters, and siblings of Maya weavers. This is all the more possible if we reach our $10,000 fundraising goal for the following schoolyear. Empower our students to follow the example of María Isabel so that their dreams become realities.

Maria, her sister, and brother-in-law
Maria, her sister, and brother-in-law
Maria Isabel with her sister, our student Lourdes
Maria Isabel with her sister, our student Lourdes
Maria will teach Early Education with her degree
Maria will teach Early Education with her degree

Links:

 
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.