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Dec 31, 2018

Pedro's First Step Towards Success

Pedro and his 8th grade teacher
Pedro and his 8th grade teacher

The photos that middle school graduates receive at their closing ceremony reflect how this key moment of growth is both celebratory and formal within our community. A gregarious and curious 13-year-old, Pedro looks serious at his middle school graduation in contrast to the usual endearing images of him mid-conversation or letting out one of his huge laughs. Even so, graduating from middle school is nothing short of significant for Pedro and his family.

 

This year, we had the honor of supporting Pedro across the schoolyear, and he reached his initial goal of graduating middle school, which he set for himself when we first began developing our Mano a Mano para el Desarrollo social program almost two years ago. As a team, we are so proud of him because he is the first of his siblings to graduate from middle school. His parents are so happy and are hopeful that as the eldest, he will be an example for his three younger siblings so that he can inspire them to follow in his footsteps.

 

Pedro’s mother is an artisan who does beadwork, and his father is a travelling salesman who once dreamed of graduating from college but had to drop out of secondary school when his family fell on hard times. Fortunately, Pedro’s aunt, a warper and weaver at Cojolya named Magdalena Reanda Pacach, connected him with Cojolya’s academic resources that are available thanks to your support and the impact of your generous donations.

 

In the photos from his closing ceremony, Pedro did eventually let his usual triumphant smile shine. He has reached a crucial moment because he has many more steps to take before graduating with a university degree in education, which is his dream for now. A participative, artistic, and friendly member of our program, Pedro would be an outstanding mentor not only for his siblings but also within our community.

 

“I am so excited to meet the teachers, make new friends, and learn even more in high school,” Pedro says about the coming schoolyear. Yet, we still need your support in these last moments of 2018 so that we can help Pedro continue his studies and help the other 12 students in our program pursue their dreams in the coming schoolyear.

 

Once more, we are deeply appreciative of all the donations from our 2017 campaign because through them, we could support our kids this year, and we are thankful for all the generous people who have donated and are donating to our project in 2018. Thank you!

 

From Cojolya and Mano a Mano, we wish you happy holidays and a Happy New Year!

Pedro and his parents, he is the eldest of 4 kids
Pedro and his parents, he is the eldest of 4 kids
Pedro loves learning and cant wait for high school
Pedro loves learning and cant wait for high school
Our 13 Mano a Mano students
Our 13 Mano a Mano students
Dec 13, 2018

Empower Brothers and Sisters: Israel's Graduation

Israel at his Middle School Graduation
Israel at his Middle School Graduation

The average family in Santiago Atitlán has about 3 - 5 children, and the Pablo Ajcots are no exception with a 14 year-old son, Israel, a 10 year old daughter, Hadasa, and a 6 year old daughter, Damariz. Their father, Salvador, is Cojolya’s Master Tailor and a member of our entirely Tz’utujil Board of Directors, and his hands craft our woven fabric into every final piece. Their mother, Sara, occasionally makes some güipiles but mainly tends to the home. Though the two of them only reached the 1st grade, they want their children to focus entirely on their studies instead of working while outside of school, which is the only option for many students in Santiago Atitlán who need to pay for their studies. 

As an organization that has supported social mobility in Santiago Atitlán for 35 years, we often assess educational opportunities through a generational lens. Reflecting on this community development on a familial level, we wonder--what if parents here had enough neighboring role models to value education and encourage each one of their children to pursue their passions? What changes can we make so that the eldest sibling did not always need to sacrifice their schooling so that their younger siblings could maybe afford to have an education? This is particularly true for girls who are not encouraged to remain in school as much as their male peers.

The Pablo Ajcots live off of Salvador’s wages, which, though higher than most tailors’ pay in Atitlán, just barely support a family of 5. Every quetzal is saved for necessities- food, shelter, education. In spite of their limited schooling funds, Israel has accomplished his initial goals in the Mano a Mano program and can thereby set an example for his younger sisters. Israel is a driven dreamer who hopes to become a mechanic and have the opportunity to travel the world, and he is the first in his family to graduate from middle school. After years of quiet diligence, never missing a class, Israel’s achievement is a huge honor for his family. Our intergenerational relationship with our artisans and their families make these celebratory moments all the more fulfilling.

The personal, intentional work within our small program makes us attuned to how we can best support each individual artisan family. Hadasa, much like her brother, is introspective, thoughtful, and a dreamer, often found quietly humming Tz’utujil songs and drawing during our workshops with the students. When suffering a life-threatening virus two years ago, she missed enough school to remain was far behind her classmates but now hopes to become a pediatrician so that she can prevent the suffering of other children in her community.

In Santiago Atitlán, childhood dream jobs often do not come to fruition for reasons that transcend outgrowing them. As Hadasa has two other siblings, her parents are unable to afford to send her to school past sixth grade. The academic opportunities for Damariz, the youngest sister, is all the more uncertain as she is so young and her parents’ artisan incomes depend heavily on sales and commissions.

While we support the sons, brothers, and nephews of our artisans in the Mano a Mano, as an organization primarily dedicated to empowering indigenous women, we make a concerted effort to keep the daughters and sisters of our associates in school due to gendered cultural norms that do not prioritize women’s education. Though Salvador believes both boys and girls should have a right to education, we have faith that Israel’s accomplishments will motivate his parents to try their best to give their daughters the same opportunity. However, as you can see through Israel’s success, the financial burden is eased through your support. We hope that our families’ stories demonstrate how your contributions’ seemingly small, local change can have a powerful impact across generations in our community.

Consider donating to our project during these end of year celebrations so that we can support Israel and his little sisters' educations during the following Guatemalan schoolyear. Mano a Mano wishes you a happy almost holidays! 




Salvador and his youngest daughter Damaris 2015
Salvador and his youngest daughter Damaris 2015
Hadasa, 10, at our Reading Workshop
Hadasa, 10, at our Reading Workshop
Sisters Hadasa and Damariz Pablo at our Art Class
Sisters Hadasa and Damariz Pablo at our Art Class
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's favorite boy band
Cojolya's favorite boy band
A younger Manuel watching his mother at the loom
A younger Manuel watching his mother at the loom

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