Creating Educational Opportunity for Maya Children

by Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.
Students walk onto stage for 6th grade graduation
Students walk onto stage for 6th grade graduation

The school year is coming to an end and we’re excited to announce that 17 of our sponsored students will be graduating from the 6th grade! As you already know, this is no small feat. In Guatemala only 60% of students who started school in the first grade complete the 6th grade. The situation is even worse in rural, indigenous communities like Santiago Atitlan where 44% of the population remains illiterate. A variety of factors keep children from completing their education, but one of the biggest is that families often lack the money for pay for basic school supplies and uniforms.  

Take Micaela’s story, for example. Earlier this year, Micaela (pictured below) was almost certain she wouldn’t get to graduate. She’s the youngest of eight children and her parents were struggling to provide for her education. Every day to help out she would make beaded bracelets to sell to tourists on the main street in town.  

One day Micaela’s teachers at the Panabaj Primary School identified her as an ideal candidate for Pueblo a Pueblo’s support because “she’s both dedicated and responsible,” according to Johanny, our project manager. Since then, Micaela has been able to focus on her studies rather than worry about affording to stay in school. This October she's one of our 6th grade graduates and dreams to become a lawyer!

This is why we’re so thankful to all of you who donate to our Creating Educational Opportunities project. If it weren’t for you, so many students like Micaela would be unable to complete their primary school education.   

Micaela Ratzan, a sponsored student in Panabaj
Micaela Ratzan, a sponsored student in Panabaj
Scenes from ChukMuk
Scenes from ChukMuk's 6th grade graduation
Our sponsored graduates at ChukMuk Primary School
Our sponsored graduates at ChukMuk Primary School
Marta at the dental clinic
Marta at the dental clinic

Over the past months Pueblo a Pueblo held two activities for scholarship students at the Chacaya Elementary School: a dental clinic and a mid-year delivery of school supplies.

The dental clinic was scheduled for late June and all 42 scholarship students in Chacaya were invited. At the clinic, all students were provided with general checkups and free fillings, extractions, and operations, as necessary.

The delivery of school supplies took place shortly after and was intended to address any shortage of materials that students had experienced following the first six months of the school year. The provision of these supplies also relieves  economic pressures for families, which are characteristic at this time of year, when harvests wane and steady work is hard to come by.

The rest of the year will be dedicated to making sure that students continue to receive the support - both financial and otherwise – that they need to graduate in October. It’s our favorite moment of the year, watching these students walk the stage to receive their diplomas. Just a few more months!

In the meantime, we wish all of you a happy, healthy summer and we’ll keep you updated on any new developments!

Students in Chacaya with their school supplies
Students in Chacaya with their school supplies
A student in Panabaj wears his new uniform
A student in Panabaj wears his new uniform

In Guatemala, failing gym class means you have to repeat an entire grade. For those students that have no option but to participate in jeans and knock-off crocs or sandals, this can be a problem.

The way we see it, if a student can pass each of his academic classes but gets held back because he didn’t have the right clothes to exercise, then something isn’t quite right. So this past month, as a benefit of our sponsorship project, we supplied 46 students with uniforms and shoes for their physical education class.

According to Johanny, our Primary Education Scholarships Project Manager, “parents who before might have had to purchase shoes and new clothes can now use that money for food for the family.”

Plus, the appropriate gear allows students to perform to the best of their abilities, thus giving them the opportunity to compete in yearly “Olympic Games” held between different schools, municipalities, and departments in Guatemala. If a student is particularly talented at a sport, he or she can join the school team to compete against other schools across the country. For students around Santiago, this is a unique opportunity to see the world outside of their neighborhoods and communities.

We’re hoping that some of our scholarship students this year will be able to join in the Olympics. If the cost is only that of the right shoes and a uniform, we’re happy to help. 

Sponsorship students from Panabaj with supplies
Sponsorship students from Panabaj with supplies

Over the past two months our Primary Education Scholarships project staff has worked tirelessly to equip this year’s selection of scholarship students with the first wave of school supplies, personal support, and medical vouchers that will allow them to stay in school until graduation in October. 

“It’s hard to articulate how valuable this support is for families,” says Johanny Quiejú, our Project Manager. “Imagine that a father goes to cut coffee for a day and earns 15 quetzals, which is all the income that a family will receive, but school supplies cost 150 quetzals for each child.  What do you do if you have three children?” 

It’s a vexing question, and one that parents in Santiago struggle to answer on a daily basis. To mitigate financial pressure on these families, all 108 of our sponsored students this year are benefitting from a three-pronged support system.

First, they receive periodic deliveries of notebooks, pencils, markers, pens, pencil sharpeners, paper, folders, binders, crayons, and othermaterials required by the school. Teachers are actively involved in the deliveries to ensure that they meet the students’ needs as effectively as possible.

Each student also receives an identification card that guarantees free access to medical care at a local health clinic, including the costs of appointments for dental checkups and medications.

Finally, as the year progresses, our staff conducts home visits to all students at risk of dropping out or failing a grade, providing these students and their families with the encouragement that they need to get back on the right track and finish the school year as proud graduates.

With your support, we’re positive that we can translate our resources into a generation of educated, literature children in communities across Guatemala.  Thanks so much for all you do, and we hope you’ll continue to take part in our work. 

Johanny addresses families at our office
Johanny addresses families at our office
A few of our graduates
A few of our graduates

In a region where less than half of the population finishes primary school, it’s a remarkable achievement to graduate the sixth grade. This is especially true in the current year as Roya – a coffee rust spreading across Latin America – continues to devastate the Guatemalan coffee harvest, forcing more and more families to take their children out of school and push them into the workforce.

In the case of Susana Gutierrez, one of our sponsored students, graduating the sixth grade was even harder than usual. Her mother died when she was a baby, leaving Susana alone with her older sister and mostly absent father. All of the family’s financial responsibilities – including the cost of Susana’s education – fell on her older sister, who worked selling handicrafts on the town’s main street.

At the end of fifth grade Susana dropped out of school to help her sister. She made bracelets and earrings to sell at the docks where tourists from towns around lake disembark for day trips through Santiago. On good days, she could make a few dollars to bring home to her sister; most of the time she came back tired and empty-handed.

Midway through the year, however, she decided she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life at the docks. She told her sister that she wanted to go back to school and her sister came to Pueblo a Pueblo to ask if Susana’s sponsor would be interested in renewing her support for Susana’s education. The sponsor agreed, and at the beginning of 2013 Susana started the sixth grade.

She graduated two weeks ago. Alone, Susana stands as a testament to a generation of children capable of making decisions that, while difficult in the short term, produce real dividends down the line. Together, she and her graduating classmates show the power of people the world over to come together and create lasting change in communities in need.

We’re so proud of what these graduates have accomplished. To all of you who have played a part, thanks so much for your generosity. It really has made a difference.

Graduation ceremony
Graduation ceremony
Susana Gutierrez
Susana Gutierrez

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.

Location: Neenah, WI - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.puebloapueblo.org
Project Leader:
Andrew Wilson
Executive Director
Cabin John, MD Guatemala