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Empower Maya Weavers' Children through Education

by Cojolya Association
Empower Maya Weavers' Children through Education
Empower Maya Weavers' Children through Education
Empower Maya Weavers' Children through Education
Empower Maya Weavers' Children through Education
Empower Maya Weavers' Children through Education
Empower Maya Weavers' Children through Education
Empower Maya Weavers' Children through Education
Empower Maya Weavers' Children through Education
Empower Maya Weavers' Children through Education
Empower Maya Weavers' Children through Education
Empower Maya Weavers' Children through Education
Empower Maya Weavers' Children through Education
Empower Maya Weavers' Children through Education
Empower Maya Weavers' Children through Education
Concepcion becoming a teacher
Concepcion becoming a teacher

In Guatemala, young people and children are often denied the opportunity to study for a variety of reasons, the main one being the lack of financial resources in their families. In Santiago Atitlán, elementary schools are public while for the higher levels, middle school and high schools, are almost exclusively private. Due to this, many families cannot afford to pay the monthly school fees for the higher education of their children and the extra costs deriving from books and other material. In most cases, young people are destined to stop their academic trajectory after elementary school or even earlier to start working and providing for their families. Another issue is the archaic belief that only men have the right to go to school, which persists in some families in the community and still affects young girls. 

Acknowledging this situation, Cojolya seeks to empower children and young people through education and to prepare them for a better life no matter their gender or economic situation.

This month we want to share with you the victory, the joy and the excitement of our beneficiaries: Julisa and Concepción are now new professionals in our community. On 27th October 2019, the two girls became teachers and demonstrated to the community that, with effort and dedication, women can achieve their dreams. On this joyful day, we would like to dedicate these achievements to our donors, who gave the support to make this possible.

We would also like to share with you the happiness and pride of Manuel and his family for the completion of the first step of his academic career: the graduation from elementary school. 

Everything that we have achieved this year is the fruit of the support of our donors, which enabled these young people to reach their objectives and change their destiny for the better. Now the life of our beneficiaries will be different from that of most young people in the community who start working from the age of 13 to help their parents cover the needs of the household. For the future, this is the reality we aim to change.

Our objective is that every childbenefiting from our program can one day become a professional, just like Concepción and Julissa, so that they will have access in the future to a dignified and well remunerated job. And thanks to that, may they be able to enhance the economic situation of their family. 

Julissa, happy to finally be a teacher
Julissa, happy to finally be a teacher
Julissa and Concepcion with their diplomas
Julissa and Concepcion with their diplomas
Excited Manuel upon receiving his diploma
Excited Manuel upon receiving his diploma
Manuel is happy to have reached his first goal
Manuel is happy to have reached his first goal

Dolores is a third-year student in a primary public school in Santiago Atitlan and she is the youngest in her family. Her brothers are not studying anymore, as all of them quit after finishing primary school.

At the beginning of her academic career, Dolores had difficulties with subjects such as maths, reading and writing, but through dedication and effort, she improved her academic performance in these three areas. Her teacher now says that her reading has dramatically developed. Another important achievement has been overcoming her shyness. In fact, from being a child who found it hard to express her point of view in class, little by little she has learned how to overcome her timidity.

What helped her in achieving this goal has been the materials and the tutoring that the ‘Mano a Mano program’ has been providing her every month. Thanks to the support she received, she managed to improve her abilities and carry out her homework without difficulties. 

 Her sisters did not have the opportunity to continue studying after primary school and they dedicate themselves to weaving and embroidering, the traditional arts that often provide an income for their mother and many other women in Santiago Atitlan.

Josefa, Dolores’ mom, is glad that her children had the opportunity to develop their capacity to read and write and learn Spanish as a second language, which not every Guatemalan can speak. Indeed, although it is the official language of the Country, there are indigenous populations who are raised speaking Mayan languages and do not have access to schools where they could learn it.

Dolores’ desire for her future is to get a broad understanding of life. She dreams of becoming a professional and an independent woman.

Dolores y Julisa escribiendo palabras en Tz
Dolores y Julisa escribiendo palabras en Tz'utujil

In the school curricula of the beneficiaries of our social program there is a course called “Communication and vocabulary in Tz’utujil”. However, for our students it can be a bit complicated to learn the reading and writing of this language, since they only exercise the speaking and listening by practicing with their families. Indeed, 98% of people in our community speak Tz’utujil, our mother tongue, but only a tiny fraction of the population knows how to read and write in it. Most of the parents did not have the opportunity to study and those who did only learned how to read and write in Spanish but cannot do the same in their mother tongue.

This is the reason why this month we practiced reading and writing in Tz’utujil with our beneficiaries. This has a great impact on their learning curve, since the students with difficulties cannot find help in their own households.

The activities started with a test consisting in the writing of 10 words to identify the level of each student. The results showed the need for more writing practice. Consequently, we revised the Tz’utujil alphabet, which only a small percentage of students knew by heart, while the rest could not fully remember. The final activities consisted in the reading of vocabularies, tongue twisters and a tale.

Our objective is to help our beneficiaries learn how to read and write without difficulties in Tz’utujil with the ambition of allowing them to appreciate their own culture and enhance their personal development. Tutoring has a fundamental role since it enables students to enhance their level of understanding of their mother tongue so that they can also use it as the base for the learning of new languages.

Revising the alphabet in Tz
Revising the alphabet in Tz'utujil
Hadasa, Lidia and Dolores enjoy their time reading
Hadasa, Lidia and Dolores enjoy their time reading
Dolores, Hadasa and Lidia reading tongue twisters
Dolores, Hadasa and Lidia reading tongue twisters
Julisa, Israel y Pedro reading a tale
Julisa, Israel y Pedro reading a tale

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Students reused paper and cardboard for their pens
Students reused paper and cardboard for their pens

We are encouraging our students to care of the environment. Caring for our surroundings is everyone’s responsibility. It’s particularly important that our community emphasizes respecting the natural world in order to protect our lake and lead healthy lives. We taught our students the theme of the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle because we want them to be responsible for caring for the environment. Environmentally conscious behavior will help reduce contamination that is affecting our community. 

After finishing the workshop, our students made pen holders using recycled papers, cardboard, and kitchen napkins. Fortunately, our students had some experience recycling in their school environments as well. Misael and Oliver mentioned that their school was making a fountain out of recycled glass bottles, and Dolores said she made a flower pot for her school garden through reusing a plastic water bottle. 

We encouraged each student to come up with an idea of how they could develop the 3R values in their homes and community. Hadasa mentioned that she could make a piggy bank using recycled materials. Concepción, who is studying to become a teacher, said that she could reuse a cardboard box to collect recycled materials that she could use in workshops with her own students. 

Together, we are learning how to take care of our environment, which is incredibly important as Guatemala is one of 10 countries most likely to be affected by climate change and extreme weather events. Some of the effects of climate change are already apparent in Guatemala as coffee growing regions are having poorer harvests, which has caused migration from regions such as Huehuetenango. Changing the outcomes of environmental crisis must start on a local level, and we believe individual students can make small steps to advocate for environmentalism in our community. Each student is doing their best to impact each other’s lives as family members and neighbors. 

Manuel and David work on their pen holders
Manuel and David work on their pen holders
The final result of our recycled pen holders!
The final result of our recycled pen holders!
Students can encourage environmentalism locally
Students can encourage environmentalism locally

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With academic support, Misael and Oliver can thriv
With academic support, Misael and Oliver can thriv

Everyone should have the right to study, but unfortunately, many do not have the same opportunities to do so. 

Oliver and Misael are the nephews of Cojolya’s embroiderer Andrea Reanda, and they are also students who participate in our program— Mano a Mano para el Desarrollo (Hand in Hand for Development). Only 14 months apart, they are almost twin brothers who study at the same school and are in the same class. They’re happy to be continuing in the Mano a Mano program because for them it is a source of support that helps them break barriers that would otherwise hinder them in their academic careers. 

They come from a family of 4 sons and one very smart mother who primarily works as an embroiderer and also does some beadwork. As their father suffers from addiction, he has not been a reliable figure in their lives, and Juanita, their mother, runs their household. Through her embroidery and beading, she supports her family as much as she can, but she does not earn enough to send them to school; they only just get buy on food and daily necessities. Because of this financial pressure, Misael and Oliver, the eldest brothers, help sustain their family through doing beadwork after school. In low income families in our community, the biggest responsibilities fall on the shoulders of the eldest siblings who help their parents in contributing to sustaining the family. 

In spite of their family’s conditions, they are motivated to excel and genuinely like going to school. Before, they were very close to leaving school because they did not have the necessary resources to do their work well, and they wouldn’t turn in their homework. It was a sacrifice to keep them in school with so many barriers to perform well and only one parent contributing to their futures. At Mano a Mano, they have school supplies and computer access in order to conduct school research assignments. They are now giving it their best in school, especially because they want to take advantage of the resources now available to them as their parents did not have the opportunity to study. 

Their teacher had a lot to say about their progress in the past year, “Before, they would never bring in their homework, and it wasn’t because they didn’t want to. They clearly did not have the financial resources to buy materials. It was very hard to work with them because they couldn’t come in to do activities with their classmates. Thanks to the Mano a Mano program, they always have the necessary supplies and tutoring support that we ask of them. They always turn in creative work, they come to school everyday, and I am so proud of them for their progress.”

Misael and Oliver have almost reached high school, and they hope to finish this academic chapter successfully. They both dream to help their youngest brothers, now that their 6 year old brother Mateo just began school, and the youngest, Elías will begin in a couple of years. 

 

The eldest 2 brothers work to help their family
The eldest 2 brothers work to help their family
The brothers come to our office for English class
The brothers come to our office for English class
Oliver
Oliver's work ethic has made him more efficient
Misael
Misael's teacher noted his improved behavior
Oliver reads at a Mano a Mano
Oliver reads at a Mano a Mano's literacy workshop

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Cojolya Association

Location: Santiago Atitlan Solola - Guatemala
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Cojolya
Project Leader:
Jose Sicay Mesia
Santiago Atitlan, Solola Guatemala
$6,895 raised of $10,000 goal
 
148 donations
$3,105 to go
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