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Mayan Power and Light

by Appropriate Technology Collaborative
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Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Meeting with Malacatan's Women's Affairs Director
Meeting with Malacatan's Women's Affairs Director

As we approach one decade of program delivery, Mayan Power and Light is recommitting to a model that pairs carefully planned structure and program execution with overall flexibility that meets the needs of each community. Our policy is to learn from those we serve and be responsive through functional adjustments or variations of any program when necessary. This past week, we completed a listen-and-learn initiative during which MPL met with leaders of 14 municipalities in the Western Highlands area.

We interviewed the community leaders like water committees and Parent Teacher Associations as well as Mayors, Municipal Planning Directors, Municipal Women Directors, Environmental Protection Officers, and Health Care Centers to undergo a comparative study of regional needs and priority projects. The process also cultivated trusting relationships and set us up to create formal partnerships with several Municipal governments.

We learned about the distinct issues facing each community. For example in Sibinal, oficials reported social problems due to migration, including human trafficking; in most towns contamination of rivers and the rise of deforestation are primary concerns. In towns with well-funded Women’s Affairs Offices, basic skills trainings for women’s income generation were available for over 300 women. In other towns, the women’s office had very few funds and instead focused their work on youth.  

In most of the municipalities we interviewed between 5% - 15% of communities do not have electricity due to the distance between communities and electricity poles. Nonetheless, many constituents lack electricity because they lack funds to pay for the monthly service.

Due to high levels of theft of electricity, the electrical grid has refused to install electricity in some areas and has raised prices to their consumers to cover the cost of stolen electricity. In these rural communities, income is irregular – depending on agricultural harvests to last them a whole year. At these times, it’s common for people to invest in repairing their homes and businesses– making the purchase of solar power a natural fit into economic patterns, keeping households electrified year-round without monthly payments.

This listen-and-learn initiative—coupled with our long-term presence working with all Mayan ethnicities located in our target areas—has uniquely positioned Mayan Power and Light as a trusted community partner, advocate for women’s empowerment and rights, and conduit for socio-economic change.

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Group Lunch to celebrate the new year
Group Lunch to celebrate the new year

Getting to know our clients is one of the most important elements to project success.  We're going to let you in on a day in our empowerment program with ATC's Project Coordinator and Women's Empowerment specialist, Marilena Choguaj. Marilena shares the responses of 5 women in a five hour sesion to define their life goals and take steps towards them.  This process helps identify motivations to start-up green businesses in low-income communities.   Here's what they said:

Discussion: Empowerment and it's characteristics 

When presenting the characteristics of an empowered woman, we reflected on which characteristics students demonstrate in their environment. They mentioned: leadership, self-esteem, trust, honesty, respect.

When asking what quality should they improve, they mentioned tiscipline and independence.

Ruth added, "It does not mean getting away from our partners, but working with them. If we want to leave, it is not asking for permission, but informing them that we will leave, in this way not to create conflicts and reach violence."

When asked what they are doing to demonstrate their empowerment, they said, "Being in the group, working to strengthen the group."

We asked them, "Why are they in this entreprenuership group?"

Maricela: I'm because I want to be more economically and emotionally independent.

Ruth: So I do not have to ask my husband for money for the things I want and to learn more, besides contributing to strengthen the group.

Suly: I want to earn money to help my children to study, graduate and go to college, I want to give them opportunities that I did not have.

Aucelia: I want to support my mother with the expenses at home and continue studying at the university.

Jhoselyn: Earn money to give my son what he needs and have more knowledge.

 

Notice anything about their responses? We did!

Each new entreprenuer had some other family member in mind for their motivation to earn money. 

Ultimately, this demonstrates that their prime motivation is the longterm wellbeing of their family. When a woman is emotionally empowered and ready to start her own business, she immediately transfers her success to her children, parents and community.

Come meet them in person - Community Volunteer Positions are now open to help communities start small green businesses!

Writing out their Life Plan
Writing out their Life Plan
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Community Circuits & Solar Santa Isabel March 2018
Community Circuits & Solar Santa Isabel March 2018

That's 10 Years of community-led solar projects in Guatemala. And we're really taking off!

Our first projects in 2008  were 4 solar installations with handmade circuit boards & LED lights built in Guatemala for rural family homes.  This pilot project as done in exchange for long term information about the life and value of a small solar power system on the family's quality of life and health. We learned of the benefit of home productivity when there are lights on at night. A respondent said she could finally weave at night and her son could do homework. These comments encouraged us to spread that benefit. 

We began offering community Circuits & Solar workshops to empower low income people to manage and install their own home solar power systems to benefit family economy and health.  These workshops reduce the cost of solar power by empowering individuals to install on their own homes.

In 2009 we began offering trainings with CECAP of Santa Cruz la Laguna, finding that only a few girls participated. Noe Simon, Director of CECAP explained, “Girls won’t take these classes with boys, but we would be very interested in offering all girls-classes.” At this point we organized with Starfish-one-by-one, a girl's empowerment in education organization, to offer their students with empowering green technology workshops.  

Feedback from one of the Starfish teachers commented, “It’s great to learn this green technology, but what are we going to do with it?”  

Our response came in 2015, training 12 rural women from across Guatemala in solar power and entreprenuership. This group was in constant communication with us throughout the course of the program, their stories and comments during the project taught us that gender-based barriers to business were barring them from success.  Some could not travel alone to make sales and lack of family support disuaded them from continuing.

We learned that the program would be more successful by identifying women leaders, including women's empowerment curriculum, visits to assure the support of their families, and training the entreprenuers to offer free public workshops on water filters, eco-stoves and solar power. This is what's coming in 2019. 

 

Over 50% of project funds come from individual donors like you.  We need $18,000 by December 31st to make the project a success.  Please help us by sharing our project with your friends and family and becoming a monthly donor.

#GivingTuesday November 27th: New Monthly donors get 100% match on this donation after 4 consecutive months of giving.  

 

Highschool girls install solar on school 2017
Highschool girls install solar on school 2017
Women-owned solar business is 6 years old, 2018
Women-owned solar business is 6 years old, 2018
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Marilena leads empowerment training in Chiche
Marilena leads empowerment training in Chiche

Mayan Power and Light is expanding into new rural areas of Guatemala where we can save the environment and provide a better quality of life.

Last month, 30 women from the isolated Community of Chupoj III, Chiche, Quiche participated in an emotional empowerment workshop to introduce them to Mayan Power and Light's special program. 

ATC relies on local leadership to plan and direct our projects - working with Municipal governments, the department for women's rights and pre-established women's groups. By presenting one-day empowerment workshops, we are building relationships and spreading word about our work in business incubation and access to appropriate technologies to attract rural women into our unique opportunities in Mayan Power and Light. 

The Chupoj III group are mothers who are recognised as community leaders by SOSEP and the Municipality of Chiché. They thanked ATC for the workshop held, as they had not had any empowerment training before. Instead their trainings are usually focused on food preparation for nutrition and childcare.  The emotional empowerment workshop helps women in difficult circumstances to channel their emotions, stress and fear in more constructive avenues to overcome domestic abuse, unemployment and low self esteem. 

The Director of the Women's Office of the Municipality was attentive and translated the workshop in Quiche. She invited us back to share more empowerment trainings saying that they were unique and much needed discussions for women's liberation. 

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A child's drawing on the wall of their shelter
A child's drawing on the wall of their shelter

One month ago today, Volcan Fuego erupted - taking more than 112 lives and displacing 12,000 more.

Poor emergency response procedures by government agencies spurred communities to self-organize their evacuation centers and demand resettlement assistance. This fight is due to last a long time as survivors remain crowded in schools, gyms and churches.

To lend our hand, ATC staff was directed towards relief efforts - communicating with leaders and organizations near ground zero to learn where we can help. 

Our empowerment field staff visited several evacuation shelters and surviving villages to interview leaders about community needs. They said they have stockpiled clothes, food and water that arrived from the generosity of strangers, but that the flow of donations has slowed considerably and is not expected to continue.  Men in the shelters must return to the volcano to fetch firewood for cooking in their city shelters. Donated drinking water will soon run out. People in surviving villages are cut off from electricity and water quality has deteriorated since the eruption. 

Through our Mayan Power and Light program, we have water filters, solar lamps and even fuel-saving stoves that could benefit the shelters. SEA, our women-owned social enterprise, has donated lamps and staff to assist in relief efforts. 

Thanks to the many donors to our Globalgiving Guatemala Volcano Emergency project, 200 water filters and 57 solar lamps are ready to be distributed next week. 

To ensure the filters are used well, our empowerment staff will be piloting our new Mayan Power and Light curriculum with a half-day training on family health and sanitation including the importance of water filtration and smoke reduction in the home. Water filters and sanitation training will reduce the spread of parasites and viruses in the shelters where up to 8 families are sharing a room. 

Shelter coordinator asks for empowerment training
Shelter coordinator asks for empowerment training
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Organization Information

Appropriate Technology Collaborative

Location: Ann Arbor, MI - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Monika Goforth
Ann Arbor, MI United States
$105,023 raised of $120,000 goal
 
1,655 donations
$14,977 to go
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