by Women Work Together
Completing Vocational Aptitude Preference Survey
Completing Vocational Aptitude Preference Survey

Nearly 200 girls representing all of the San Pedro Sacatepéquez rural middle schools were recognized as community leaders and graduates of the Leadership Institute during the annual ADIMTU Jamboree that marked the end of the 2016 school year (January to October in Guatemala). This much-anticipated event celebrated the success of this community-wide program that impacts some 800 young teen students and their families annually across the villages of San Pedro. The Jamboree combines honoring the girls’ accomplishments with a program that motivates them to set personal goals for staying in school and a high-school fair that informs them about options for continuing their studies. Thirteen local area institutions participated in the school fair this year, dispatching representatives who meet personally with the girls to help them understand and consider the possibilities.

This cohort of girls is the first to have completed all three years of the now-robust Leadership Institute which they entered in 2014, beginning with La Vida de Mi Mamá. La Vida guided the girls and their mothers thru a year-long curriculum of workshops and interviews with their mothers to learn their moms’ life stories. Each girl wrote and illustrated a book to capture what she’s learned about her mom’s life, ultimately presenting her mom with this precious book which promptly became a family keepsake. In the process, the mothers and daughters established a special relationship of trust as a foundation for all that followed. The girls flourished and found their voices in their second year in the program with La Lectura Familiar, reading and exploring books together and then taking books home to read aloud with their families. In their third and final year of middle school, the Leadership Institute engaged the girls in Mi Hermanita with each one “adopting” a little sister in second or third grade, whom she tutored, mentored and encouraged to stay in school and follow her dreams.

With the girls now gathered to celebrate their achievements, ADIMTU organized a full program that included motivational talks by accomplished local area women who came from the very same villages and shared their real-life stories of successes and setbacks. This set the stage for the girls to complete a Vocational Aptitude and Preference Survey on the spot and receive additional information about some of the career options that would complement their individual strengths and inclinations. The girls were further encouraged to stay in school by several notable women from the Department of Education who, by their very presence, spoke volumes about the potential for educated girls to become leaders of a better future for all of Guatemala.


Big & Little Sisters Exchanging Keepsake Books
Big & Little Sisters Exchanging Keepsake Books

Great News

The Zimmer Family Foundation has granted $5000 to our Mi Hermanita (My Little Sister) program. In announcing the award, Collins Zimmer described the program as “very intriguing and unique,” highlighting the inclusion of mothers of both the big and little sisters as part of what attracted them to funding this particular program. He also expressed the foundation’s admiration for all of the work being done by the ADIMTU team in Guatemala. The Zimmer Family previously funded Women Work Together and ADIMTU two years ago.

During the 2016 academic year, ADIMTU is continuing the Mi Hermanita program with 200+ 9th grade girls from our 13 schools paired with 200+ “little sisters” who are in grades 1-3 and identified by their teachers as at high risk of dropping out. This program provides academic and emotional support that is helping to keep them in school and improve their self-confidence as learners. Simply put, staying in school secures a future for these girls that would otherwise be out of reach.

When WWT co-founder, Diane Dvorin visited San Pedro Sacatepéquez last year, she talked with an elementary school teacher in Santa Teresa who spontaneously reported that that his young students were more motivated, more successful and more excited about school as a result of this program. He wanted her to know first-hand about the huge impact Mi Hermanita is having on his students, classroom and colleagues as well as on the school community as a whole.

It is exactly this kind of success that the Zimmer Family Foundation has recognized and is funding here.

Women Work Together and ADIMTU appreciate volunteer Nico Cabrera-Schneider for his follow-up with the Zimmer Family Foundation and his continued fundraising leadership.

Yes — Numbers Tell the Story

At the conclusion of the 2015 academic year, over 90% of the girls who graduated from the Leadership Institute continued on to secondary school. This is a remarkable accomplishment and testimony to the LI’s impact on the ground. Virtually all of the girls in the Leadership Institute come from families with severe economic limitations. None the less, the girls and their families have committed to staying in school as the key to a better future for themselves, their community and their country. By comparison, only 45% of girls nationally continue their education beyond middle school.

These numbers are what caught the attention of the Ministry of Education in Guatemala. ADIMTU and the Ministry of Education are talking about how to expand this program beyond San Pedro Sacatepéquez in 2017.


Wendy & Girls
Wendy & Girls

2016 – If Not Now, When?

With the 2016 Guatemalan school year starting in January, the ADIMTU team ran the first installment of the pilot teacher training program, implementing the plan for the Leadership Institute to become a teacher-led, in-classroom curriculum. This move to train teachers has secured enthusiastic support from the Ministry of Education as key to their disseminating these successful programs to more schools across the department (i.e., state) of San Marcos.

In light of the ambitious transition plans for this year, WWT Program Director, Wendy Baring-Gould, spent the better part of February in San Pedro Sacatepéquez. She worked intensively with the ADIMTU team to review outcomes of the initial teacher workshops and was present for the next set of trainings. She participated in expanded discussions with key people from the Ministry during her time there, and some important steps were taken to lay the foundation for scaling up the Leadership Institute in the 2017 school year.

Wendy reported excellent progress on the team’s re-thinking of the Leadership Institute programs to include boys, beginning this year with a pilot program in 9 of our schools. The team re-visioned the first-year program, La Vida de Mi Mamá, as La Vida de Mi Familia and is now engaged in implementing these changes in the field. They also reviewed the second and third year programs, improving them for this year and preparing for the inclusion of boys in each, as this years’ pilot group of boys advances thru the grades.

The work plan for 2016 is both hopeful and pragmatic as we continue to move forward on all fronts, essentially to:

  • Pilot and refine the teacher training program
  • Pilot and plan for the inclusion of boys
  • Work with the Ministry of Education to potentially disseminate the Leadership Institute to other schools and municipalities across San Marcos
  • Improve evaluation information

All of this is made possible by the diligent work and inspiration of our partners at ADIMTU, WWT’s deeply committed volunteers, and your financial support. ¡Adelante!

Mother & Daughter Learn Together
Mother & Daughter Learn Together
Teacher Workshop
Teacher Workshop
Girls with Ideas
Girls with Ideas


ADIMTU Team Makes Change Happen Every Day
ADIMTU Team Makes Change Happen Every Day

We’re in the home stretch

In 2009 Tracy Ehlers was invited to help start a program in Guatemala’s western highlands aimed at keeping Maya girls in school and advancing their leadership skills. This became the impetus for Women Work Together and the Girls Leadership Institute. The goal was to support girls to stay in school and make better choices in their own lives, those of their families and communities, and become agents of change in the creation of a more stable civil society.

We needed early believers and generous donors, and people showed up with open hearts and open checkbooks. Thanks to them and many talented and dedicated volunteers, the Leadership Institute now operates in 13 rural middle schools across San Pedro Sacatepéquez and each year directly serves 850 girls, their extended families and their communities.

This work is now directed entirely by an outstanding team of Guatemalan professional women who staff ADIMTU, our partner organization in San Pedro. They have developed their skills and leadership abilities to the point that ADIMTU is ready to direct the program’s future on its own. As we all agreed going in, local is always better, and in 2016 Women Work Together will turn over the reins to our Guatemalan partners. Now this is success!

While Women Work Together is working to secure the resources to complete this unique and powerful transition, international funders, attracted by ADIMTU’s success and strategy for scaling up, are watching with great interest. WWT is determined to provide local leaders in San Pedro with the financial support they need to pilot program advancements in 2016 that will position them to establish a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Education and secure sustainable support going forward.

We think you’ll agree that this is a rare opportunity to fully transfer the program, the organization and the leadership into local hands with the necessary backup to keep moving forward.

The shape of the future

Allies in the Ministry of Education are asking emphatically that Leadership Institute programs be replicated in other rural schools, initially across San Marcos and, potentially, nation-wide as well. To this end, ADIMTU is developing a teacher training program and piloting it in 8 middle schools during 2016. This will become the foundation for broad dissemination of this tested, and eventually teacher-led, curriculum.

Over these last six years our work in San Pedro Sacatepéquez has had a profound impact. While many schools in the region are closing their doors for lack of pupils, in the 2014 school year only five out of 667 girls in the Leadership Institute left school, three to marriage or pregnancy. Prior to the launch of this work, middle school dropout rates in San Pedro’s rural areas were near 40%, along with a significantly higher pregnancy rate.

Seeing the changes in their daughters, the girls‘ parents are making sacrifices for their education and, in growing numbers, are supporting them to go on to secondary school. The teachers and principals recognize and applaud the changing nature of these students as well. They observe first-hand the benefits of participatory education and are eager to learn about and incorporate more contemporary practices into their own classrooms.

During their 3 years in the Leadership Institute the girls come to understand and value their individual capacity, their intelligence, and their ability to set goals, make choices and make a difference in their own lives and that of their families. They learn they can dream, plan and achieve a far better future than that which was available to the generations of women who preceded them.

Girls Celebrate Leadership Institute Graduation
Girls Celebrate Leadership Institute Graduation
Big and Little Sisters Exchanging Personal Books
Big and Little Sisters Exchanging Personal Books
Three Happy and Proud Little Sisters
Three Happy and Proud Little Sisters


Girls Support Each Other.
Girls Support Each Other.

As we've said from the outset, Women Work Together is all about locally-directed, sustainable change and, to use an old cliché, we are busting-our-buttons proud of ADIMTU, our in-country partners in San Pedro Sacatepéquez.

The Guatemalan team has become highly capable and resourceful in its own right. In this seven-year journey, the Girls Leadership Institute that WWT helped ADIMTU design, implement and grow has captured support from local leaders, achieved national recognition and certification, and secured buy-in from the Guatemalan Ministry of Education. ADIMTU is attracting other sustainability partners, too. And so WWT is preparing to hand over program development and expansion to ADIMTU in 2016.

Early on, WWT underwrote 100% of ADIMTU's program costs. This year, with other partners at the table, our share dropped to 75% and, in 2016, we will contribute only 50% of their budget as we step aside operationally, having met our goal to launch ADIMTU programmatically and financially from under our wing.

In order to meet our commitment and complete this transfer we must raise $55,000 by the end of this year. We're chipping away at this ambitious goal and here's where we stand now:

*    Our Patio, Paella and Jazz summer fundraiser raised $18,000!

*    That leaves $37,000 to be raised by the end of 2015.

*    We're counting on you to include WWT in your 2015 donations.

*    Assuming we make our goal, no more asks from us, ever, after this year!

More Good News

*    150 girls are completing our 3-year Girls Leadership Institute this year. During 2015 WWT worked with nearly 1,000 girls plus their mothers, families, teachers and other community leaders who all play essential roles in these programs.

*    Several WWT Board members and friends are going to San Pedro Sacatepéquez this fall to celebrate the girls' success and publically acknowledge ADIMTU's accomplishments across the municipality.

*    Wendy Baring-Gould, WWT's program director, will go to Guatemala next spring to assist with the initial pilot of a Boys Leadership Institute and a teacher training program. The goal of the boys' program is to advance gender equity and community stability while improving the capacity of boys and girls to partner as men and women to solve local problems and lift their communities out of poverty together. WWT is one of the first NGOs to recognize the importance of broadening our reach beyond girls in order to successfully effect social change in the long haul. And the teacher training is in preparation for taking all the programs to scale

Invest in Change Now

Make this your year to invest in community-driven change.  Help us reach our goal to complete a successful turnover to our Guatemalan partners.  Below is a first hand account of the impact we are having.

Changing Attitudes and Beliefs
María Alejandra Ramos, Change Agent

I want to present a personal and professional commentary about Sacuchúm, a very macho community where ADIMTU has been working for about five years. At the beginning, and for some time, the community leaders and teachers were resistant to the idea of providing the workshops to the women and girls of their community, creating obstacles or excuses so that the girls wouldn't attend or supervising and listening to the information being transmitted about gender, leadership, education, etc. Today, five years later, and in the absence of my visiting this community for two years because of my having responsibility for other schools, I've come to realize that ADIMTU is increasingly engaged in the ideals of the girls and what is even better is that the girls are more awake and aware about the changes that they want for their lives and their community, that they are more motivated and they voice their opinions without bowing their heads.

It also surprised me that the teachers, after posing some resistance, now are more committed to the projects. They help out with the delivery and pickup of books for the girls' reading, they make space available for us to work with the girls and they are flexible in providing time and a classroom specifically for ADIMTU to give our workshops. In My Little Sister, the teacher visits consistently with the teachers of the little girls in order to know about their progress. I am sure that the changes in the attitudes of the teachers and community leaders derive from the results observed in the teen girls.

Please dig deep and make a stretch donation to Women Work Together in 2015.



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Project Leader:
Tracy Ehlers
Boulder, Colorado United States
$20,506 raised of $50,000 goal
213 donations
$29,494 to go
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