The focus for the first two weeks of our March trip to Guatemala was to support our sister organization, Mujeres Trabajan Unidas on an in-depth evaluation of our current programs. Board member and anthropologist Dr. Theresa Preston-Werner along with Program Director Wendy Baring-Gould led the effort.
The goal for these two weeks of program evaluation was the establishment of a baseline against which we can measure the impact of each of our three projects (Family Reading Hour, The Life of My Mother, and Little Sisters) on girls’ choices to stay in school. To do this, we needed to know about the specific family situation of each girl and her experience with our projects. We are confidant that through the use of a series of quantitative and qualitative tools to learn both the outputs and outcomes of WWT’s campaign to send and keep girls in school, we will determine the best route toward ending the cycle of poverty in Guatemala.
Each day, our team climbed into the back of a pickup and traveled into the mountains to meet with the girls and their parents. In each school, MTU personnel met with the parents of girls who are just entering básico (junior high) in order to explain the benefits of the projects and to get their permission. They also administered a survey to all of the girls, which creates a program registry and solicits household socioeconomic status information, such as the jobs of their parents and what types of homes they live in. We can compare this information to larger community-wide statistics gathered previously in order to understand the living conditions experienced by the girls in our programs.
The results were astounding and unexpected in some cases. In one village, the girls flat out said a project was boring. Together we worked to determine the underlying reason and potential ways to make the project more appealing. In another village we learned that the girls spoke eagerly and regularly with their parents about one project but not at all about a different project. Finally, in a third village the girls suggested an entirely new way to structure a project, which has sparked excited discussion all of us.
We witnessed the projects that we developed fifteen months ago in action and changing girls’ lives. For instance, there are eighty-five girls involved in the Little Sisters project, and of those eighty-five, only two dropped out of school last year. This is an incredible success! We have also had the good fortune to observe our MTU staff in action, and each member is as passionate, hard-working, and thoughtful as we could hope for. Our days were filled with bumpy roads, delicious chicken soup lunches, and girls who use their own free time to walk for miles just to speak with us. It doesn’t get any better than that.