SEATTLE, Washington — Nestled between Mexico and Belize lies the state of Guatemala. Once the home of ancient Mayan civilizations, Guatemala is epitomized by its vast cultural connections and beautifully rugged terrain. However, despite its long-standing cultural ties, the country is stricken with many contemporary issues. Chiefly among these issues lies the lack of education initiatives in Guatemala. Despite the shortcomings of contemporary education initiatives, three nonprofits are working tirelessly to improve education in the largely impoverished state.
With a population of more than 17 million people, only 81.5% of the total population is literate. The CIA World Fact Book defines literacy as people 15 years old or older who can read and write. As for spending, the government does not prioritize education initiatives in Guatemala. It only spends 2.93% of its annual GDP on education. Although education in Guatemala is technically free, there are a variety of obstacles that prevent students from attending. Mainly, students cannot attend due to financial and transportation issues. However, three schools in Guatemala are beginning to change students’ accessibility to quality education for the better.
The School of Hope
Located in Jocotenango, Guatemala, the School of Hope has been working to improve access to education, food, health and social services since 2003. Its goal is to inspire and empower future generations with the skills necessary to be successful. The school’s founder, Sophie McKee, became inspired by a documentary to create the school. Currently, The School of Hope reaches 702 students and 385 families.
The School of Hope also partners with many organizations to assist with a wholesome, out of classroom experience for its students. The Garden of Hope hosts an after-school garden program, teaching students about agriculture in a safe, green space. The school also partners with Rekko 8, which provides extended health services at a discounted rate for families of students. In addition to resources for therapy, women’s groups for mothers of students and leadership groups for women, the school also partners with WINGS and Abbott. These two programs are geared towards training teachers and subsequently students in sexual and reproductive health.
Education and Hope
In the hilly rugged terrain of Guatemala’s second-largest city, Quetzaltenango, lies Education and Hope. Education and Hope was founded on the basis that education is a basic fundamental human right that all of the world’s children deserve. Through education, social well-being, after school programs and healthcare, the organization created a refuge where children can grow. By educating today’s children, Education and Hope empowers the next generation to combat poverty.
Students receive backpacks with school supplies, shoes, a uniform and bus fare. Additionally, students accept scholarships based on economic need; in 2017, Education and Hope gave out 205 scholarships to students in need. In addition to tutoring, the school’s after-school program provides a connection to mental health specialists, an infirmary, two meals and showers for those who do not have access at home. Ninety-nine children benefitted from Education and Hope’s after-school program in 2017. Finally, the school runs the Hope Center where students and families have access to a monthly food pantry, grants for home improvements and loans for medical emergencies.
Niños de Guatemala
The inspiration for Marten Dresen to build Niños de Guatemala originated in 2006 when he traveled “to Guatemala to learn Spanish and volunteer.” There, he met a girl named Mirna, who never wore shoes. Before leaving, Dresen gifted Mirna with a pair of shoes, which motivated him to give to Guatemalans in need. From this dream, Dresen built the first Niños de Guatemala school in 2009 with his partners Sander and Annemiek Wirken.
Today, the outskirts of Antigua, Guatemala host three Niños de Guatemala schools. Every year, the organization serves around 500 low-income students. The core of the school’s educational program is to provide students with both the necessary educational and life skills to flourish. Like the School of Hope and Education and Hope, Niños de Guatemala also offers family support, nutrition and health programs.
Continued efforts from the School of Hope, Education and Hope and Niños de Guatemala, help increase education and opportunity for more students in Guatemala. Education initiatives in Guatemala have the potential to drastically and dramatically improve for students and families alike. The onus is on those who find themselves well off enough to help give back and make a difference. These three schools provide much more than education; they provide hope and opportunity for those who would otherwise be without. Only together, united towards one common goal to improve education initiatives in Guatemala, can thousands thrive.
– Max Lang