Founder’s Corner: Notes from Guatemala, Part II

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Our Founder & Executive Director, Linda Smith, is in Guatemala this week. She travels down there a few times every year and when she does, the stories she sends back are bound to inspire! While her schedule is jam packed meeting with staff and scholars and partner organizations, we’ll try to keep you up to speed with the best updates straight from Guatemala. Check back often for more from the Founder’s Corner.

From the Field

Solola’s Daughter of the People

Notes from Guatemala, by Linda Smith . September 20, 2013

“….We then went by Laura’s house. She’s an alum. She had just come back from Quetzaltenango (also known as Xela, pronounced Sheyla). She was recently voted ‘Miss Solola’. It literally translates to more like Daughter of the People, and every municipality selects one. Various organizations put up candidates, so there were 5 in all. Laura was representing CONALFA (the Guatemalan organization where she works teaching adults to read – hurray literacy!), Francisca (a current Reading Village scholar) was selected to represent the local school, and Paola (another Reading Village scholar) was selected to represent the library. So 3 of the 5 finalists were “our” girls! They had to give a talk, display some talent and speak extemporaneously on a topic. Laura won Q1000 (about $125). And she has a crown laden with jade, a sash and a ceremonial huipil that she wears. I took her photo all dressed up.” 

[Way to walk the talk, Laura! We’re thrilled to see that our girls are so well respected in their communities. Assuming these leadership positions is just the first step to changing the social norms that have marginalized women in Guatemala for centuries.]

Alum Dreams of University Scholarships

Notes from Guatemala, by Linda Smith . September 20, 2013

“We were working in the library when school recess started. About a dozen kids poured in to enjoy books during recess time. Then Angelica came by for a bit. She’ll be graduating very soon. I asked her what an ideal 2014 would look like for her. She said she’d like to get a scholarship to study at university and volunteer with Reading Village. A lifelong commitment, wow! That makes me so happy.” 

[In Guatemala, only one in ten students reach high school and far fewer ever go on to university. We look forward to finding ways to keep alumni, like Angelica will soon be, involved in our work. This network of educated, active leaders is one of the country’s best resources and we’re thrilled to work with them to create a better way forward for their communities.]

Teens, too, Have Worth

Notes from Guatemala, by Linda Smith . September 22, 2013

“Yesterday I met the president of the Chuacruz COCODE (Committee for Community Development). He and Daniel, our Program Director, were talking about how our Leaders & Readers program keeps community teens out of trouble (“vices” was the literal word he was using, referring to alcohol and thievery and worse). I said, ‘Even more important we get to the root of that by helping them see that they are not victims of the systems of oppression that keep the community in poverty.‘ And the president jumped right in! He was right there with me talking about how kids feel worthless and invisible and that their lives don’t matter. And that our program changes that for them. 

Later that same day, I met one-on-one with two of our current scholars – Santiago and Mario. I asked them about how they were incorporating lessons from Popular Education into their reading activities. Wow! They so impressed me with their mastery of the topic! They rattled on and on about the various themes they get the kids talking about: the environment, various values such as equality and respect, etc, linking them to the stories they read and helping the kids understand the world they live in and how they have a role in shaping it. Yes, we’re really getting somewhere!” 

[Our leadership development curriculum is based on Brazilian Paulo Freire’s Popular Education, and is steeped in awareness of social, political and economic structures that maintain unjust class systems. The iterative curriculum includes cycles of action-based learning and reflection to inspire youth to see themselves not as victims of structural injustices but as critical actors capable of creating change. So glad that we found some camaraderie in the COCODE President!”]

Inspired to Invest in these teens? Please considering joining our Educators for Global Literacy Fund or make a one-time donation right now. Give Generously >>

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