Founder’s Corner: Notes from Guatemala, Part IV

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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 Part 4

Finding Her Vocation

Notes from Guatemala, by Linda Smith . September 24, 2013

“This morning we visited Rosmery, our graduate who is teaching kindergarten at a school in an aldea that is part of Concepcion but across the river and up the hills. It takes her an hour and a half to get there every day. First in a pickup down to Solola. Then in a microbus to the highway exit and then walking 20 minutes to the school down a dangerous road where a local gang robs people. The community is filled with women. There is no work for their husbands so they live in the capital, come home once or twice a month and return having impregnated their wives. The community is super divided (by what I don’t know) made worse by political differences and religious differences (two Catholic churches in this tiny place, each from different parishes). Teachers don’t want to teach here so they ask for transfers. They can hardly get them to stay. And there are very few resources available to teachers.

Despite all of this Rosmery is thrilled to be a teacher, loves her kids and hopes the Ministry of Education will keep her at the school next year. Young teachers work through annual contracts. So theoretically she could be without a job next year. But more likely the path is that they move teachers around a lot, and she’ll probably be sent somewhere else. It’s also worth noting that in her current position, Rosmery earns about $300 a month – that makes her the biggest bread winner in her family!

Much of what she implements in her classroom she learned in the RV program. She brings books from the Concepcion library that scholars opened last year to read to the kids or she invents stories herself. And she has shared some of her knowledge and experience with a teacher friend. Daniel asked her if she’d thought about teaching a reading seminar to her colleagues and she admitted that, yes, she had. That’s our girl! She has really found her vocation.” 

Literacy For All Ages

Notes from Guatemala, by Linda Smith . September 24, 2013

“This afternoon we visited another alum, Rosmery’s sister, Olivia. She is a teacher for CONALFA, a national organization that teaches adults to read. After spending four years in our program inspiring young kids to read, she is now working with a group of adult women who are learning how to read and write both Spanish and Kaqchikel (the local Mayan language). Olivia said it was challenging at first, the women couldn’t even write their own names. But now they are doing quite well, and she is pleased to see how much progress they have made. I recently learned about an adult literacy organization that offers storybooks to the students to take home and read to their children. It’s a win-win because the adults get to practice and their children get the benefit of being read to. I asked Olivia if she thought her students would be interested and she said she thought very much that they would. So I’ve got a project percolating in my head.” 

New Opportunities to Tackle

Notes from Guatemala, by Linda Smith . September 25, 2013

“As the teens finished their activities for the morning they stopped by the library to say hello. They all send their greetings to you all. I took the opportunity to catch up with Luis. Ideally he would like to work during the week next year and study at the university on the weekends. He’s trying to figure out which major matches his interests and so Daniel (Program Director), Ismael (Community Facilitator) and I helped him differentiate between sociology, political science, and philosophy. Most of his peers are more likely to be deciding which crops to plant, when to harvest, and who to marry. We’re thrilled that Luis has the chance to decide which college major to pursue! It’s a whole new problem – I mean, opportunity – for a teen in rural Guatemala to get to tackle.” 

[After five years in operation, we have a model that works and the metrics to prove it. To date, one hundred percent of teens who complete our program graduate from high school (an achievement fewer than 10% of their peers attain), and 100% of our current graduates are employed, launching careers as teachers, librarians, nurses, and bookkeepers. Rosmery & Olivia are incredible role models for the class of scholars that will graduate in October 2013. We can’t wait to see where they go!]

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 >>


3 thoughts on “Founder’s Corner: Notes from Guatemala, Part IV

  1. I love that you have figured out a blog so that you can take us there and we can accompany you. I need a tutorial. Meanwhile, I recognize so many complications that you’re trying to sort through, e.g. when the men go to the city and leave their pregnant wife at home, the extension of that migration would be…how many do they leave in the capital who are also pregnant and what do they bring home to their wives. The women who were F.B. clients and whose spouses used similar strategies to help earn money to sen,d home, also needed to know more about STD;s and
    SIDA prevention. You’ll know when they say it’s time to know the other harder parts. Abrazos, Connie

  2. Thanks Connie! We agree – it’s so fun to have Linda sending us stories straight from Guatemala. And you’re absolutely right, there are a lot of injustices that we run up against. Working through them slowly, one at a time, and empowering the youth to do that hard work, too, is the only way we know to keep moving forward. Ultimately the communities we work with are the only ones who can change their social systems and cultural norms, all we can do is help them build a foundation for a better future!

  3. Thanks for chiming in, Connie! Your wisdom is always welcome and highly respected here. Nice to have you along on the journey!