DESGUA – Guatemala

Educating and empowering Mayan-Guatemalan youth.

The Education Fund will support four Mayan-Guatemalan youth for one semester of all-expenses paid classes at the "School of Community Organizers."

Although more than half of the population of Guatemala are ethnically Mayan, the vast majority of Mayan-Guatemalans lack basic literacy skills. In rural Guatemala, home to most of the indigenous population, only 58% of Mayan males and only 35% of Mayan females can read or write – as opposed to a literacy rate of 80% among the general population. This widespread deficiency in fundamental skills means that Mayan-Guatemalans struggle to participate in the economy.

In the pursuit of their livelihoods, Mayan-Guatemalans face further obstacles due to the country’s unequal economic structure: About 80% of Mayan-Guatemalans live under the poverty line, compared to 54% of the general population. In the rural areas of Guatemala, where agriculture supplies most of the jobs and income, a small non-indigenous elite controls most of the land; the broad population labours over plots too small to meet their owners’ needs. As a result of undereducation and economic exclusion, many Mayan-Guatemalans are compelled to seek work abroad - draining the communities they leave behind of the ability to lift themselves up.

These interrelated problems call for an ambitious, multidimensional solution. Thanks to DESGUA, an NGO founded by returned Mayan emigrants, such a solution exists: it is called the “School for Community Organizers.” Here, DESGUA offers courses designed to address the particular challenges that this community faces. For example, “Technology and Participation” teaches students to handle modern information technology; students go on to use these tools to educate other community members about the issues affecting the community. “Social Enterprise Administration and Management,” on the other hand, prepares students to manage eco-friendly businesses. The approach varies from course to course, but the goal remains consistent: to raise the level of education, to create jobs, to reduce emigration, and to revive the community.

The inspiring ambition of the “School for Community Organizers” and the needs of the community that it serves were reason enough for the ICEF Education Fund to extend support. But what drew our special attention is the way in which returned migrants contribute to the project: through their efforts, they provide a practical, living example of the beneficial impact that global experience can have on local communities.

ICEF has contributed US$500

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