Guatemala Thank You to Mundo Exchange Friends

Dear friends of Mundo,

I am once again heading down to the beautiful country of Guatemala to visit with the two communities I have been working with for several years now.  They were so appreciative of the support people provided last year.  This year, in addition to supplying materials and mentoring local teachers, it is my hope that we will be able to expand opportunities for more elementary and middle school-aged children in the Chajul area to receive scholarships so that they can obtain a formal education. Education really does appear to be key to future families’ abilities to earn a livable wage and support their family members.

I want to share some data with you about the country.  In the area of human rights and health and safety statistics continue to be dismal.  A country known for it’s warm people, raw beauty, and rich natural resources, Guatemala is also a country plagued by historical violence (most recently the 36 years of civil war that primarily targeted rural indigenous populations, whereby over 200,000 men, women and children were killed and numerous more displaced or disappeared.).  An enduring and significant inequity between indigenous and non-indigenous citizens has always existed. Recent World Bank statistics indicated 54% of the Guatemalan population live in poverty (earned income of $2 a day or less) whilst 23% live in extreme poverty (earned income of $1/day or less).  The poverty levels in Guatemala remain higher than in any other Centeral American country.  Poverty is predominantly rural and especially high in indigenous communities.  More than 81% of the poor and 93% of the extremely poor live in the countryside in remote areas such as the Ixil Triangle where our work and support at Mundo is taking place.  76% of the indigenous people are poor compared to 41% of the non indigenous population.  A strong relation has been identified between malnutrition and poverty.  In 2000 the prevalence of chronic malnutrition among Guatemalan children was the highest in Latin America, and among the highest in the world.  44% of children less than 5 year’s old suffer from malnutrition. With regard to education, the country has a national illiteracy rate of 31%, which doubles amongst indigenous people. Only Nicaragua and Haiti rank higher in the whole of Latin America and the Caribbean. A further 23% have insufficient housing, 12% have no access to water, 22% have no sanitary facilities and 18% have received no formal education.  A significantly higher number of indigenous Maya are unable to attend school due to family impoverishment and the need for children to work alongside their parents as they tend local crops.

In January 2007, La Prensa, one of the larger state newspapers, noted the area surrounding Chajul, often referred to as the Ixil Triangle, to be the most impoverished in the country, with the majority of families living well below the poverty line.

We at Mundo are out to change these statistics for families in the Chajul area!  One area that we have a chance to improve immediately is to provide scholarships (becas) to local children who would otherwise be unable to attend school.  We are now supporting children in Pre-Primario, Primario, and Basico (kindergarten, elementary, and middle school).  Last year we sent ten students to school and are hoping to send even more this year!  The following figures are approximate and cover annual inscription fees, school uniform and materials for one child:

Kindergarten/Preprimario: $11.00 per pupil

Elementary/Primario:  $25.00 per pupil

Middle School/Basico: $100.00 per pupil if child can stay at home or $800.00 if child must stay in a nearby village (Only the main towns have teachers who can teach Basico).

We are also providing material and monetary support to a nonprofit organization in Chajul called ACEFOMI.  ACEFOMI runs a bilingual IXIL-Spanish school for children who cannot afford to attend regular school.  The school is based on principals of “popular education”, from Paolo Friere’s work, focused on providing educational opportunities that enhance an understanding of self and community and that builds important skills necessary for success in an individual’s life.  Not only does ACEFOMI’s school program teach students ever-increasingly important language and literacy skills, but it also teaches students skills that will enable them to protect their surrounding environment through sustainable, earth friendly agricultural practices, as well as learning about sanitation and nutritional care.  Classes are open to the children and their parents (usually mothers).  Students receive what is often the one nutritional meal of the day.  ACEFOMI runs on a shoe string, with funds coming from partners such as Mundo.  This year we will be bringing down two laptops for the students.  In addition, we have funds to pay a part-time teacher.  We are hoping to raise enough to pay for a full time position.  This runs around $200.00 per month and so far we have $1000.00.  Poco a Poco (little by little).

Again, thanks for your support.

Thanks from all of us at MundoExchange !